About the International Snow Science Workshop

History of the ISSW

The International Snow Science Workshop has its roots in meetings held informally in the 50s and early 60's when practioners realized the importance of interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and experiences. The first meeting that brought together government agencies, industries, and users dedicated both to snow and avalanche science was held in April, 1960 at Santa Fe, New Mexico following the 28th Annual Meeting of the Western Snow Conference. About 30 participants spent two days discussing avalanche control methods led in part by Monty Atwater. In 1969, the Snow and Ice Subcommittee of the Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research of the National Research Council of Canada added a meeting on avalanches to one of its periodic conferences attracting 188 participants and 12 papers. In 1971, Dr. Ed LaChapelle organized an informal gathering in Seattle that encouraged exchanges between researchers and practioners. This led to a number of meetings in the US and Canada in the 70s, including Workshops in Banff (1976) and Vancouver (1980) that that were increasingly attended and somewhat more formal.

In 1982, the snow study group at Montana State University organized a meeting that emphasized the importance of interaction and exchanges between practioners and researchers. This group was chaired by John Montagne who used special invitations to bring together scientists and practical workers in snow and avalanches. This group created the title "International Snow Science Workshop." In addition, they coined the motto of the Workshop "The Merging of Theory with Practice," which continues to this day. At ISSW in 1982, an informal meeting of interested parties was held during the conference to discuss the possibilities of holding ISSW on a regular basis. Aspen, Colorado and Seattle, Washington were offered as possible sites in 1984.

ISSW steering committee is born.

Two years later, in Aspen, Colorado, the next ISSW was presented. At this meeting the ISSW Steering Committee http://www.issw.info/ was created to provide guidance for future ISSW's. A biennial rotation of the Workshop through the western North American mountain region was established with every 3rd meeting in Canada. Two representatives were appointed from each of four US regions and two Canadian regions. Subsequently, the Chairman of each ISSW has become chairman of the Steering Committee at the next ISSW and then remained a voting member, thereafter. In addition, there is a Secretary of the Steering Committee which helps provide a point of contact and helps maintain continuity in the organization. John Montagne served as Secretary from the inception until 2000 when Rich Marriott accepted the position.

The Future of ISSW.

The Steering Committee has maintained an informal organization, meeting only at ISSW's, primarily to consider bids from future host sites. Over the years the attendance has grown from 220 people including 10 foreign participants in Bozeman to almost 700 people representing 18 countries in Penticton, BC in 2002 and, recently to more than 700 at Jackson Hole, Wyoming at ISSW 2004 and over 800 at Telluride, Colorado at ISSW 2006. Some estimates for Whistler 2008 indicate attendance by up to 1000 delegates!

The Steering Committee has evolved a series of requirements for future hosts and hosting sites including affordability, minimum capacity of facilities, and the necessity to encourage the participation of practioners in the presentations. The Steering Committee decided in 2002 to try to increase its profile at ISSW's and on the Internet to encourage a continuing interest from future hosting sites and to provide a permanent link to past ISSW's and past ISSW presentations. In addition, the Committee attempts to have sites scheduled approximately 4 years in advance.

Until 2008 the meetings have been held bi-annually, rotating between the USA and Canada. In order to celebrate the truly international spirit of ISSW the first European ISSW in 2009 will take place, only one year after Whistler, BC, Canada. It will be held September 27th to October 2nd, 2009 in Davos, Switzerland. The Davos meeting is currently envisioned as a one time or possibly occasional meeting in Europe for ISSW. Please visit issw.ch for more details as they become known.

The 2010 meeting will be held at the Resort at Squaw Valley in the USA. A preliminary date has been set for the end of October 2010.

For any questions or inquiries about past or future ISSW's, please contact the current secretary of the ISSW Steering Committe, Rich Marriott at: isswsteering@yahoo.com


Special thanks to John Montagne and Peter Schaerer for information on the early meetings much of which was taken from their paper in the Proceedings of the ISSW 1994, in Snowbird, I.S.S.W Past, Present, and Future.

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