15. December 2018    

It is well known that avalanches are not interested in political boundaries. Freeriders and splitboard/ski tourers nowadays travel behind the good powder. These two facts have prompted the avalanche warning services Tyrol, South Tyrol and Trentino to bundle their activities in the joint project ALBINA. The aim of the whole project is to offer a cross-border, uniform and multilingual avalanche forecast.

Anyone who has already visited the pages of the avalanche warning services for Tyrol and South Tyrol as usual will have noticed that they are now forwarding to a new, uniform page called avalanche.report. So what is it about these changes and what are the ideas behind them?

Christoph Mitterer, project coordinator of the project Euregio Avalanche Management Report ALBINA and Norbert Lanzanasto of the LWD Tyrol, presented the cross-border avalanche forecast for the European region Tyrol - South Tyrol - Trentino yesterday at the Patagonia Store in Munich. We were on site and give in this article a small overview about the essential changes.

What, exactly changed?

The avalanche forecast is available in three languages. German, Italian and English. Anyone who has ever tried to understand the avalanche report of Trentino early in the morning before a tour without knowing a word of Italian will appreciate this novelty. Also the many international tourers and freeriders, who understand neither Italian nor German, will be happy about the English version. Also our Italian neighbours who come to Tyrol will be happy.

The avalanche forecast appears this year in the late afternoon of the previous day at 17:00 o'clock and not like the years before in the morning at 7:30 o'clock. So the avalanche situation report has become an avalanche forecast. This is not only an advantage for the avalanche warners, who can sleep longer now, also we tourers profit from it. Because now we can take the forecast into account when planning our tours for the previous evening and no longer have to rely on the report from the previous day and our own forecasting skills. Especially on spring tours, where we have to get out of bed early, there is no need to check the report when we are already on tour.

Tyrol alone was previously divided into 12 different mountain regions: From Arlberg, Außerfern (R1), over the Tuxer Alps (R6) to the South East Tyrol (R12). These regions are not applicable and are still granularly divided into 29 mountain regions, which can be summarized according to the forecast. The mountain regions are no longer oriented towards political borders, only meteorological borders play a role. As a user, we can now select any region on the map with a mouse click and receive a description of the avalanche situation.

(C) Euregio-Lawinenlagebericht (ALBINA)

Here in the picture you see the danger levels and avalanche problems summarized for a whole set of transnational mountain groups
(C) Euregio Avalanche Management Report (ALBINA)

This makes the forecast shorter and more concise. Why? By way of comparison, in the old system we had to read the complete situation report, which then described particular danger points, including individual geographical regions. As a reader, I had to manually filter whether this information was relevant to me or not. An example: I want to take a tour to the Weisseespitze. The LLB warns of danger spots for dry snow slab avalanches in the inner-alpine tour areas. Does this information concern me or not? In this example, yes, because I decided with the Weisseespitze for a tour in the middle of one of the inner alpine regions. With the new system, however, I only get the relevant information by clicking on the map. Additional details about the avalanche situation are still described extremely detailed in the blog (however, blog entries are not yet completely available in multiple languages).

Other new useful features are:

  • A search function that allows you to search for place names, mountain peaks and passes. However, not all mountain peaks are included, intensive map study is still recommended.
  • A location function that shows me in which area I am at the moment.
  • Forecast and weather maps: Here, too, there are many innovations. High-resolution INCA and SNOWGRID weather data from the Zentral Anstalt für Metrologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG) have been integrated.

    The following weather maps are available, Links below:
  • Snow depth
  • fresh snow
  • temperature
  • air humidity
  • wind
  • gusts of wind

Especially the wind maps with a resolution <1km are very interesting for tour planning. The resolution is sufficiently accurate that wind speeds of individual side valleys can be read. For fresh snow, temperature and humidity there are 12 and 24 hour forecast data, respectively, which were previously not publicly available in this form. It would be nice to be able to dive one zoom level further into the map in order to better assess the wind situation within a touring area.

Another hint: The best way to subscribe to the service is via e-mail or social media. So you will get updates if a forecast should change.

Why are there not more regions involved?

The project starts with two countries and the cooperation of the avalanche warning services poses a great challenge for the avalanche warners. According to Christoph Mitterer, the first ten days were very demanding for all employees. We wish the entire team a successful start and hope that further regions will be included in the next season!