Skip to content

Cookies 🍪

This site uses cookies that need consent.

Learn more

Zur Powderguide-Startseite Zur Powderguide-Startseite

Language selection

Search PowderGuide


PowderPeople | Arnold Studeregger, avalanche forecaster LWD Styria

Background information on the LWD Styria and the joint avalanche warning of the Austrian federal states

by Lukas Ruetz 11/28/2021
Arnold Studeregger is part of the avalanche warning service at ZAMG in Styria. We spoke to him about the development of the Styrian LWD, the biggest innovations and his favorite snow profile

LR: Avalanche warning in Austria is a matter for the federal states. There is an avalanche warning service in seven out of nine federal states. How long has your LWD actually existed and how did it come about?

AS: In Styria, the avalanche warning service has existed since 1975 - at the same time as the Disaster Prevention Act. However, the avalanche winter of 1999 provided a major innovation boost, not only in our region but in the entire Alpine region. This led to intensive work on setting up automatic weather stations and the introduction of daily avalanche reports. A precarious avalanche situation at the beginning of February 2006 and a wet snow situation in 2009 provided a similar impetus with a further push to expand the stations.

The avalanche warning service at the ZAMG in Graz has six avalanche warning officers and two technicians. Since 2006, we have also been responsible for avalanche warning in Lower Austria. There are always two avalanche forecasters on duty at the same time. In the meantime, the others can concentrate on scientific projects, in which we are very closely involved.

Since the 2020/21 season, the avalanche warning services for Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Styria and Carinthia have had the same look and feel. The graphic presentation has been standardized and the avalanche reports have been raised to a new level in several respects. This is exactly in line with the much-discussed topic of the convergence of avalanche warning products across political borders. How long have you been working on this project, what hurdles have you faced and what are the benefits for winter sports enthusiasts?

The joint avalanche warning system arose from a previous project with Carinthia and Slovenia that started back in 2017. Before the first corona lockdown in 2020, we then started to focus on standardization within the Austrian federal states.

The advantages are the multilingualism and the graphically uniform appearance. But also the ability for winter sports enthusiasts to see the bigger picture: on the Upper Austrian LWD website, for example, someone from Linz can see at a glance that the avalanche situation is currently better in Lungau. There are no longer any hard boundaries between the avalanche warning services across administrative borders, as the hazard level maps of the neighboring federal states are also included.

In addition, we can now aggregate various small regions into a common warning region on a daily basis. Depending on the weather and avalanche situation, the avalanche warning can be fine-tuned for each individual micro-region.

Do you already know where you want to continue working on your project?

Vorarlberg and Bavaria will also become part of our working group. We also have some improvements in mind on the backend so that the warners can work more efficiently.

Since this winter, there has also been a new tour portal and we want to work more intensively with models such as SNOWPACK and various map products. So we're not running out of work.

The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics ZAMG - Austria's state weather service, so to speak - is your employer and is the only federal province in Styria entrusted with the avalanche warning agenda. In the other federal states, avalanche warning services are usually subordinate to hydrology or disaster control. As avalanche forecasters, are you also involved in the weather forecast in summer or can you invest all your energy in the topic of avalanches?

We can devote ourselves entirely to the topic of avalanches - but at the same time we work intensively with our colleagues from meteorology.

The avalanche danger is a product of the weather and the terrain. It is probably a special privilege that you are part of ZAMG and can therefore make intensive use of the synergies.

As ZAMG employees, we can also access all the weather products from our company, which is of course an advantage in avalanche warning.

Which innovations would you describe as the biggest in avalanche warning in Styria in recent years? And where do you think avalanche warning is heading in the foreseeable future?

Carinthia, Lower Austria and Styria were the first to issue an afternoon report for the next day instead of a morning report. A vision for the future is a common issue date for all avalanche warning services in the Eastern Alps. At the moment, the avalanche forecasts are almost all published in the late afternoon or early evening - but not all at the same time.

We want to continue to drive forward standardization between the warning services and, for example, further objectify the EAWS matrix. Data management is also becoming increasingly important. But I think that humans will continue to be involved in the wealth of data. The machine will only help with the selection of data.

About you personally: How did you become an avalanche forecaster and what are the biggest challenges but also the best moments in this profession for you?

I studied geography and high mountains at the University of Graz. As part of my dissertation, I was stationed on the Planneralm one winter and I was able to go out into the terrain every day to carry out snowpack studies. After that, I was given the opportunity to work at ZAMG as an avalanche warning officer.

The biggest challenge was on my second day at work: February 2, 2005, when I issued avalanche danger level 5, the highest on the 5-point scale. Little did I know that we would actually get over 200 avalanches in the next 48 hours - a total of 48 hours of pure stress.

I happened to be on a reconnaissance flight with the BMI aircraft and a missing person report came in. We found an avalanche with a track into it. I was the first one on the avalanche. The physical challenge was that the person had been in the snowpack for 24 hours. So it was clear that I had to recover a dead person...

But let's talk about the positive aspects. The best moments in this job are the quiet minutes on the mountain, where you can take a moment to reflect.

What would your favorite snow profile look like?

40 cm of round grain with 0°C at the bottom and then isothermal at -1°C. Above that, 70 cm of fluffy snow. Above that, 70 cm of large, fluffy fresh snow crystals that get cold towards the top at -10°C.

Last but not least: What do you think an average winter sports enthusiast can most likely take away from your handling of avalanches and also implement in the terrain themselves to optimize risk?

Always observe well. Be alert and sharpen your senses for potential dangers - from the approach to the return to the starting point.

Thank you for the interview!

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

Show original (German)

Related articles