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Snow School

West-wide Snow Survey Training School

What is Snow School?

Snow Survey Training School is required for current and new NRCS employees and cooperators that perform snow survey duties as part of their job. Students from all over the country participate in an intense week of training in data collection, safety and outdoor survival. As part of the winter survival training, students learn to build emergency snow shelters using equipment they carry in their packs.

Most Snow Survey Training School instructors are NRCS employees who work directly with the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting (SSWSF) Program. Instructors in avalanche and outdoor survival are world-renowned experts in their fields.

Course work is about 50% classroom lecture and 50% field exercises.



Classroom subjects include history of snow surveys; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mission and snow surveys; snow sampling; note keeping; over-snow travel; safety; emergency shelter construction; principles of survival; avalanche hazard recognition, assessment, and avoidance; first aid; SNOTEL (Snow Telemetry) theory and operation; and data access and uses.

Outdoor activities include: Oversnow travel, snow survey techniques, snowpack science, basic avalanche emergency response, and emergency snow shelter construction.



On completion of this training, participants will be able to:

  1. Use correct procedures to obtain snow survey data and complete field notes.
  2. Conduct all survey activities safely and effectively, choose proper travel mode to data sites, recognize natural hazards and exercise appropriate avoidance.
  3. Construct emergency winter survival shelters and successfully bivouac in a snow-covered environment.
  4. Describe the basic emergency first aid procedures needed for injuries and illnesses commonly encountered on snow surveys.


 Eligibility and Prerequisites

NRCS personnel engaged in snow surveying or who travel and work in remote mountainous terrain in winter may attend. Cooperating agencies and organizations' personnel who conduct snow surveys may attend.

Personal health and physical conditioning necessary to travel on snow using snowshoes or skis and carrying a full field pack, an annual physical examination (NRCS personnel), current Red Cross Multimedia Standard First Aid Course (or its equivalent), and a CPR training course.


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