Snow Stability Test

Up to a meter of fresh snow had fallen in the northern Alps last Sunday and the avalanche risk went up to four in the region of Vorarlberg. Our goal for the day was the Schwartzwassertal Hut, but the local community had closed off the valley for safety reasons and we just did a snow stability test.


I split my group in two and we tested at 1,200 meters and just below the tree line. At 10:15 A.M. the temperature was 6 °C; the snowpack was 75 cm deep and composed of seven layers. The snow was mostly soft, and there was a layer of sugary snow 20cm above the ground.

We tested the stability using the Compression Test. At our first site (east aspect, slope inclination 22 °) the column collapsed after twelve taps. We performed the second test not far away on a slightly steeper slope (25 °); here, the column collapsed after the first tap.

Both tests confirmed there was indeed a high avalanche risk and we wouldn’t have carried out our planned tour even if the ban hadn’t been in place (as a side note, there’s quite a hefty violation fee of 2,000 EURO/person).

Danilo Tič