United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
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National Water and Climate Center

Westwide Snow Survey Training School


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 (SNOwpack TELemetry) theory and operation; and data accessing and uses. Outdoor laboratory exercises include snow machine operation and maintenance; helicopter safety; snow survey techniques; and an overnight bivouac in the snow using individual shelters constructed by trainees.


Upon 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.

Upon completion, participants should be able to perform at ASK Level 4, Perform Independently.


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.


1 week


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 or have winter mountain environment activities may also attend.

More Information

Deb Harms, Water and Climate Monitoring Team
Natural Resources Conservation Service
National Water and Climate Center
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd, Suite 802
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 414-3050