New iPhone App Warns for Avalanche Danger

Dec 15, 2015, 02:00 ET from SNOPRO

DELFT, The Netherlands, December 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --

A new iphone app called "SNOPRO" tells the actual avalanche danger level of specific descents.  

The average number of avalanche casualties in the Alps remains stable above 100 per year. The increased use of avalanche airbags and rescue beacons, and availability of rescue helicopters has not lead to a sharp decline. This does not deter the 16 million European off-piste skiers who enter dangerous avalanche terrain each year. They need to ask themselves if snow stability is sufficient at the start of each descent.  Dutch technology company Sping has launched an app in co-operation with mountain guides that gives them the answer. 

Avalanches start when snow layers have bonded insufficiently. A range of factors such as wind, temperature, precipitation, slope angle and orientation influence bond strength from day to day and even hour to hour. Hardened professionals find it difficult to assess existing avalanche dangers, let alone the recreational skier.

Alpine countries issue a detailed daily avalanche bulletin that should allow skiers to judge which slopes to avoid - theoretically. In practice, many off-piste skiers do not even read the avalanche bulletin. Those who do read it often find it difficult to interpret. It requires interpretation of altitude, slope angle and compass data on the go, also in bad visibility.

SNOPRO projects avalanche danger ratings on ski maps in 5 colors that correspond with the 5 danger levels that are common in avalanche bulletins. This allows users to understand immediately how dangerous certain areas may be. In the field, users can point their phone camera in any direction and SNOPRO will show avalanche danger levels in that direction for the next kilometer. By comparing directions, powder hunters can choose the safest line of descent. As such, SNOPRO makes complex but essential information easily available to the greater public, increasing safety in the Alps.

To enable SNOPRO, Sping has developed topographical maps of the entire Alps and has calculated altitude, slope angle and direction of every descent. Avalanche bulletins are "translated" daily and projected on these maps.

SNOPRO has been developed by Sping in co-operation with mountain guides. The SNOPRO app is now available to recreational and professional off-piste skiers, while the service is to start as soon as Alpine countries have started issuing daily avalanche bulletins.  SNOPRO is patent pending.

An Android version will be developed shortly.