Index - Federal Forest Research Centre

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Avalanche dynamics
Avalanche simulation
Avalanche reports
Torrent research
Expert opinions
The bulk of information is provided in German


Avalanche research is mainly charged with the development of improved guidelines for active and passive protection from avalanches, a task which is important also with respect to the Austrian national economy:

  • Optimization of guidelines for hazard zone planning (modelling)
  • Development of control techniques, for example forestry measures, for the management of avalanche and torrent hazard zones
  • Avalanche documentation, including accident files, in order to improve and standardize training and education programmes in avalanche research
  • Avalanche forecast models



Hofburg/Rennweg 1,
A-6020 Innsbruck
Tel: +43-512/ 57 39 33
Fax +43-512/ 57 39 33 /5250

Research activities


Avalanche dynamics

Project P/8/2, Coordinator: Dr. Lambert Rammer

In selected areas known as avalanche hazard zones, avalanches „in progress“ are observed, and the forces acting therein measured, in order to improve the basis for reliable avalanche forecasting, project design, hazard zone planning and relevant calculations.

In order to verify avalanche simulation models, velocities and pressures in avalanches are measured with mobile radars and/or electronic tools for pressure measurement.

Numeric avalanche simulation models

Under Project P/8/5 Numeric Simulation of Avalanches – Studies of Parameters, Coordinator: Dr. Horst Schaffhauser.

Numeric three-dimensional computer simulation models are used in hazard zone planning and in the dimensioning of avalanche control construction works in order to achieve more accurate information on the probable length and spatial development of coming avalanches (for the entire track of an avalanche). These criteria are valid also for the presentation of the dynamic pressure.

An additional requirement on the development of models is user-friendliness, both with respect to the calculation and for the graphical representation of gliding snow avalanches of a high or low powder content.

Avalanche Catastrophe Studies

Project P/8/1, Coordinator: Dr. Horst Schaffhauser

Austrian avalanche reports have been published at regular intervals since the winter term of 1967 / 68. They contain selected research articles from expert authors as well as accident analyses.

About 75 % of the fatal avalanche accidents of past winters occurred in skiing and mountaineering. The number of avalanches that menace settlement areas has been clearly decreasing.

Other research activities

  • Forest management in the sub-alpine zone – High-altitude afforestation at Haggen in the Sellrain Valley, Tyrol.
  • Forest ecological studies in the sub-alpine zone


Experts‘ advisory services in cooperation with the Provincial Division of Torrent and Avalanche Control. Under the Austrian Forest Act of 1975 (para. 136, sub-para. 2).


Dipl.-Ing. Peter Höller

Universität Innsbruck

Torrent and Avalanche Research I

University lecture (1 hr) at the University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany, winter term.

The lecture will first provide an overview of the Austrian situation with respect to torrent and avalanche hazards. After this introduction, the following topics will be treated: denudation processes; causes of torrent dynamics (geology and geomorphology, hydrology); dynamic movements in torrents (precipitation and denudation, overview of bedload transportation); avalanche formation (snow research, classification of avalanches, influence of meteorological factors on avalanche formation); movement and effects of avalanches (calculation of their velocities and runout lengths, damage due to big avalanches); effects of forests on torrent dynamics and avalanche formation. Finally, students will be given an overview of the control measures available in this field.

Torrent and Avalanche Research II

University lecture and practical course (2 hrs) at the University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany, summer term.

In the field of avalanche research, the following topics will be treated:

Physics and mechanics of snow; Narita tension tests and their effect on the present theory on the formation of windslab avalanches; investigations on the thickness of snow covers (shearing frame); calculations regarding the stability of the snow cover; avalanche dynamics; technical facilities to fix the position of persons trapped under an avalanche; risk analysis; technical facilities for avalanche warning (measuring technique); avalanche forecasting and avalanche control measures.

As far as torrent research is concerned, the following items will be treated:

Classification of mass movements; heavy-rain criteria and the calculation of extreme events (Gumbel analysis); measuring of water level and discharge; the hydrological cycle; analysis of hydrographic curves; correlations between precipitations and run-off (high-water formulas; unit hydrographer) and the influence of snow melting on the run-off; hydraulics, transportation of solid material and bedload; the ecosystem of torrents; close-to-nature construction techniques and control measures.

Excursions organized in connection with torrent and avalanche research

1 hr, University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany, summer term.

The excursion is meant to show students how to identify potential risk areas. Various control techniques will be inspected and hazard zone planning will be discussed in detail at several points of the excursion (Neustift / Stubai Valley, St. Anton).

Cooperation and participations


  • AVL – Anstalt für Verbrennungsmotoren (Institute for internal combustion engines) Prof. List, Graz, development of simulation models
  • Provincial Divisions of Torrent and Avalanche Control (WLV)
  • Institute of Torrent and Avalanche Control of the Vienna University of Agriculture, Forestry and Soil Resources (BOKU)


  • NGI-Norske Geotekniske Institut, Oslo, Norway
  • Eidgenössisches Institut für Schnee- und Lawinenforschung (Swiss Institute of Snow and Avalanche Research), Davos, Switzerland
  • Centro Sperimentale Valanghe e Difesa Idrologica, Arabba, Italy
  • CEMAGREF-Grenoble, France

Index | Research | Publications
LinR/FreM/FeiH, 1999-05-06