Svalbard – avalanche safety at civilization’s edge

 ( Photo: Holt Hancock )

Fly with us to this post-conference excursion in the remote High Arctic at 78 degrees north, on the outermost periphery of the civilized world. Expect an insightful excursion in Longyearbyen to explore the community’s robust response to snow avalanche risk management. On this excursion you will witness firsthand the diverse risk management measures employed by the community since the devastating avalanches of 2015 and 2017. You will explore an array of recently-implemented structural and organizational solutions implemented in recent years which include snow fences, supporting structures, catching dams, and structural slush flow defenses in addition to daily site-specific warnings.  

As we approach the completion of the 30 million Euro investment in the construction of structural defenses in the fall 2024, this tour offers a unique opportunity to investigate the avalanche risk management process – from hazard mapping to finalization of long-term structural defense – in a location where the Arctic’s dramatic climatic changes have presented challenges to traditional risk management strategies. 

There will be a hike in mountainous terrain up to 450 m a.s.l one of the days, so you need to be fit, wear proper shoes, and bring warm clothing. 

Sunday 29 September – Wednesday 2 October
Alternative 1: Radisson Blue Hotel

  • 9.500,- NOK (incl. meals and internal transport) 

Alternative 2: UNIS Bed and Breakfast 

  • 7.800,- NOK (inkl. meals and internal transport) 

Max. participants: 30 
NB: If you want to join this excursion, we highly recommend signing up as early as possible. Note that all participants must book their own flights. These flights should be booked as early as possible as soon as you have a confirmation on the excursion. On Sunday 29th there are two alternatives from Tromsø to Longyearbyen; DY 396 at 10:30 with Norwegian and SK 4414 at 12:10 with SAS. If you leave from Svalbard on Wednesday 2nd, there are  also two alternatives from Longyearbyen to the mainland; SK 4491 at 12:45 with SAS (directly to Oslo) and DY 397 at 14:40 with Norwegian (to Tromsø with transit to Oslo).  

Preliminary Program Svalbard Field Excursion

Sunday, September 29 – Travel Day

  • Departure from Tromsø to Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
    Flight options:
    Norwegian: DY 396 at 10:30
    SAS: SK 4414 at 12:10
  • Arrival and transport to your hotel/guesthouse.
    Check-in and relaxation time.
    Local sightseeing tour in town.
    Welcome dinner and evening social gathering.

Monday, September 30 – Snow and Avalanche Profession in Svalbard

  • Morning session at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). Discussions with snow and avalanche experts about:
    - Past avalanche incidents and lessons learned.
    - Design and implement prevention measures like snow fences, support systems, and dams.
    - Development of site-specific avalanche warnings.
  • Group lunch at UNIS before afternoon session
  • Afternoon hike (7 km, ascent up to 450 m a.s.l.) to observe avalanche prevention installations in Lia, and a visit to Sukkertoppen and Vannledningsdalen.
  • Dinner and evening social gathering.

Tuesday, October 1 – Dealing with Avalanche Risk in Society

  • Meeting at UNIS with key community stakeholders
  • Key discussion points:
    - Organizing and managing avalanche risks in a small, isolated community.
    - Protocols for high-danger situations and evacuation procedures.
    - Funding, decision-making, and community response to avalanche risks.
  • Group lunch
  • No joint program in the afternoon. The afternoon and evening are at your own disposal. Possible to visit Svalbard Museum

Wednesday, October 2 – Departure Day

  • For attendees not extending their stay:
    Flight options from Longyearbyen to mainland:
    SAS: SK 4491 at 12:45 to Oslo.
    Norwegian: DY 397 at 14:40 to Tromsø, with a connection to Oslo.