Snow classification

The international classification for seasonal snow on the ground is the result of a ICSI-UCCS-IACS Working Group on Snow Classification. The Working Group efforts have resulted in an UNESCO-IHP report detailing the snow classification scheme as well as a series of type faces for printing snow classification symbols. The Working group was headed by C. Fierz, R.L. Armstrong, Y. Durrand, P. Etchevers, E.Greene, D.M. McClung, K, Nishimura, PkK. Satayawali, and S.A. Sokratov. The report has been widely and internationally reviewed by peer snow researchers to consitute a new standard for snow classification.

In addition, an international data format for exchanging snow profiles has been developed based on the Canadian Avalanche Association Markup Language (CAAML).

Many observational guidelines around the world are based on the above classification.


The International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground (ICSSG)

The revised International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground has been published 2009 by the International Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO-IHP), Paris, in the series of IHP Technical Documents in Hydrology: IACS Contribution. Hard-copies can be obtained from the IHP Secretariat.

Original Publication :

The International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground.
(Higher resolution pdf: 7.6 MB) (Lower resolution pdf: 3.4 MB)
Includes a multi-lingual list of terms in French, Spanish, Russian, and German.
NOTE: Photo #05 has been replaced with the correct one in the high resolution version.

Full length translations :

Russian (pdf: 3.2 MB)

Italian (available from AINEVA)

Persian (in process)

Web resources :

IACS gratefully acknowledges the set of web-usable snow symbols that our Norwegian colleagues provided.


Type face files :


SnowSymbolsIACS_docu.pdf (81 kb)

Adobe Type 1:

SnowSymbolsIACS.afm (7 kb)
SnowSymbolsIACS.pfb (18 kb)
SnowSymbolsIACS.pfm (1 kb)


SnowSymbolsIACS.ttf (39 kb)


SnowSymbolsIACS.otf (11 kb)

Type face copyright

22 September 2008, International Association of Cryospheric Sciences IACS, Version 1.030.


Zürcher Hochschule der Künste ZHdK

Stefan Huber, Signalwerk (sh(at)


IACS - CAAML int'l Snow Profile Exchange Format :

IACS worked with a group of developers to come up with an international exchange format for snow profile based on the open source Canadian Avalanche Association Markup Language CAAML. For detailed info please visit CAAML 5.0 - Snow Profile IACS.


Observational Guidelines :

Canada : Observation Guidelines and Recording Standards (OGRS)

USA : Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the United States (SWAG)

New Zealand : New Zealand Guidelines for Weather Snow and Avalanche Observations (MSC)