Difference between observations and assessments

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The goal of this document is to describe the difference between observations and assessments and how they are used in InfoEx.


In InfoEx, there are two data types that are submitted to the exchange on a daily bases. The two types are observations and assessments.


The term observations refers to information that was collected in the field and that only includes objective information that was typically collected according to the observation guidelines and recording standards (OGRS) of the Canadian Avalanche Association. The system currently supports the following observation types:

  • Weather observations
    This is the standard weather observation from a permanent weather site as described in OGRS (2014) sections 1.1 to 1.4.
  • Field summaries
    Field summaries refer to large-scale weather observations that are used to give a general overview of the weather conditions in an area. This type of observation is described in OGRS (2014) section 1.5 & 1.6 and is primarily used by recreational backcountry operations.
  • Avalanche observations
    Avalanche observations are detailed records of avalanche occurrences as described in OGRS (2014) section 3. InfoEx supports both the entry of single and multiple events into a single record.
  • Avalanche summaries
    Avalanche summaries are free-from text descriptions of the avalanche activity observed in an area. While entering information about avalanche activity in free form text can be very efficient, the value of this format is limited as this information cannot be displayed graphically or included in any analyses. Use of this observation type is discouraged.
  • Snow Profiles
    This observation type refers to snowpack observations as described in OGRS (2014) section 2. While InfoEx does not have explicit entry forms for snow profile observations like in SnowPro or other snow profile applications, observations can be submitted as an attachment and the comments field of the snow profile type allows users to describe the main characteristics observed in their snow profile and their test results in free-text format.
NOTE The old InfoEx had an observation type call Snowpack Structure that was used for both the general description of the local snowpack structure and the description of snow profile observations. In the new InfoEx, these two observation types are separated more clearly. While snow profile observations are entered into the snow profile type, general descriptions of the snowpack structure are entered into the snowpack workflow module.
  • Terrain management
    This observation type helps communicate how subscribers are managing avalanche problems through terrain management.
NOTE This observation type was included at the request of the InfoEx Advisory Group with the goal to encourage the exchange of terrain information. With advice from a sub-committee of InfoEx Advisory Group (IAG) members, development of “Terrain Management”, a new set of fields replacing Terrain Observation was introduced for season 16-17.
  • General messages
    This observation type offers subscribers to exchange general messages with the InfoEx community.

More information on the functionality of observations and how they can be created can be found at Entering and submitting observations overview.


The term assessment refers to information that includes interpretation of observations. These assessments are typically completed by a head forecaster or a guiding team, who assimilate all of the available information into a comprehensive picture of the current conditions. As a consequence, the forms for entering assessments into InfoEx have been implemented as modules that can be integrated into workflows. The system currently supports the following assessment types.

  • Snowpack Structure
    The snowpack workflow module provides users with the ability to describe the general characteristics of the snowpack in free-form text.
  • Persistent Weak Layer Tracking
    The snowpack workflow module also offers users to keep track of the evolving conditions of the main persistent weak layers that they have observed in their area.
  • Hazard Comment
    The hazard comment workflow module is a low-tech solutions for avalanche hazard assessment that consists of two free-form text fields that allow users to describe the avalanche problems observed in their areas and the resulting avalanche hazard.
  • Hazard Assessment
    The hazard assessment workflow module offers users a more structured avalanche hazard assessment process that follows the conceptual model of avalanche hazard developed by Grant Statham and his team. This module includes the detailed description of avalanche problems and the hazard chart.

More information on the functionality of workflows and how they can be created can be found at Workflow overview.

Related documents

Functionality tested by

  • n/a