Avatech, Avanet and Global Crowdsourced Avalanche Safety Information

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 18, 2015      

Michael Arnold

Editor’s note from Lou: We are delighted to have an AMGA/UIAGM guide reviewing this ground breaking software. If anyone has the motivation, need and experience to use Avanet, a certified guide is our man. Please know this is the first of several takes. This time we did more of an announcement and overview without in-depth critique. Mike is up in the mountains today here at Wildsnow Field HQ, using Avanet, so we look forward to his next review with real-world testing. Oh, and as with any app we’re certain Avanet will undergo many revisions and updates as it becomes widely used, so we’re not in any hurry to do a vivisection. Such will be coming in due time. Meanwhile, I’d encourage anyone with an iPhone (it’s not available for Android yet) to at least install Avanet Free and let your opinion be known.

Beta tester Mike Arnold in the field with Avanet.

Michael Arnold testing Avanet near WildSnow HQ.

We live in a world that constantly changes and we continually need to adapt. That applies to urban life as well as the backcountry. As a licensed mountain guide, I am in the front lines of new innovations for alpine sports. Today, AvaTech does a public launch of their Avanet smartphone software, a full package with everything from trip planning to avalanche data management.

No single person can attain the amount of information that is necessary to have full confidence going into the mountains. This is where “community” can help. Sharing information is crucial to the future of safe mountain travel.

With social media these days, we can get an idea of conditions by checking the nearly infinite feed of ski porn and “spray,” but the hard information you get from that is limited and not ideal for decision making. We need something more scientific and concrete. This is where Avatech and their Avanet app come into play.

We like how this stock PR shot from Avatech shows how Avanet integrates.

We like how this stock PR shot from Avatech shows how Avanet integrates.

Avatech is a new company that believes sharing information is essential to backcountry snow safety. They’ve been developing software and hardware that has the potential to be a game changer in the world of ski touring (as well as professional snow safety work).

Last year Avatech’s app, Avanet, was only available to snow safety professionals. That changes now. Avatech is launching what they’re calling the “first global crowdsource for mountain safety information.” Translation: anyone, anywhere in the world, who enjoys playing in the snowy mountains and wants to be part of a community can be a part of Avanet, share information, and thus contribute.

The Avanet app is available in three levels:

Avanet Free — Basic observation sharing, global topo and aerial maps, route tracking (recreational).

Avanet Tour ($5.00/month) — More advanced obs (observations), route planning & tracking, global maps, dynamic terrain analysis tools (recreational).

Avanet Pro ($10.00/month) — For ski patrol, guides, forecasters, avalanche educators and includes professional grade observations, professional route planning, the most comprehensive one stop shot for aerial and topo maps, and robust data sharing architecture for the pro community.

SP1, SP2 — For ski patrols, guides, forecasters and avalanche educators. This is a probe-like device that takes 5000 readings per action and develops a profile of the snow structure without digging a snowpit.

Avanet features:


Aspect map.

  • Terrain — Not only does Avanet hook into your local avalanche forecasting, but you get excellent terrain visualization that helps you quickly check slope angle, aspect, etc. to understand where “no go” zones are.

    Before heading out into the field, you can change your base maps and store on your device, so you’ll have all your planning data when you have no wifi or mobile connectivity.

  • Crowdsourced observations — Crowdsourced observations are where the Avanet app becomes invaluable.
    Route tracking.

    Route tracking.

    The crowd sourced obs allow you to follow users in your area and their information can help you make better decisions. These shared resources can range from weather observations, snow structure, avalanche obs and basic notes from a tour. The feature also allows you to share tour plans in different Avanet groups. If it’s your secret stash you can share privately, or go public with crucial data that can help the community, such as snow and avalanche obs.

  • Route Planning — The Avanet Route Planning feature is all about preparation and planning.
    Observations: avalanche, snow structure etc.


    We all (hopefully) engage in systematic planning before any tour that’s more than the most basic up-and-back in heavily used terrain. Now with Avanet, the whole planning process is easier. When I was training for my guide certification, I used many different web sources for my tour plans. Now, it’s an all in one tool to increase efficiency and safety. Avanet allows you to do tour plans with all the essentials: Ascent Rate Scale, Bearings, Slope Angle, Aspect and Base Maps around the world. All the planning and prep you do at home on your desktop can be immediately uploaded to your phone via a standard GPX file. The idea is you stay in one app for virtually everything.

  • When I received the Avanet app I was immediately impressed. Comparing it to previous apps in the same field, such as Guides Pace, Gaia, iPiGenie (France), I first noticed how intuitive the app was. With my prior knowledge of map reading and tour planning, it quickly became second nature. But don’t think this is too complex, Avatech had every level of outdoor enthusiasts on their mind when developing the app. I found it totally presentable for a backcountry beginner.

    Each level of Avanet has the basic navigation, mapping tools and observations. The immediate ability to share observations from the field will be invaluable to the community. As I hop on the road this winter, I look forward to using this resource no matter where I am in the mountainous regions of the world.

    Avanet is currently available for iPhones (via iTunes or from the Avatech website) and on the web. Hopefully future versions will come for Android and other platforms (which at this point is our only solid criticism, though I’m sure we’ll see many versions of Avanet as inevitable bugs and improvements arise).

    (WildSnow guest blogger Mike Arnold is an IFMGA mountain guide who works for Aspen Expeditions and is co-founder of Vetta Mountain Guides. When he’s not sleeping in his Sprinter van or some hut above Chamonix, he lives in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado.)


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    28 Responses to “Avatech, Avanet and Global Crowdsourced Avalanche Safety Information”

    1. Charlie Hagedorn November 18th, 2015 10:39 am

      How are AvaNet observations licensed?

      Will the data contributed gratis from skiers be available under something like a Creative Commons license, so that others might share them outside of AvaNet or re-use it should Avatech fail, or will the data be trapped within the AvaNet system? When I contribute observations to the community, I’d like them to be as widely-useful as possible.

      It’s never been clear how AvaTech would make money. There’s at least $2.4M of venture-capital investment. Those investors hope to see a VC-like return.


    2. dewam November 18th, 2015 12:53 pm

      I see Jordy Hendrikx is the opener on your promo, is the data harvested being shared with the university’s “tracks” project. Den

    3. Avatech Support November 18th, 2015 2:09 pm

      Thanks for your question Charlie and dewam.

      Charlie, we agree with you the idea of information being shared as widely as possible. A key construct as to why we built Avanet. A few clarifications regarding this:

      1. Data shared on Avanet is owned by the user because we believe it really helps people take ownership of their information and improves the overall quality of the system. We are just a communication platform for the mountain community’s shared data and we do not own this data.

      2. We have written in our bi-laws if a meteor hits Avatech, all the data is donated back to the local forecast centers. It’s worth noting that we are also developing APIs with many forecast centers to pull data from our system in real-time. Our systems are also incredibly secure and backed up on multiple servers.

      Regarding funding, we have no VC investors. Our supporters care about building a safer mountain community.

      dwam: Regarding Jordy Hendrickx, yes we are working closely with Jordy supplying aggregated information to support his research, as well as other institutes and projects in the name of research and snow science.

      Thanks for your interest and questions.

    4. Louis November 18th, 2015 5:10 pm

      Hmm, I am in Rossland, BC and have downloaded the app. When trying to join and after pushing “REC” for a moment it says “Turn on location services…” then the app closes.

      Any thoughts?

    5. tucker November 18th, 2015 7:17 pm

      Looks like killer software, any timeline for Android? Runs on many more phones than iOS . . .

    6. Louis November 18th, 2015 8:06 pm

      Ok, so once I turned on Location Services it let me carry on without closing the app.

    7. Patrick Fink November 18th, 2015 9:29 pm

      I’m sad to see that you guys are part of the concerted marketing blitz on this thing.

    8. Andrew C November 19th, 2015 3:08 am

      Just downloaded the app today, looks great, really good Topo maps as far as I can see for up here in Alaska. I’ve been seeing observations from 2014. Is there going to be a set time on when old observations get removed?

    9. Joel O'Rourke November 19th, 2015 5:30 am

      I’ve downloaded the App and played around on the Web interface. This has great potential, but the web interface is a bit clunky – slow loading, a bit too much screen real estate is used when you just want to see more map when you’re making new routes).

      I see you an export the route, what about importing routes into Avanet, would certainly save a lot of time.

      and strangely, the iOS App doesn’t load routes made on the web interface…

      How do you stop tracking on the iOS app once you start it? Only way I’ve found is to quit the program and restart it.

      The overlays are fantastic and certainly If the route features / management and interface were improved a bit this would make the subscriptions a no-brainer.

    10. Brad Schalles November 19th, 2015 9:49 am

      Hey if you’er in Canada, please support your hard working avalanche organization and start submit to their app http://www.avalanche.ca/mountain-information-network

      The information entered will help to make better avalanche forecasts in your area!

      Is avatech sharing their data with the Canadian Avalanche?


    11. SlabbyD November 19th, 2015 10:13 am

      It’s interesting how much of reality we humans like to replace with abstractions, particularly ones we can finger on our i-phones. “No-go” zones, slope angle, ascent rates, weather observations and so forth were historically measured with our own eyeballs, based on education and experience. Now all you need is an app. For many people that will undoubtedly mean turning the brain right off and emphasizing an abstraction of reality over reality itself. I’m not doubting that it can certainly have value, but it would have been nice if backcountry skiing was one place not overlayed by smartphone, social media culture. More than anything I dread the inevitable heatmaps that will effectivley eliminate the unknown and in-often visited.

    12. Lou Dawson 2 November 19th, 2015 10:15 am

      All, apologies for the duplicate Arcteryx banners in right sidebar, am working on it. Lou

    13. Dirk November 19th, 2015 1:29 pm

      Joel- I had the same issue: How do you stop tracking on the iOS app once you start it? Only way I’ve found is to quit the program and restart it.

    14. Eirik November 19th, 2015 2:21 pm

      Hey Brad,

      Thanks for the plug for the Mountain Information Network – it’s definitely is our go to source for crowd sourced for public avalanche observations here in the AvCan forecast office. That said I don’t limit myself to one data stream and checking Avanet is becoming a part of my daily workflow.

      Eirik – Public Avalanche Forecaster, AvCan

    15. Misha Sidorsky November 19th, 2015 2:35 pm

      I’ve been playing around with avanet a bit today. Overall impression is that it’s an ambitious product, built around thoughtful features that will be sweet for recreational users (like me) and I assume will prove to be more disruptive for professionals/operations — both in terms of data collection/management (in combination with the probe) and communication/sharing.

      Some first reactions.
      On mobile: submitting observations from iOS is fast and intuitive, including notes and images — they’ve made it very easy for anyone to share information. (relatedly – how much are folks concerned about bad data?). The route tracking was also slick, though may have drained battery faster than other navigation apps (not verified). Route planning from the web app seems like the biggest feature for recreational users; overlays for aspect and slope were simpler than working in caltopo or similar — paired with observation pins makes for a very rich trip overview.

      Main frustrations: Routes aren’t synching between web and mobile, so you can’t plan a route on web then review/follow on mobile. Web-app is definitely sluggish with map navigation for planning or reviewing observations (drag, zoom, etc) and has been crashing pretty frequently. Mobile doesn’t seem to have the same obs data loaded — only seeing very recent pins, whereas web version has everything from the past year. (note: map only loads data once in view at proper scale, which is probably appropriate, but first experience puts you into an empty world all by yourself). @Andrew – there is a time filter above the map, which will definitely be useful.

      Minor frustrations: unclear how to access offline maps. can’t delete routes or tracks. can’t resume a track after stopping (@Dirk/Joel – there’s a slider to stop your track, but it forces you to save or delete). lastly, nobody online yet!I wonder how other crowd–sourcing platforms felt on day 1 after launch?

      Overall from a recreational perspective — this a sweet (and free!) product. I’d say, however, it was surprisingly feature heavy for a first release. Awesome to see the direction they’re going, but I’d personally prefer a first version that were more reliable and performant (particularly wrt to core functions like the map) without as much feature depth. I’m sure they had some tough tradeoffs to consider. Excited to see where this goes.

    16. Avatech Support November 20th, 2015 11:16 am

      Thanks all for the open feedback and questions. To clarify on a few of them:

      1. Syncing routes from the web to your phone will be live in about another month. Currently you can create a GPX export to another device though.

      2. We will be pulling last year’s data into the background of the web, of which if you chose you can review previous year’s data in the drop down Time filter. Which will help, along with a few other improvements, on web-app speeds.

      3. Regarding cached maps–You can can save maps for off-line use, and in settings, you can manage cached maps. Of which when you are off-line, they are auto populated in the area you are in. Not sure if that answered your questions.

      4. For some other questions on how to stop a recorded track. It isn’t totally intuitive, but swipe the upper bar down to access all the data from your route, including the “Slide to Stop” feature. After which you can save or delete your route. (And the syncing of your tracks to the web-app will be forthcoming. In addition, when you are reviewing saved routes, you can swipe the graph to see a map view of your route, which isn’t totally intuitive as well.

      5. Deleting Route Plans on the web-app should be live by the weekend. A slight oversight! As well as a few other improvements, like the saved route names populating in the left-hand column toggled Routes overview. And some other subtle performance improvements.

    17. Wookie November 23rd, 2015 2:42 am

      I’m very skeptical of its value as a safety tool – but anything that makes scouting and planning tours a little easier is great.

    18. Charlie Hagedorn November 24th, 2015 10:57 am


      I finally had a chance to read Avanet’s terms and conditions, found here:


      As I read it, it appears that Avanet wants us to contribute observations, but won’t allow a systematic download of the observations.

      The value of aggregated observations is in the aggregation. If Avanet becomes a superior aggregator, it won’t matter whether or not someone else starts a competing aggregator using the same dataset. A true community forum is an open one.

      Avanet, please consider making the terms-of-service symmetric. I’ll share with you if you share with me. If my contributions might be trapped behind a paywall in the future or blocked from systematic download, it’s not a place I want to send my work.

      Contributors, please carefully consider whether you’re happy with the terms under which your contributions are licensed to others.



    19. harpo November 29th, 2015 7:42 pm

      Is there anyway I can print topo maps from your web interface? I like having a printed copy for back up for when my phone konks out. I used to use Nat Geo Topo! for this purpose but that program isn’t supported anymore. Can Avanet do this? Does anyone else have other ways to print topos at home?

    20. See November 29th, 2015 9:05 pm

      Not really an answer to your question, but I have an old computer that runs Topo! entirely dedicated to route planning, downloading waypoints into my old gps and printing maps. Combined with a “portable” printer, it’s not too bad even for car supported trips away from home base.

    21. Avatech Support November 30th, 2015 3:38 pm

      Thanks for the additional comments and questions everyone.

      Charlie, to answer your questions: 1) Yes you can systematically download your observations, just contact us if you would like to do so. 2) Avanet is a very open community. We are currently working with forecast centers around the world to develop a single API/JSON feed that will share publicly shared information on Avanet directly with forecast centers that choose to ingest the information in their area. Forecast centers can then use the data as they please for their forecasts or broader dissemination to their communities. Ultimately, our aim is to make information sharing in the mountains easier and more open than ever.

      Harpo, currently you cannot print topo maps from the web interface, but we are working on that. In the interim, you can screenshot and print that way. Appreciate your feedback on that.

      Thanks again for the feedback and questions!

    22. See December 1st, 2015 7:19 am

      I know that many people who are a lot more knowledgeable than I use phones as their primary navigation tools, but in terms of size and legibility of the screen in bright sun, battery life, using touch interface with gloves, intuitiveness of interface, weatherproofness, durability, etc…. I’m still not convinced. One occasion when I had to rely on my phone for route finding it came through for us, but I had an external usb charger battery and cable with me, and it was dark by the time we needed it. I did not like having to mess around with carrying the battery, phone and a 3 foot long cable with delicate connectors in limited pocket space complicated by pack straps etc., and having to keep taking my gloves off. A waterproof case with an integrated battery would have helped, but my point is the system isn’t exactly “unplug and play.” The technology will continue to improve and thanks to the people developing it. But for now, I will continue to carry a redundant system– phone, gps, map and compass.

    23. See December 1st, 2015 7:23 am

      Actually, I think redundancy in critical systems is good, even if the technology improves to the point where the map,stays in my pocket.

    24. Lou Dawson 2 December 1st, 2015 8:40 am

      See, agree, I spent dozens of hours and lots of money trying to really use a phone as GPS and was never happy with it. The problem with seeing the screen in bright multi source light (such as above timberline in glaciated snowy terrain) is nearly insurmountable, for example, and the fragile auxiliary battery connectors are a nightmare that can result in bricking your whole phone due to a little bit of pressure that damages the phone connector. The situation is sad and illustrates just how far we have to go to make mobile devices really mobile. If there is any inherent problem in the Avatech system, it’s going to be the mobile device chosen by the user.

      Interestingly, the issue of reflective or transreflective displays is definitely there. A bit of Google action brings up stuff such as:


      If someone knows of a phone that actually has a reflective display, let me know. Perhaps this one?



    25. See December 1st, 2015 7:30 pm

      As far as I know, phones don’t have the battery life to be reliable navigation tools for even a full day trip (please correct me if I’m wrong). Dealing with external batteries and cords is a pain, so any one out there have a recommendation for a good case with an integrated battery or some other solution?

    26. Charlie Hagedorn December 4th, 2015 6:13 pm

      Thanks for the reply! I’ll have to get in touch!

    27. Glenn January 24th, 2016 11:38 pm

      Has there been any progress on the ability to sync routes created on the web interface to the iPhone app

    28. Lisa Dawson January 25th, 2016 3:05 pm

      Glenn, Avatech is working on the update for the mobile app to upload tour plans to smart phones. They hope to release it by mid-to-late February.

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