Skip to content


SNOWPACK is an open source (under the LPGL version 3 open source licence) snowpack and ground surface model for use in a variety of scenarios. It simulates the development of the snowpack during the winter, based on weather data. Snow profiles can be modelled for every location where weather data are available (from Automatic Weather Stations, meteorological forecasts or reanalysis). SNOWPACK describes the details of the snow microstructure and the layering of the snowpack. It models how the snowpack interacts with its surroundings by simulating the key physical processes (mass and energy exchange) that take place between the atmosphere, snow and soil.

Fig. 1 Fig. 1

Who are the typical users of SNOWPACK?

SNOWPACK has originally been developed to support avalanche warning (Lehning et al., 1999) and thus features a very detailed description of snow properties including weak layer characterization (Stoessel et al., 2009), phase changes and water transport in snow (Hirashima et al., 2010). A particular feature is the treatment of soil and snow as a continuum with a choice of a few up to several hundred layers. While a main application is still on avalanche warning in countries from Switzerland (Schirmer et al., 2009) to Japan (Nishimura et al., 2005), the applications range from climate change assessments (Rasmus et al., 2004; Bavay et al., 2009; Bavay et al, 2013) and superimposed ice simulations (Obleitner and Lehning, 2004) to permafrost sensitivity studies (Luetschg et al., 2008) and the simulation of snow storage (Olefs and Lehning, 2010), ecology (Rasmus et al., 2016), snow sport (e.g. snow farming, piste meteorology)...

The SNOWPACK software ecosystem

SNOWPACK internally relies on the MeteoIO meteorological data pre-processing library (see the peer-reviewed GMD paper) for transparently processing its forcing data on the fly. MeteoIO is packaged together with SNOWPACK in binary releases or is manually installed when recompiling from source code.

It is recommended to use the Inishell GUI (see the peer-reviewed GMD paper) to generate and edit your ini files. It can even run a Snowpack directly within the GUI! In order to ease the integration of SNOWPACK into other models, it is now structured as a library (libsnowpack) and an application that uses the library to perform simulations (snowpack). Finally, to visualize the results and edit snow profiles, you can rely on the open source niViz web-based tool.

If you want to use Snowpack in an operational context, you can request to have access to the "snowpack-opera" private project that gives you the whole operational toolchain, also as Open Source, as well as some documentation on how to setup an operational system.