DeFROST Detailed and Fast Remote Observation of Snow for Tourism

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DeFROST is a snow monitoring service for providers of Digital Outdoor Platforms as well as tourism offices (Destinations). The service has the ability of monitoring snow to help in the planning of any given activity based on current weather, terrain and snow conditions.

These type of organizations greatly depend on the terrain conditions to be able to efficiently promote and attract users or tourists while ensuring safety: e.g. current and future snow cover and depth, avalanche risk and weather forecast, which contribute to the feasibility of outdoor activities.

Gathering such terrain data today is costly, risky and complex: it is gathered by safety managers directly visiting the area by foot. This hinders the ability of Touristic Destinations to inform tourists, ensure maximum safety and correctly coordinate promotion campaigns.

On the other side, Digital Outdoor Platforms have often a hard time monetizing their large user bases, which is primarily done by selling static maps – information that barely changes from one day to the next.

Based on the combination of satellite and ground data, DeFROST intends to provide daily, accurate information on snow cover and snow depth which is combined with weather and terrain data to calculate the feasibility of any activity over any trail.

It allows Digital Outdoor Platforms managing web-based or smartphone applications an easy way to integrate such data and offer it to their own users. In the case of tourist offices, DeFROST is offered as a stand-alone solution which ensures the tourist office takes the right decisions and offers the best to its visitors, while increasing their safety.

Users and their needs

This solution is addressed mainly to Digital Outdoor Platforms providing adventure-planning, mapping services and adventure-booking to end-users (tourists) as well as Destination Marketing Organizations operating in mountainous regions.

The users require:

  • Fast and easy access to near-real-time data on snow related terrain conditions such as snow cover, snow depth or avalanche risk.
  • An automated and fast way  to help planning for each trail/activity of any given area based on weather and snow conditions.

 Particularly, Digital Outdoors Platforms require:

  •  The ability to integrate this information in 3rd party mobile and web applications with maximum flexibility.

 On the other hand, touristic destinations require:

  •  An integrated solution to support tourists at the desk or the destination’s digital channels in the safe selection and planning of their next outdoor activity.


The targeted users’ main countries are those in the Alpine region (CH, FR, IT, AU) and the United States.

Service/ system concept

DeFROST automatically delivers daily updated information on:

  • Daily snow cover (20 meters spatial resolution), by combining and processing near real-time satellite data
  • Snow depth based on the most suitable ground measuring station in the vicinity
  • Avalanche risk based on the official country-wide risk assessment (SLF)
  • Weather forecast

Users would benefit from:

  • Accurate and simple information for Tourism Office Desk Agents for assisting and advising tourists.
  • Custom alerts on predefined events: track/activity becoming feasible, issue logging by safety managers, changing weather conditions, etc.  
  • API for integration with any 3rd party application.

At a glance, the following graphic explains the use case for Destinations:

The technology powering this use case is explained in more detail on the schema below:

Space Added Value

The space assets used for the snow cover products include Earth observation data from the European Sentinel family, including all automatically available Sentinel-2 data. Furthermore, NASA’s operating Landsat 8 sensors as well as both MODIS Aqua and Terra sensors are included. To account for areas with persistent cloud cover over prolonged periods, we exploit machine learning techniques to predict the likelihood of snow cover beneath.

The combined analysis with outdoor trails, weather data and avalanche risk assessments allows us to assess the feasibility of various outdoor activities. This procedure outranks currently available methods used in the Tourism Industry in terms of scale, reliability and complexity. It is the combined ability of harnessing satellite data in a high spatial, temporal and spectral resolution on a global scale during variable weather conditions, which makes this space asset indispensable – while its smart combination with ground data and machine learning techniques completes any potential data gap.

Current Status

The Demonstration Project started in March 2019 and is a continuation from the Feasibility Study “DeFROST” which was successfully completed in September 2018.
The Design Review took place successfully in July 2019 and a first Acceptance Review was successfully concluded in September 2019. The consortium is currently preparing with selected users a first set of pilot trials which are planned to start in October 2019.

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Daniel Meppiel
Rue de Lausanne 35A
1110 Morges
+41 786850740

ESA Project Manager

Norbert Huebner
ESTEC, P.O Box 299
2200 AG Noordwijk
+31 71 565 4199

Status Date

Updated: 26 September 2019 - Created: 26 September 2019