Large and tragic avalanche events at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 70s led to great public attention on the need for improvement of the knowledge of avalanches, including preparedness, alert warning and protection methods. Molaupenskredet on the 9th January 1970 and the avalanche against Maurangeranleggene 24th November 1971 are examples of such tragic avalanche events. This was one of the reasons why it was decided to set aside public funds for avalanche research.
A white paper to the Norwegian Parliament in 1972 decided that research related to avalanches was designated to NGI. Since then NGI has done research, developed know-how and expertise within this area, and provided consultancy services, advice and assistance related to avalanche for the authorities and other clients.
NGI established already in 1973 an avalanche research station, Fonnbu, at Strynefjellet. Here the connection between weather and snow cover development has been a central field of research. The original research station burned down to the ground in February 2005. It was immediately decided that the station should be built up again. The works started in the spring of 2005 after the snow had melted, and the new building was completed for initiation already in august 2006.
Full scale experiments with avalanches in the Ryggfonn avalanche path, near Fonnbu, with over 1000 metres of altitude difference, is another pilot project. Avalanche can here be triggered by detonation of explosives. Avalanche motion, speed and pressure effects are measured and analyzed for the development of more secure methods for design of mitigation against avalanches. Ryggfonn is one of two such full scale avalanche paths in the world. Over the years Ryggfonn has been upgraded and modernized significantly, with detonation equipment, instrumented force, pressure and velocity gauges in the avalanche path, and with a 15-meter-high embankment dam to stop the avalanche at the bottom of avalanche path.
Earlier, the research focused on buildings and roads exposed to avalanches. The Norwegian Planning and building law (PBL) has concrete requirements for security against avalanches. Statistics show that there have been few casualties as a result of avalanche against buildings and roads in the last 10-years. Steep outdoor life and recreational activities, and snow scooter activities now account for the largest group of casualties due to avalanches.