A snow guard is a device used to retain snow and ice from falling from one surface to a lower one; in contemporary usage, they are installed to prevent snow/ice pack from avalanching and damaging people, plants, and property below. They are most commonly installed in multiples or rows on a structure's roof surface, as a form of avalanche control. Snow Guards are installed with a specific quantity and pattern based on the shape, size and pitch of the roof to provide the most uniform system of retention possible.
Variants of snow guards have been used for over 300 years all around the world where seasonal snowfall is common. In the Alps and Scandinavia, stones and logs were placed on top of roofs to increase friction and retention so that the snow could be used as insulation. In addition to roofs, other larger natural or man-made objects and structures have also been used as snow guards (also known as snow fences) on steep sloping hills to lessen the effects of avalanches in valley regions.
Modern snow guards are made of polycarbonate and/or metals, depending on the type, size, and specific function of the guard. Although primarily installed for functional purposes, panel guards and snow railing are sometimes used to highlight a roof's aesthetic appeal and design. A variety of modern manufacturers have designed metal powder-coated guards that can match the colors of varying roof types, and snow rails are commonly colored to compliment the roofs they protect. In addition, many manufacturers have developed snow guards and systems for metal roofs.
Other commonly used names and terms for snow guards include:
- Snow bracket
- Snow brake
- Snow stop
- Snow shields
- Snow clip
- Ice guard
- Snow fence (non-highway type)
- Snow rail
- Snow pads
- Snow dogs
- Snow guard bracket
- Hjorth-Hansen, Erik (2000). Snow Engineering : Recent Advances and Developments. Trondheim, Norway: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Snow Engineering. p. 332.
- Snow Guard. "Snow guards and metal roofs 101".