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Abstract Up‐to‐date and accurate digital elevation models (DEMs) are essential for many applications such as numerical modeling of mass movements or mapping of terrain changes. Today the Federal Department of Topography, swisstopo,
provides Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) and Digital Surface Models (DSMs) derived from airborne LiDAR data with a high spatial resolution of 2 m covering the entire area of Switzerland below an elevation of 2000 m a.s.l.. However, above an elevation of 2000 m a.s.l., which is
typical for high‐alpine terrain, the best product available is the a DTM with a spatial resolution of 25 m. This spatial resolution is insufficient for many applications in complex terrain. In this study, we investigate the quality of DSMs derived from opto‐electronic
scanner data (ADS80; acquired in autumn 2010) using photogrammetric image correlation techniques based on the multispectral nadir and backward looking sensor data. As reference, we take a high precision airborne LiDAR data set with a spatial resolution of ca. 0.5 m, acquired in late
summer 2010, covering the Grabengufer/Dorfbach catchment near Randa, VS. We find the deviations between the two datasets are surprisingly low. In terrain with inclination angles of less than 30° the RMSE is below 0.5 m. In extremely steep terrain of more than 50° the RMSE goes
up to 2 m and outliers increase significantly. We also find dependencies of the deviations on illumination conditions and ground cover classes. Finally we discuss advantages and disadvantages of the different data acquisition methods.