From the Lead Snow Ranger

Welcome and thank you for visiting our website developed in partnership between the US Forest Service’s Mount Washington Avalanche Center (MWAC), the Mount Washington Avalanche Education Foundation (WMAEF) and the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol (MWVSP). The goal of our organization and this site is to increase visitor safety on Mount Washington during the snow covered months.

The MWAC is operated by the Androscoggin Ranger District of the White Mountain National Forest and is the only American avalanche center east of the Rockies with one Canadian avalanche center to our north in the Chic Choc Range. We are also the oldest backcountry forecasting program in the country which reflects the long history of skiing and climbing here.

The Center’s public safety priorities are three fold:

  1. Our primary focus from Oct/Nov until the end of May is to provide snow, weather and avalanche information for the Presidential Range through this website, social media and direct contact with folks in the field.
  2. The greatest difference between the MWAC and other avalanche centers in the west is our responsibility as the lead agency for Search and Rescue. On December 1st of each year the Forest Service takes over responsibility from the State of New Hampshire for all incidents in the Cutler River Drainage on the east side of Mt. Washington.
  3. Our third emphasis is as an eastern professional avalanche resource for people seeking assistance with snow and avalanche safety. This entails assisting with research projects, giving avalanche awareness programs, participating in avalanche courses, providing information to reporters, working with our volunteer search and rescue groups, and coordinating team-based avalanche and mountain rescue trainings. We reach out to the public with presentations on rescue, snow science and mountain safety in multiple venues including the Annual Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop held every Fall.

For all of the Snow Rangers we never could have imagined being in an avalanche forecaster/rescuer role for a federal agency, but in hindsight it all makes sense. Love of the natural world, outdoor pursuits, and helping people have, one by one, sent us down the path of public service. Doing work we enjoy and making a positive difference for tens of thousands of people each season keeps us motivated. Succeeding as a Snow Ranger for the Mount Washington Avalanche Center takes more than technical skills, it takes a true concern and compassion for the visiting public. It accentuates the Forest Service mission of “Caring for the land and serving people”.

Nationally, the role of Snow Rangers has changed dramatically over the years, from field going forecasters and avalanche control specialists to administrating permits for ski areas on public lands. We have retained the important tradition of search and rescue and public contact in our highest use areas while ranging further afield to provide avalanche and mountain safety information for the Presidential Range.  Backcountry skiing and winter climbing continue to grow in our area along with the need for avalanche education and forecasting for the range. The end goal is to reduce fatalities due to avalanches through our forecasting and outreach efforts by aligning our forecast products with the more common national forecast products.

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s focus on field contacts with climbers, skiers, hikers, and riders to pass along recommendations and safety information remains the core of our daily program, particularly on weekends and during the spring. We believe these interactions are the best way to connect visitors with the land while making them aware of the multiple hazards they may encounter.

Our ability to improve and meet varying demands is directly related to your questions, feedback, and suggestions over the years. Ultimately we are here for you, so always feel comfortable approaching us and asking any questions that you may have.  We look forward to seeing you in the mountains!

Frank Carus, Lead Snow Ranger

Meet the Staff

Frank Carus

Frank Carus

Lead Snow Ranger, Director - Mount Washington Avalanche Center

frank@mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org

Frank came to the avalanche center in 2011 after a diverse early career supporting his climbing and skiing obsessions by guiding, building things and picking up whatever job would fund another mission (or feed his two kids!)

Frank put his degree in Geography to use guiding climbs and ski mountaineering trips, or taking personal trips to the Alps, Andes, Patagonia and the western States and has worked for most every guide service in the Mount Washington Valley in the process. A summer in the Tetons guiding for Exum Guides broke up the monotony. He has an obvious passion for learning and has taken the AMGA Alpine, Ski and Ski Mountaineering guide courses in addition to being a certified Rock Instructor since 1996. Working vacations take him west to teach technical rope rescue to US Marine climbing instructors through Peak Rescue Institute. Frank is an EMT and has had AIARE and AAI Avalanche course 1, 2 and 3 training.

The human relationship to risk taking is an endless source of fascination for Frank. He has found an ideal career and location to continue this fascination.

Helon Hoffer

Helon Hoffer

Snow Ranger, Trails Program Manager

Helon is currently on detail and helping out the Saco Ranger District but will return to MWAC in early January.

A true New Englander, Helon has never lived west of Jay Peak. Realizing the Mount Washington Valley offered the perfect training ground for all expeditions, he moved here in 2008. He began his career with the Forest Service in 2014, spending winters as a forecaster for the avalanche center and managing the Androscoggin District Trails in the summer. Merging these two programs together, Helon spends much of his time working with several partners to better the skiing potential in the White Mountains Region. He is a licensed EMT and lives with his family in North Conway. When not gardening and restoring a 19th century farmhouse, he spends his time trying to find the next great birch glade.

Jeff Fongemie

Jeff Fongemie

Snow Ranger

Jeff began working professionally in the White Mountains as a mountain guide in 1992, helping people experience rock and ice climbing here in NH, the American West and the European Alps. For years Jeff thought snow was a nuisance, post-holing while getting to the best rock and ice climbs, though he has come to appreciate snow and even prefers ski touring when the snow isn’t Mount-Washington-wind-hammered.

Jeff’s avalanche education began in the 1990’s with Avalanche Levels 1, 2 and 3 learning from experts including Rod Newcomb, Peter Lev and Karl Klassen. Jeff also brings 25 years’ search and rescue experience to the team as a member of Mountain Rescue Service. Jeff has a Bachelor of Science degree and has contributed heavily to the development of the MWAC website.

During months of no snow, Jeff enjoys sailing on the coast of Maine, mountain biking, and reading books on behavioral economics. If you see Jeff on the mountain, a good ice breaker is to ask him about building small boats.

Joe Soccio

Joe Soccio

Snow Ranger

Joe originally hails from Cato, NY. He returns to the East Coast after working in the west for The National Park Service and Forest Service over the past five years. His degree in Wildlife Management provided some memorable moments in Yosemite National Park as a wilderness bear ranger, wildlife technician in Oregon and working remotely with Koakanee salmon in the panhandle of Idaho. Most recently, Joe’s WEMT and Motorized avalanche education came in handy in the Eastern Sierra’s at the Bridgeport Avalanche Center. Joe enjoys observing the natural processes of weather and geography interact. Which makes Mt. Washington an exciting place to be.

In Joe’s free time he is found off the beaten path looking for dog friendly slopes. When glorious snow isn’t underfoot Joe enjoys photography, reading, and rock climbing.

Lily Carus

Lily Carus

Avalanche Dog

Lily, also known as "that darned dog", is a crackerjack search tool for the program with a search speed that can better the most honed, snow-nerd in a multi-burial scenario. She is also known to sneak up on unsuspecting hikers on the deck and steal a glove, or a banana. She finds the ensuing game of chase to be great fun!

Joe Klementovich

Joe Klementovich

Snow Ranger

For the past 20+ years I’ve spent my free time in the mountains, as a free lance photographer, a volunteer rescuer and as an avalanche forecaster. I currently serve on the board of directors and team leader of the Mountain Rescue Service and have recently co-founded the White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation where I serve as the president. All of these positions and interests have stemmed from decades of climbing, skiing, working and embracing the rugged mountains of Northern New Hampshire, especially in the winter.
In 2010 I started working for the Mount Washington Avalanche Center as a snow ranger/forecaster. Spending early morning hours looking at weather forecasts, collecting field observations and working with a team to produce avalanche forecasts. During the off-season my career as a freelance photographer has me back in the mountains filming and photographing for newspapers, magazines and commercial clients.