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. 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 multiple forecast areas in Tuckerman and Huntington ravines as well as the Northern Presidential Range. The inclusion of the Northern Presidential Range is new for the 2018/19 season.
  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 which includes our entire avalanche forecast area.
  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 kept important aspects of our tradition to provide the best service to our unique concentrated high visitor use while considering our role in the nationwide effort to reduce fatalities due to avalanches through our forecasting and outreach efforts.

The Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s focus on field contacts with climbers, skiers, hikers, and riders to pass along recommendations and safety information is the core of our daily program. 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 you may have. Please come back frequently to get the latest mountain hazards and snow stability information. 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 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. He also enjoys Striped bass fishing from paddleboards, watching the Patriots dominate the NFL, and taking his avalanche dog, Lily, on long mountain patrols.

Helon Hoffer

Helon Hoffer

Snow Ranger, Trails Program Manager

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.

Ryan Matz

Ryan Matz

Snow Ranger, Backcountry/Wilderness Program Manager

Ryan recently relocated to the area after pursuing degrees in Physical Education and Outdoor Leadership at Southern Oregon University. Despite being just minutes from world class skiing, Ryan also managed to obtain a Master of Science degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism from the University of Utah. Ryan has worked as a backcountry ski guide for several seasons in the Wallowa range in Oregon and as a mountain guide on Mount Shasta, in addition to traveling to ski and climb throughout the American west. Along the way, he has acquired advanced training in snow science as well as ski guide training from the American Mountain Guides Association. He comes to us with a good bit of first-hand experience at managing risk in high consequence situations and even wrote a paper on the subject. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys numismatology, trail running, breeding a rare species of hairless, albino hedgehog, and tinkering with his top-fuel class drag racer. (Only one of those is true.)

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.

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!