Meet your ESAW presenters: Dr. Elizabeth Burakowski

We’re happy to introduce Dr. Elizabeth Burakowski, coming to ESAW from the University of New Hampshire’s Earth Systems Research Center and Institute for the study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. She will enlighten us on one of her primary projects, Citizen Science Snow Observations. Dr. Burakowski is a climate scientist who uses climate modeling, remote sensing, and ground observations to investigate the interactions among land cover, land use, climate, and society. Accordingly, Liz will also help us understand regional impacts of climate change.

An avid snow sports enthusiast herself, another of her research interests is the effect of warmer winters on winter tourism and the ski industry. We hope you’re as excited as we are to learn from Liz this Saturday at the Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop!

Meet Your ESAW Presenters: Dr. Sam Colbeck

From nearby Lyme, NH, we are pleased to welcome Sam Colbeck back to the Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Sam is an Emeritus Researcher and former Senior Research Scientist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover NH. With the metamorphosis of fallen snow as a primary research interest through his career, he contributed pioneering advancements to our understanding of how snow grains change over time. In 2000, the American Avalanche Association named Sam an Honorary Member, their highest award. His work as a true snow scientist includes but also extends beyond our world of avalanches, with research influencing all things snow, from military operations and nuclear power plants to ski racing. The Ragged Mountain ski patroller and avid skier will surely lead the charge to awaken your snow brain on November 3rd.

Meet Your ESAW Presenters: Brian Lazar

We are pleased to introduce Brian Lazar, the Deputy Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center since 2010. Brian has been working in the field of snow and avalanches for the last couple decades. He began backcountry skiing in Colorado as a college student, soon becoming a mountain guide and avalanche course instructor. After a decade or so of guiding and teaching in a variety of snow climates on both sides of the equator, Brian returned to graduate school where he earned a MS in Engineering, studying snow and ice mechanics in Alaska’s Chugach range, and conducting research at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. He worked for many years as a consultant to the ski industry, investigating snowpack runoff and potential changes to seasonal snowpacks as a result of climate change.

A key figure in avalanche education, the former Executive Director of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), remains a curriculum developer and board member. He is also a member of the American Avalanche Association (AAA) Education Committee, an AAA Certified Instructor, and an AIARE course leader. We are certainly excited to learn from Brian at ESAW, and we hope you are too! Get your tickets here:

Sections of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail are Closed

The Crystal Cascade Bridge as well as Bridge #3 are currently under construction. The Tucks Trail has two separate closures that must be navigated as you ascend to Hermit Lake. Rather than the normal start to the trail behind the AMC Trading Post, the trail begins up the Sherburne. The detours are well-signed and will add no distance to your hike.


Annual Tuckerman Ravine Trail Closure in the Lip

Annual spring snow melt creates significant glide cracks, or crevasses, and undermined snow in the Lip area of Tuckerman Ravine. We close a section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail where it passes through the Lip as a safety measure. This relatively short section stretches from Lunch Rocks in the Ravine to the junction with the Alpine Garden Trail just above the Ravine. Ascending or descending through this area now has numerous hazards which greatly elevate risk to travelers. The closure also pertains to skiers and riders. The closure only pertains to this section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and will remain in effect until melt out eliminates these specific hazards.

Forest Supervisor Order 2008-19

Lion Head Summer Trail open

Hiking this time of year can be especially challenging as warm temperatures make shorts and lightweight hikers more comfortable than soft shell pants and mountaineering boots. Trails can change from knee deep rotten snow to bullet-proof ice is a matter minutes in cool temperatures and shade. Currently, the Lion Head summer trail and winter route are equally challenging but for different reasons. The Summer route has stretches of ice remaining and a long traverse through a snowfield at tree-line that has been the seen of some pretty bad falls. The winter route is generally steeper and the steepest section now is exposed rock and frozen mud. While never technically closed, the summer route is exposed to significant avalanche hazard and only becomes the recommended route to the summit from the east side of the mountain when avalanche hazard subsides. We have reached the point in time when the summer route becomes a good alternative. That said, there is still ice along with that steep and potentially icy slope near treeline. Be prepared and equipped for icy conditions on the summer trail when it’s cold at that elevation, along with rotten and deep snow as it warms up.

The Tuckerman Ravine trail through Tuckerman Ravine is nearing the point where a closure makes sense. If you plan to ski the Lip, understand that the waterfall holes are open below you and create the potential for a fatal fall into a 70′ deep or more hole.


MountainFilm Festival Tour comes to Fryeburg, ME

May 3, 2018 // 7:00 PM
Fryeburg Academy’s Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center presents the MountainFilm Festival on Thursday, May 3rd at 7:00 pm. MountainFilm is an annual documentary film festival that showcases nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political and social justice issues that matter. Along with exceptional documentaries, the festival goes beyond the film medium by bringing together world-class athletes, change makers, and visionary artists for a multi-dimensional celebration of worthy causes. See the trailer here.
Fryeburg Academy is situated 10 minutes from North Conway, NH in the foothills of the Mt. Washington Valley and surrounded by people that value outdoor recreation, environmental stewardship, and sustainable development. We hope that this event will become an annual evening of fun that brings people together to celebrate indomitable spirit.
Representatives from local outdoor recreation organizations, including the Mount Washington Avalanche Center and the Granite Backcountry Alliance, will be set up in the lobby to answer questions and provide information about their operations. 
All proceeds from the event will support outdoor programs at FA.
For more information visit
$20 In Advance, $25 at the Door

Saddle Peak, MT avalanche fatality

As with any avalanche fatality, there are opportunities to learn from tragic events. Of particular interest to me in this case is the size of the avalanche and the timing of the rescue. Both the avalanche size, type, track and bed surface are similar to avalanches frequently occurring in and near our forecast area. The timing of the rescue is also very similar to what has occurred here. Even if snow ranger or caretaker staff are alerted quickly, it would likely take the same period of time to reach and recover a victim in the Bowl. In this case, the depth of burial may have allowed the victim to live, had they not been alone. It’s up to you to decide, but it seems likely to me that our collective luck as a community could run out again.
Read about the incident here.
Please, wear and carry your avalanche beacon, probe and shovel and understand the consequences of  solo travel. Winter is not over.
Sincere condolences to family, friends and the rescue community involved.

Photo Update on March 23, 2018


Tuckerman Ravine. The hard wind slab is manageable on skis but ice axe and crampons are reassuring even on lower angle parts of the terrain.

The avalanche debris in lower snowfields and the bottom of Hillman’s is navigable and slowly filling in.

Huntington Ravine. The hard windslab is providing a excellent surface for cramponing. Ice fall is starting to show up in the bottom and will continue to be a problem as temperatures increase.

Pinnacle & Odell

Yale & Damnation

Multiple large chunks were observed in the floor this morning. Remember overhead hazards while making travel choices as the temperatures warm up.


New snow and weather data


You may notice a couple of changes to the web advisory today. We frequently refer to the snowplot at Hermit Lake in our advisory but will be including the raw data which is collected every morning by the caretaker at the AMC operated facility there. You need to go to the full forecast to see the data and wind chart. As resources allow, we plan to roll out more of this type of data to help you make more informed decisions when venturing into avalanche terrain. The weather data provided by our partners at the Mount Washington Observatory continues to be critical to our forecast process but more data improves our accuracy and may prove helpful to the dawn patrol skiers and climbers out there. Special thanks to the AMC caretakers for getting up early to collect the data, Chris McKnight for the wind rose and High Charts for providing a free license.

WMAEF Continuing Education Series

Join us this Saturday, March 17, at 5pm at International Mountain Equipment (IME) for the third installment in the White Mountain Avalanche Education Fund’s Continuing Education Series. Helon Hoffer will be reviewing fracture mechanics and exploring fracture arrest. We’ll be looking at the big wind slab avalanche that occurred on February 8 throughout the talk and discussing why the slab boundary stopped where it did. While this talk may raise more questions than answers, it will help give a better understanding of why dry slab release occurs the way it does.

Temporary Harvard Cabin Closing

Harvard Cabin will be temporarily closed mid-week due to a staffing shortage. The cabin will be open Friday and Saturday nights. This closure includes tenting outside the cabin. For those interested in overnighting in the Cutler River Drainage, you may do so at Hermit Lake Shelters. We will provide updates to this closure on our website or you may contact the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center at (603) 466-8116 to see if there is availability.

Local Mountain Weather Course

The White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation and the NHOC are sponsoring a Mountain Weather Workshop in North Conway, NH. Senior Forecaster and Education Specialist Mike Carmon, of the Mount Washington Observatory, will be teaching topics relevant to avalanche forecasting and mountain travel in the White Mountains.

Topics will include weather variables and measurement, mesoscale and synoptic scale features, case studies on winter storms and forecasting challenges such as Norlun Troughs, Nor’easters, Alberta Clippers, Upsloping Events and more.

Sign Up Now!

This course is geared to avalanche professionals, guides, and mountain rescuers.

Registration is limited in number with scholarship seats available for $40 awarded by nomination to 2 members of each local rescue team. More seats will be available to people unaffiliated with local teams for $80.


The class is 16 hours long and spread over the following dates:

  • Wednesday, February 21, 5-9pm at IME
  • Friday, February 23, 5:30-9pm at the MWObs Weather Discovery Center (WDC)
  • Wednesday March 7, 5-9pm at the MWObs WDC
  • Wednesday March 21, 5-9pm at the MWObs WDC


Proceeds of the course will benefit the White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation.


Stability Test Alphabet Soup: What do they even mean? Continuing Ed at IME, 5:00 PM Saturday 2/17/18

Strategic Field Observations

CT22 Q1 SC, ECTP27, PST 60/100 End, no whumphing, some shooting cracks, I see wind blowing snow around, I have to push kinda hard to make a hand shear fail… What does this all mean? CAN I SKI IT?

We have these stability assessment tools and many more at our disposal. They’re all supposed to ultimately guide our “Go” and “No Go” decisions. Is this a simple process? No. Do you find it challenging? You’re not alone. Can we all get better at interpreting stability test results and snowpack observations? Yes.

A snowpack is constantly changing and we have a variety of avalanche problems to contend with every season. Varied conditions require a varied approach to snow stability assessment. Join us to dive into this topic at a FREE event this Saturday evening. We’ll use stability tests and other familiar snow stability assessment tools as a starting point in a deeper discussion about letting conditions dictate your observation strategies.

Strategic observations can help any of us make better decisions in the mountains. It’s all about having more good days and coming home in one piece. See you Saturday evening!

MWAC Continuing Education Series, #2

Mount Washington Avalanche Center and White Mountains Avalanche Education Foundation

Saturday, February 17, 2018

5:00 PM (approximately 1 hour total)

IME- International Mountain Equipment

2733 White Mountain Hwy, North Conway, NH 03860

Free to attend!

White Heat Tracks Project and Decision Making

Given the tendency of otherwise smart people to make foolish decisions at times, that get themselves hurt or worse, this project seems worth making an effort to support. Link below to the site that explains the project along with helpful Q & A’s. So far, this project has had no input from the Ice Coast.

White Heat Tracks Project seeks your input:

The aim of the White Heat Project is to generate new and usable knowledge on risk-taking behavior, and on factors behind decision errors in avalanche terrain in particular. The White Heat Tracks project is an extension to the previous “SkiTracks” project, and is a collaboration between a group of researchers at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, in Tromsø; Montana State University, in Bozeman, USA; and Umeå University, in Umeå, Sweden. We are asking people to complete a decision-making survey: ( and if they have time and energy, also submit GPX tracks of their backcountry trips to “

More information can be found here:

And here: