The last few years have been eventful for the avalanche center in many ways. Forecast areas and our web based forecast product have evolved substantially. The energy of staff and support from the public have helped to drive these changes, bringing our operation more in line with the North American standard for use of the avalanche danger scale while better serving the growing population of skiers, riders and climbers. The recent decision to issue General Bulletins rather than full 5-scale forecasts depends upon several factors including developed avalanche paths and snowpack, available field observations and information, and sometimes available resources, including staff. We work hard to ensure that the forecasts produced will ultimately help to connect the public that we serve to our incredible mountain environment and inform good decision making and terrain choices.
This year, as always, safety is our top priority – for ourselves and the public! We want everyone to be around at the end of the day to return to their families. Being a Snow Ranger is both physically and emotionally challenging, responding to SAR calls 24/7 for 6 months, being “on the hook” for danger ratings and forecasts, and spending half or more of our work hours out in challenging weather all takes its toll. Work/rest ratios and safe field operations are key to maintaining the long-term health of employees. Making assessments in the field and writing useful forecasts requires staff to be rested and ready for every day in the mountains, or at the keyboard.
In addition to our new forecast style and expanded forecast zone, other changes this year include changes in our staff. With these changes also comes the need for training. All staff receive and are required to remain current in a variety of trainings including snowmobile and/or snowcat operation, avalanche training, technical rope rescue, emergency helicopter operations and several others. Also, writing a forecast is actually harder than it may appear so lots of time is devoted to gaining that skill set through discussions, peer review and forecast verification in the field. After several years, a forecaster may be ready to write a forecast solo thought peer review is always used when possible.
We are continuing to evolve, not just with new staff bringing a fresh perspective and energy, but with changes to our forecast area. In order to continue to create a consistent forecast which aligns with other avalanche forecasts in North America, we will be dropping the remaining micro-scale zones in Huntington and Tuckerman Ravine. Moving forward, you should use the terrain rose for each avalanche problem to guide your terrain choices
We look forward to the winter season that is knocking on our door! Currently, our snowfields are discontinuous and not yet fully developed so General Avalanche Information remains the appropriate product. As more snow accumulates and snowfields grow, we will move to a 5-scale danger rating and daily forecast. At this time, January 15th is our target date should conditions warrant. Until then, please remember that safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience. Our forecast is just one tool to help you make your own decisions in avalanche terrain. You control your own risk by choosing where, when, and how you travel.
We highly value and appreciate our support from partners, the AMC, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine and the White Mountain Avalanche Education Foundation, especially during this time of transition and changes. Particularly, to our search and rescue volunteer partners the HMC and AMC caretakers, Mountain Rescue Service, the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, Androscoggin Valley SAR, and the NH Fish and Game for the support they provide during SAR incidents.