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Join NWAC in supporting the tenth annual Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop (NSAW). NSAW is a workshop-style educational seminar targeted to professionals and avid backcountry recreationists. Join us for a full day of avalanche education presented by some of the leading researchers and avalanche practitioners in North America.

Tickets can be purchased here

General Session 10:00am - 5:00pm, Doors at 9:00am 

NEW! Professional Session 7:30am - 9:15am :

This year we have added the Pro Panel, a two-hour session dedicated to those who work in avalanche terrain. Moderated by Colin Zacharias, the panel will explore issues of work place safety and operational protocol, as well as broader trends and challenges in the avalanche industry. This session is open to anyone who works in avalanche terrain or in a program managing others in avalanche terrain. You can sign up to attend the Pro Panel by entering a code during checkout on the ticket sales site; contact forest@nwac.us for your code.

 

Public Session Speakers:

 

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Alpine Touring Equipment: Retention and Release in the Backcountry

Jeff Campbell, PhD Student, University of Washington

The purpose of this presentation is to differentiate performance of alpine ski boot-binding systems from AT ski boot-binding systems, and educate the consumer on the ability of AT equipment to protect them from lower leg injuries. Supporting data from laboratory and on-snow measurements of ski bindings and skiers will be given.
 
Bio: Jeff Campbell is a PhD Student in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Washington (UW). Before transplanting to the Northwest, he received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah. He started skiing at the age of three in the Wasatch and has been touring for over 20 years. With his extensive background in Applied Biomechanics he conducts mechanical design assessments, product failure evaluations, and biomechanical analyses of musculoskeletal injuries. His graduate research is focused on the biomechanics of skiing and snowboarding injuries, including field measurements of the forces that skiers and snowboarders generate while riding. 

 

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North American Avalanche Danger Scale: Are Public Backcountry Forecasters Applying it Consistently?

Simon Trautman, National Avalanche Center

The North American Avalanche Danger Scale is a tool used by backcountry avalanche forecasters to communicate the potential for avalanches to cause harm or injury to backcountry travelers. Danger ratings are the most basic component of the public forecast, providing the foundation for more nuanced descriptions of avalanche conditions. In 2010, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand adopted a consistent, five-tiered danger scale. Although widely used, we do not know how consistently the danger scale is applied both within and between avalanche forecasting operations. To address this question, we developed ten scenarios capturing a variety of avalanche conditions at the mountain range scale. We derived the scenarios from real avalanche forecasts issued by various avalanche centers throughout North America. Avalanche forecasters in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand re-viewed each scenario and assigned a single danger rating for the forecast period. Results indicate that although most respondents choose ratings within one step of each other, individual forecasters can arrive at different conclusions when presented with identical information. Additionally, it appears that there are regional and/or cultural differences in how forecasters assign danger ratings.

 

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Looking Forward to the Winter of 2016-17 in the Pacific NW

Nick Bond, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean

This presentation will review the latest projections for the weather in the Pacific NW during the upcoming winter in the context of the data record over the last few decades. The topics to be covered include probable seasonal mean anomalies in temperature and precipitation, and tendencies related to episodic events such as floods and windstorms.  

 

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Risk Management Case Study of Inbounds Avalanches at Ski Areas.

Paul Baugher

A historic wet slab cycle at Crystal Mountain Ski Area in Washington State in March of 2014 provides a great case study. This cycle resulted in numerous large natural and explosive-triggered avalanches, including one particularly notable slide that destroyed a 34-year old chairlift and had an alpha angle of only 20º. We discuss the operational challenges, mitigation efforts (including whether or not to use mitigation), and difficult decision-making that allowed the risks of this avalanche cycle to be managed without loss of life. A thin margin for error existed in this event, and we hope anyone managing avalanche risk whether personally or professionally can learn from our case study.
 
Bio: Paul was the ski patrol director at Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington State for 34 years. He is currently involved in risk management for Boyne West resorts. He is a co-owner of International Mountain Guides. Paul also directs the Northwest Avalanche Institute, a group that consults on avalanche matters for a variety of clients including Burlington Northern railroad, guide services, the military, SAR groups, and land use agencies. Paul’s work also includes consulting with ski areas across the country on ski safety and risk management issues. Paul is also an instructor with the National Avalanche School, member of the steering committee, and past member of the board of the National Avalanche Foundation. Since the 80's, Paul has worked as a snow safety director, ski patrolman, and heli-ski guide in winter and as a mountaineering guide and climbing ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park in the summer. He is a former vice president of the American Avalanche Association. Paul received a BA in Economics from the University of Puget Sound in 1978

 

Checklists and Backcountry Decision-Making

Sarah Carpenter

Over the past 5 years, we have built a checklist that guides backcountry users through a backcountry day.  It starts with pre-trip planning, moves through what to look for on a tour, and ends with questions for debriefing the day and sending observations to the forecast center.  We have centered our level 1 curriculum around this checklist and have had great success applying this to backcountry travel.  I’d love to talk to folks about the history of checklist use and how to apply this checklist.  While covering the checklist procedures, the talk addresses avalanche problems, avalanche hazard and how to better understand it, avalanche terrain and route selection, and communication and group dynamics.
 
Bio: Sarah Carpenter is the co-owner of the American Avalanche Institute.  She has been working in the field of snow and snow science since 1998, when she started as a ski patroller at Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, MT. She teaches level 1, 2, and 3 avalanche courses throughout the West during the winter. Sarah is also an AMGA certified ski guide and works as a ski guide for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Exum Mountain Guides.
 
 

Decisions, Distractions, and Reflections 

Kevin Grove

This talk will focus on a near miss incident on Middle Sister in the Central Oregon Cascades and will explore decision making, distractions, and decision making tools.  A year after the near miss Kevin made a short film detailing the incident which he will share.  This past summer, after becoming a new father, Kevin has taken a deeper look at risk and this near miss.  He will share findings from digging into research on the topics posed. 
 
Bio: Kevin is a Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering at Central Oregon Community College and the Science Department Chair.  He is a Central Oregon Avalanche Association board member and is the director of COAA's professional observer program.  Kevin has been climbing and skiing for over 20 years and is stoked to be a new dad.  He has a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University.

 

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Laser Mapping of Snow Depth in Avalanche Terrain – Snow Variability and Operational Support? 

Jeff Deems

Snow depth in avalanche starting zones can be extremely variable, and this variability strongly influences avalanche hazard and character.  Extreme depth changes over short distances are common, especially in wind-affected, near- and above-treeline environments.  Snow depth also affects the ease of avalanche triggering. Experience shows that slab avalanches are often more easily triggered from shallow areas near the edge of deeper slabs – an important consideration for backcountry travel or for avalanche control with explosives or ski cutting.

Recent advances in laser scanning (lidar) technology enable long-range (i.e. from a safe location), high resolution mapping of snow depth and snow depth changes in avalanche starting zones. The snow patterns and avalanche features visible in these data sets are fascinating, and offer deep insight into snow accumulation and redistribution processes, and clear advantages and applications for avalanche control and infrastructure planning.  This presentation will provide an overview of lidar technology and techniques, and highlight results from the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland Pass in Colorado.
 
Bio: Dr. Jeff Deems is a Research Scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he works with the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the NOAA Western Water Assessment. A long-time skier, his research interests pertain mostly to observing and investigating the dynamics of mountain snowpacks, snowmelt, and avalanches, through field research, remote sensing, and computer modeling.

 

Crystal Mountain Pro Patrol

Chris Morin

Chris Morin has a passion for skiing big terrain and human flight, both of which provide extended stays in the hospital where he works on improving avalanche forecasting through a data driven approach.  He has spent over 10 years leading avalanche forecasting programs in the PNW, working with ski areas, railroads, housing projects, and guiding companies.  He has a degree in Physics and is the founder of ai Storm, a machine learning and forecasting company that focuses on the mountain community.