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Friends of NWAC Update
Fall 2012
Tumwater weather station work
NWAC forecasters Kenny Kramer and Garth Ferber at work on a weather station
It's the beginning of November and the temps are dropping in Seattle.  Yep - winter is coming, and that means NWAC and FOAC are ramping up for another season of avalanche forecasting, avalanche awareness classes and fun times in the snow.  The forecasters are busy repairing the weather stations, and the FOAC board and staff are working hard to get a whole bunch of events and classes on the calendar before the snow falls.  We hope you will take a few minutes to read what's below as we bring you up to speed on quite a few events and projects that have us pretty excited about the coming winter!   
Thanks for tuning in, and here's to a great, snow-filled, and safe winter...which by the way is shaping up to be a weak El Nino as per the most recent (Nov 5) statement from NOAA.  We are going to focus on the "weak" part for now and keep the glass half-full...because as we all know, it pretty much always snows in the PNW! 


Website and Forecast Improvements
Concerns graphic We've been busy this summer helping NWAC improve their web based avalanche forecasts.  We hope these changes will make the forecast information more timely and easier to interpret.  The more significant changes are as follows:
  • The daily avalanche forecast will now be issued at around 6 pm for the following two days.  The forecast will therefore be available overnight and during early morning hours (in the past, the forecast  for the current day was not available until late morning or mid-day).  Note that there will be NO change in the twice daily mountain weather forecast (still issued around 7:00 am with an update around 1:30 pm).
  • As in the past, each forecast zone will include an avalanche danger rose which shows the greatest danger and trend for that zone for the daylight hours of the given day.  In addition, the previous text based summary avalanche forecast will be replaced with a graphically based forecast. Each zone forecast will include the most important avalanche concern(s) of the day, as well as icons and textual descriptions for the location (aspect), size and trend of each concern. Detailed written snowpack discussion & forecast will follow the graphic display and describe in more detail the expected weather and its impact on the concerns of the day.


  • Enhanced mobile phone functionality is being developed, and new smart phone apps are available, but the traditional phone recording is being discontinued.  


  • There is a new print functionality for creating a hard copy of a specific zone forecast.


  • As in the past, avalanche watches, warnings and special condition statements will be issued as needed.  


Many of these changes are based on feedback we received from the survey we conducted last spring.  Thanks to all of you who provided input!  We hope we have addressed many of your concerns and will continue to welcome your input as we fine tune these changes.  


GIS Observations Tool
GIS screen shot We also made some big improvements to the GIS map on the website this summer, and we are counting on YOU to help us get the most out of it.  In addition to the mapped view of the avalanche forecast, the site is now set-up to display field observations made by our users. That's you!  If you observe avalanche activity, dig a pit, or note anything else avalanche related while traveling in the backcountry, you can now geo-tag that information directly from your smartphone or from your computer when you get home.  Once you do, the observation will be pinned on the map for others to view. 

We are hoping that this tool will be a big help to both the NWAC forecasters and users of the website, as it will provide information on a more geographically specific  level.  But it will only be helpful if YOU enter your observations.  To help you out with that, we will be offering two trainings to teach folks how to use the program and what sort of information we are looking for (as cool as they are, this is not the place for your epic pow day photos).  Stay tuned to our calendar for class dates.

You may also want to check out this great smartphone ap by Ullr Labs, which is set up to work with the program and facilitate entering snow pit observations.

The GIS-based observation page will also feature information from an FOAC contracted network of professional observers. As a result of FOAC Program Director Scott Schell's efforts, this cadre of paid professional observers will be providing objective information on snowpack structure, stability and avalanche occurrences at specific locations where data is sparse. Plans are being discussed as to how best to identify the professional observations on the map. 

NWAC Welcomes New Forecaster

Dennis D'Amico We are excited to announce that NWAC has hired a new member to the forecast team. Experienced National Weather Service Seattle forecaster Dennis D'Amico will serve as one of the three Avalanche Meteorologists at NWAC.  


Another east coast transplant, Dennis grew up skiing in the Adirondacks and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in atmospheric sciences.  He moved west six years ago following a stint at the Mt Washington Observatory (you think we get high winds!).  He is an avid backcountry skier, having cut his teeth in the Northeast and later Utah, and he is rapidly expanding his awareness of all things snow and avalanche.   


With the imminent departure of previous director and NWAC founder Mark Moore in late December, long term forecaster Kenny Kramer will become the program director.


SnowBash 2012...in Seattle and Glacier!!

SnowBash 2012 Yes - the rumors are true.  We are hosting TWO SnowBash's this year, the 12th annual Seattle SnowBash at the Nectar Lounge in Fremont on Thursday, November 15, and, prior to that, the inaugural SnowBash Glacier at Chair 9 on Saturday, November 10 for all of our Bellingham and Mt Baker friends.  We hope you will make it to one of the events for a fun evening of live music, abundant raffle prizes and good beer...not to mention the chance to kick off the winter and reconnect with backcountry friends  before the real snow begins to fall.  


Get your discounted tickets to the Seattle SnowBash here.  The price goes up at the door if you can get in at all! 


Education Corner
Awareness classWe have a full schedule of avalanche awareness classes on the calendar this fall and winter.  If you are interested in an avy awareness refresher or have friends who are just getting into in winter backcountry travel, we hope you will point them our way.  These FREE, 1-2 hour awareness classes are offered throughout the Northwest at local outdoor shops and other venues, and generally take place in the evening.  Take a look at our calendar for an upcoming class near you.  Or, if you have a group interested in organizing a private class, drop us a line at friends@nwac.us.  We are happy to come to you if you can put together a group of 8 or more.

FOAC 2012 Annual Report
2012 Annual ReportWhile it may seem a bit odd that we publish our annual report at the beginning of the season rather than the end, there is a reason.  FOAC operates on a fiscal year beginning Sept 1 and ending Aug 30...so while the bulk of our activities happen between September and May, we can't close the books until the end of August. 

With that in mind, we encourage you to take a look at our 2012 Annual Report.  We are pretty proud of what we accomplished in 2011-12, and we could not have done it without the support of the many individuals and organizations listed in the report.  Thank you!


Volunteer Spotlight
Sara Kimmel
Sara Kimmel 
Charlene Balick
Charlene Balick 
FOAC could not operate without the support of our great group of volunteers!  From selling raffle tickets at SnowBash, to gatekeeping at Vertfest, to helping with registration at Snowball, volunteers are critical to the success of the Friends, and thus NWAC!  While we are incredibly grateful for everyone who has volunteered in any capacity, there are a few folks who really stand out.  Thus...our fourth (and fifth) volunteer spotlights...!

Sara Kimmel and Charlene Balick stepped up big time last winter to help FOAC meet it's goals. Despite limited backcountry experience, both of these women served as gatekeepers at Vertfest and did a great job encouraging the racers and keeping them on course during the event (both challenging tasks given the weather conditions and the foot of powder on the ground!).

At Snowball, these ladies stepped into the roll of Lead Volunteer Coordinators and helped the Snowball Committee Chairs plan and manage the event. From filling out credit card info to organizing auction winners, they were instrumental in making sure Snowball 2012 ran smoothly.

Please give these great volunteers a high five next time you see them on the slopes. They deserve it!   


It's Time to Renew
Join FOAC button Have you renewed your membership to the Friends yet?  Your contribution to FOAC helps us support NWAC, maintain and improve the website, and offer almost 100 avalanche awareness classes, among many other projects.  We rely heavily on the support of our great backcountry community.  Please consider becoming a friend or renewing your membership for the winter. Don't let those email forecasts lapse! 
The Friends of NWAC

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