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About

Our mission is to increase avalanche awareness in the Turnagain area through advisories and public education.

Forecasts are updated seven days a week, during the winter, on this website or via our phone hot line at (907) 754-2369 by 7 am.

CNFAIC
P.O. Box 129
Girdwood, AK 99587
Forecast Hotline: (907) 754-2369
Glacier Ranger District: (907) 783-3242
Staff email: staff@chugachavalanche.org

CNFAIC History

The roots for the Chugach Avalanche Center (CNFAIC) arose from the tragedy that occurred on March 21, 1999 at Turnagain Pass where 6 snow machiners were killed in a massive avalanche. Carl Skustad took the lead for the Forest Service and followed the business plan set up by the National Avalanche Center which guides new Avalanche Centers to start slowly, to help ensure success. In the fall of 2001, a phone line and a basic web site, designed by the late Jeff Nissman, put out snow pack and weather observations 5 days per week for the Turnagain Pass Area. The Center did not put out Avalanche Hazard Ratings nor do any actual forecasting of avalanches. Skustad would spend time in Ketchum, Idaho being mentored at the Sawtooth Avalanche Center to learn about their operation. An appropriation from US Senator Ted Stevens in 2002 provided funding for the first 5 years of operations allowing the Center to purchase snowmachines, trailers, rescue cache, and several weather stations. The Friends group was created in 2003 to broker the funds from the appropriation, none of which could be spent on employee salaries.

Another tragedy would now directly affect the new Avalanche Center in 2004, Technician Jeff Nissman would be killed by an avalanche of ice falling off of a building in Portage. The winter of 04-05 would see the hiring of 2 Forestry Techs, part of whose job duties would be working at the Avalanche Center, these were Dan Valentine and Matt Murphy. Valentine vacated his position and was soon replaced by Lisa Portune in the winter of 05-06. The team of Skustad, Murphy and Portune each received all the Avalanche training the USFS had to offer. This team was in place for the next 6 years and the Center started issuing actual Avalanche Forecast products, seven days a week, in 2009 including Hazard Ratings. Observations were also compiled once a week for the Summit Lake area of the Chugach National Forest by Seward Ranger District tech Alex McLain starting in 2007.

2010 was a year of transition as coincidence would find that Skustad, Murphy and Portune all would leave the Center for new jobs. Portune was around for the first half of the season which saw the hiring of Kevin Wright for the full season and Wendy Wagner was able to fill in for Lisa after she left midway through the winter. Wright and Wagner have just completed their 3rd season and their positions have been upgraded from forestry techs to Meteorological techs. Bolstering the team for two full years now is Graham Predeger who runs the Rec program on the Ranger District. Predeger has been instrumental in engaging the motorized community in their avalanche center. John Fitzgerald just completed his first full season as a Forecaster at the Center.

Today the CNFAIC is the only Forest Service National Avalanche Center in Alaska. With funding help from Friends of the Chugach, CNFAIC is able to employ 3 avalanche professionals who provide daily forecasts from November through April and provide detailed observations and forecasts in the Turnagain Arm area. Read more about our present and past forecasters below:


Wendy Wagner, Interim Director and Forecaster
Wendy began working with the CNFAIC during the 2010/11 winter season. She came to us from the Wasatch Mountains of Utah where she was mentored under the Utah Avalanche Center. She has a Master's degree in atmospheric sciences from the University of Utah, with an emphasis in mountain weather and snow science. She enters the snow and avalanche community through chiefly an academic background and has presented her research at the Mountain Meteorological Conference and multiple ISSW's. Wendy spent time in Anchorage during her first career as a US Ski Team Nordic athlete and is a two time Olympian (2002 and 2006). Spare time is spent perfecting her ski and snowmachine powder skills as well as geeking out over snow grains.
Email: wendy (at) chugachavalanche (dot) org

Graham Predeger, Recreation Operations/ Forecaster
Graham Predeger was born and raised in Anchorage. He began skiing the Chugach backcountry in high school as a naive teenager, and migrated to the Vail Valley after receiving a BS degree from CSU. He spent eight seasons working in Colorado as a USFS backcountry snow ranger on Vail Pass. During this tenure, Graham absorbed all the information he could regarding snow and avalanches thru formal classes and practical experiences. Graham is ecstatic to come home to Alaska and is a forecaster as well as supervisor for the recreation programs on the Glacier Ranger District. A goal for Graham is to further involve and engage the motorized community in their local avalanche center! Spare time is spent sled-skiing, mountain biking and kayaking-depending on the season.
Email: graham (at) chugachavalanche (dot) org

John Fitzgerald, Forecaster
John has spent the last 10 years working as an avalanche professional in the intermountain west. Most recently he was teaching avalanche courses for the American Avalanche Institute in the Tetons, Wasatch and Southwest Montana. Prior to that Fitz worked as a ski guide on Teton Pass, a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) winter and avalanche course instructor, and a cat skiing guide. In addition to his various jobs in the field John headed up the NOLS winter program for four years and was the Snow Safety Director for Togwotee Mt Lodge Snowcat Guides in western Wyoming. He has spent multiple seasons exploring both the Western and Eastern Chugach on skis over the past 15 years. In the summer months Fitz works as a fishing guide in Northwestern Wyoming. Avalanche Level 3, Wilderness First Responder and Professional Member of the AAA.
Email: fitz (at) chugachavalanche (dot) org

Alex Mclain, Summit Lake and Seward District Forecaster
Alex McLain was raised in New Hampshire and started backcountry skiing and mountaineering in the late 80's. He worked for the White Mountain NF as a trail ranger, several ski areas as a ski patroller, and was a member of several rescue teams and ambulance services. While in NH he assisted in numerous backcountry rescues in the White Mountain National Forest. In 2006, he moved to Seward, AK working for the USFS managing campgrounds and working with the winter program on the Seward Ranger District expanding the CNFAIC to include the Summit Lake Area.
Email: amclain (at) fs (dot) fed (dot) us

Jeff Nissman, Honorary Forecaster
Jeff was killed in a roof avalanche in 2004 in Portage Valley while working for CNFAIC. Jeff helped Skustad in the early years of the avalanche center as a forecaster. Jeff's love and spirit for the mountains can be felt above tree line in Turnagain Pass most every day. Jeff developed the first avalanche website for the Avalanche Center and this new site is dedicated to his memory.


USFS SNOW AND AVALANCHE HOTLINE (907) 754-2369
If you have comments regarding CNFAIC operations or winter recreation management, please email wendy@chugachavalanche.org
© 2014 Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. All rights reserved.
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