About

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

Avalanche forecasts are updated seven days a week, during the winter, on this website by 7 am.

Contact Information

Address: CNFAIC P.O. Box 129 Girdwood, AK 99587
Location: Glacier Ranger Station, 145 Forest Station Road, Girdwood, AK 99587
Forecast Center Staff phone: (907) 229-9060
Glacier Ranger District phone: (907) 783-3242
Staff email: staff@chugachavalanche.org

Present and Past Forecasters

Wendy Wagner, Director and Forecaster

Wendy began working with the CNFAIC during the 2010/11 winter season. She comes from the Wasatch Mountains of Utah where she was not only born, raised and learned to ski, but melded into the avalanche field under the mentorship of 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. Wendy has presented her research at the Mountain Meteorological Conference and multiple ISSW’s. Two of her projects, co-authored with Utah Avalanche Center forecasters, include monitoring near surface faceting and defining travel advice for the avalanche problems. 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). Any spare time found is spent perfecting her snowmachine powder skills and geeking out over snow grains. Certifications:

  • Professional Member of A3
  • Atmospheric Scientist
  • Wilderness First Responder

Aleph Johnston-Bloom, Forecaster

Aleph grew up in Vermont exploring the woods on her cross-country skis. She ventured out west and fell in love with snow and avalanche studies at Prescott College while pursing her degree in Outdoor Experiential Education. After college an internship with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center landed her in the San Juan Mountains, based out of Silverton. This launched her into a diverse career, since the winter of 2000 she has garnered experience as a highway avalanche forecaster, a backcountry avalanche forecaster, a patroller and a ski guide.  She has worked and skied in many of the western states, experiencing different snow climates and spent a summer patrolling in New Zealand. Through all the jobs and travels she has been an avalanche educator sharing her passion for snow. She is the former director of both the Silverton Avalanche School and the Alaska Avalanche School. She is an American Avalanche Association Certified Instructor, Professional Member and former Governing Board trustee.  She is an American Avalanche Institute Level 3 graduate, a Wilderness First Responder, and loves exploring wild places in Alaska.


Ryan Van Luit, Forecaster

Ryan will join the CNFAIC team in December of 2019.  Studying mass balance with the Juneau Icefield Research Program in 1998 set the path for Ryan as a lifelong student of wild & snowy places.  Since then, he’s worked on six continents and spent hundreds of days with students and clients as an outdoor educator, avalanche forecaster, and mountain guide.  He’s a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, the American Mountain Guides Association, and a certified Wilderness First Responder. Certifications:

  • Professional member of A3
  • Wilderness First Responder
  • Risk Management specialist

Graham Predeger, Recreation Operations/ Forecaster

Graham was born and raised in Anchorage. He began skiing the Chugach backcountry in high school as a naïve, uneducated teenager. He migrated to the Vail Valley after receiving a natural resource management degree from CSU spending 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, practical experiences and a few near misses. Working as a forecaster for the CNFAIC since 2011/12 has allowed his snow and avalanche education to continue, bringing Graham full circle back to a more coastal snowpack. A personal goal for Graham has been to further involve and engage the motorized community in their local avalanche center. Spare time is spent sled-skiing, mountain biking and chasing his 5-year-old Daughter around! Certifications:

  • AvPro
  • Professional Member of the A3

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 site is dedicated to his memory.

History

The roots of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Info Center (CNFAIC) arose from the tragedy that occurred on March 21, 1999 at Turnagain Pass where 6 snowmachiners 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 long-term 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 Danger 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.

Friends of the CNFAIC was created in 2003 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to broker the funds from the appropriation, none of which could be spent on employee salaries. The Friends group represents corporate sponsors, partners, and individual donors who’s contributions help cover the gap between limited federal funding and the actual expenses of operating the avalanche center. Today, donations from our MEMBERS and SPONSORS covers the salaries of 2 seasonal forecasters, the center’s necessary equipment, interns, scholarships, the costs of maintaining this website and our network of remote weather stations, outreach events, and partnerships with the Southcentral Alaska avalanche community.  Thank you, Friends!

Another tragedy affected the new CNFAIC in 2004, Technician Jeff Nissman was 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 Danger 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 directed the center for three years before embarking on a different career and Wagner stepped into that role the fall 2014. Her position became a permanent position with the USFS in the fall of 2015. Meanwhile, bolstering the team since 2011 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 forecasted for the center from 2012-2015. He has migrated back to the lower 48 to forecast for WYDOT. Heather Thamm began forecasting during December of 2014. As she steps away to pursue other interests this winter she will be missed by the CNFAIC and the Southcentral backcountry community. Aleph Johnston-Bloom started forecasting full time in January 2016. Ryan Van Luit will start forecasting December 2019.

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.