Avalanche forecasts are updated seven days a week, during the winter, on this website by 7 am.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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). She is a Professional member of the American Avalanche association and a wilderness first responder. Any spare time found is spent perfecting her snowmachine powder skills and geeking out over snow grains. In the summer, she can be found commercial fishing on her family’s set-net site on Kodiak, exploring Alaska’s mountain bike trails or smoke forecasting for wildfires.
Andrew joined the CNFAIC during the 20/21 season. He is came to Girdwood after forecasting for the West Central Montana Avalanche Center in Missoula, MT. He earned a M.Sc. in Earth Sciences from the Snow and Avalanche Laboratory at Montana State University, where he studied associations between atmospheric patterns and deep persistent slab avalanches. While finishing school, he spent a season as an intern at the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, and became actively involved in their education program. He has also worked as an instructor for the American Avalanche Institute, teaching everything from Rec 1 courses to National Avalanche School Pro field sessions. He is still very active in the research community, and is currently working on a project developing large-scale, GIS-based automated avalanche terrain maps with an international research team, as well as several projects relating atmospheric patterns to avalanche cycles in the western U.S. His motivation for all of the school and research and work comes from his drive to be out in the mountains and his desire to share that passion with anyone else around. If there isn’t any snow on the ground, you can find Andrew on his mountain bike, playing bluegrass with friends, landscaping, or getting in way over his head with renovation projects at his house in Livingston, MT.
John started his career as an avalanche professional in 2011 working as a mountaineering guide for Alaska Mountaineering School and an avalanche educator for the Alaska Avalanche School. John’s first taste of backcountry forecasting was during the 2014/2015 season when he completed an internship with CNFAIC. Feeling the draw to further his education in snow science, John completed a MSc at the Snow and Avalanche Laboratory in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University from 2016 to 2018. His research focused on decision-making in backcountry skiers by looking at GPS tracks and survey responses. While living in Montana, John also taught avalanche courses for the American Avalanche Institute and Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. Since 2019 John has been working on a PhD with the Simon Fraser University Avalanche Research Program, continuing to research decision-making in avalanche terrain by developing new avalanche hazard mapping techniques and analyzing GPS tracks of professional guides. The goal of his research is to work towards a new decision-making tool for both professional and recreational backcountry skiers based on the observed decisions of expert guides. John is currently a member of the board of directors of the Alaska Avalanche School and a professional member of the American Avalanche Association. He is excited to be back in Alaska and have the opportunity to balance his academic interests with more applied and field based work with CNFAIC.
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. He is on the Alaska Avalanche School board of directors and is an instructor, teaching snowmachine specific avalanche education. Spare time is spent sled-skiing, pack-rafting, mountain biking and chasing his two kids around! He is a Professional member of the American Avalanche Association and an AvPro graduate.
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.
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 Recreation program on the Ranger District. Predeger has been instrumental in engaging the motorized community in the avalanche center. John Fitzgerald forecasted for the Center from 2012-2015. Heather Thamm forecasted from 2014-2019. Aleph Johnston-Bloom was Lead Forecaster from 2015-2021. Ryan Van Luit forecasted for the 2019/2020 season. Andrew Schauer began forecasting for the 2020/21 season and moved into the Lead Forecaster role in 2021/22. John Sykes, beginning in 2021/2022, fills out the full time forecasting team of three.
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.