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Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop 2017

October 22, 2017 at 7:00 am - 6:00 pm


Join the Northwest Avalanche Center in the eleventh annual Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop 2017 (NSAW). NSAW is a professional development seminar bringing together professionals and avid backcountry recreationists for a full day of avalanche education presented by some of the leading avalanche practitioners in North America. Attendees include avalanche forecasters, ski patrollers, mountain guides, snow scientists, highway avalanche crews, search and rescue personnel, ski industry manufacturers and retailers, backcountry skiers and snowboarders, snowshoers, and snowmobilers.

Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop 2017 Schedule

7:00 am – 9:30 am Professional Panel
9:00 am – 5:00 pm General Session
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm Beer social


The White Heat Project: Combining GPS Tracking and Risk Motivation of Backcountry Skiers and Riders

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Jordy Hendrikx, Director Snow and Avalanche Laboratory at Montana State Unviersity

Dr Jordy Hendrikx (PhD) is the Director of the Snow & Avalanche Laboratory and an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University, in Bozeman, Montana, USA. He is the current chair of the research committee for the American Avalanche Association (AAA) and he also works as a Snow and Avalanche Consultant for Dynamic Avalanche Consulting Ltd. Jordy has undertaken research on avalanches, snow, glaciers and climate change around the World. He has extensive experience working in North America, Europe, Antarctica and New Zealand. His areas of expertise span from detailed observational process studies, to leading large field campaigns, to long term monitoring, to applied modelling. He also has considerable experience with applied research such as road avalanche programs, public outreach and interacting with the media.

Do Avalanche Airbags Lead to Riskier Choices in the Backcountry? 

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Pascal Haegeli, Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University

Dr. Pascal Haegeli is a renowned expert in avalanche safety research working on projects in Canada and worldwide. His primary research and development interests lie at the interface between the natural and social sciences and his objective is to conduct interdisciplinary research and develop evidence-based tools that assist backcountry recreationists and avalanche professionals to make better informed decision when preparing for and travelling in avalanche terrain. To address these challenges, Dr. Haegeli and his research team employ approaches and methods from a wide variety of fields including atmospheric science, snow science, geography, GIS, risk analysis, decision-making science, communication, psychology, sociology, accident analysis, public health and medicine.

Climate Variabilities and Avalanche Hazard: What can the Seasonal ENSO Forecast tell us About the Nature of the Upcoming 2017/2018 Winter?

Bret Shandro, Simon Fraser University

Pascal Haegeli, Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University

The effects of large-scale climate variabilities, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), on winter temperature and precipitation patterns in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada are well understood. However, relatively little is known regarding the link between these climate variabilities and the nature of avalanche hazard. Existing studies have analyzed long-term avalanche activity records along highway passes—the most reliable avalanche datasets available—but insights have so far been limited. We believe that the limited results are at least partially due to the narrow local representativeness of these data sets, their susceptibility to changes in avalanche mitigation practices and the fact that avalanche activity alone only provides a limited perspective on the nature of avalanche hazard.

Using Time-Lapse Photography to Monitor High-Use Backcountry Avalanche Terrain

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Diana Saly, M.Sc candidate at Montana State University

On January 14, 2016 an avalanche occurred on the Football Field of Saddle Peak in Southwest Montana. Saddle Peak is a backcountry slope, located immediately adjacent to the Bridger Bowl Ski Area boundary and accessed from the Bridger Bowl Schlassmans Lift. A time-lapse digital SLR camera mounted on an unused gun platform with a clear view of Saddle Peak captured the avalanche. Diana Saly (researcher) and Doug Richmond (Bridger Bowl Patrol Director) met at the gun platform where Richmond was initiating and coordinating the response. The team reviewed the images and assessed skier involvement within minutes of the event. Two skiers were photographed in close proximity to the avalanche during release and resulting avalanche. Both skiers were photographed returning to the ski area boundary following the avalanche and confirmed as not involved. A short video (2 min) was developed to document the January 2016 event and demonstrate the value of this technology for rescue and emergency situations. The data also provides an opportunity to document terrain use in different snowpack and avalanche conditions by travelers in easily accessed back country terrain.

Using GPS Tracking and Psychographic Surveys to Analyze Decision-Making of Lift Access Backcountry Skiers on Saddle Peak, Bridger Mountains, MT

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John Sykes, M.Sc candidate at Montana State University
Poor decision-making by educated and experienced backcountry recreationists comprise a large portion of avalanche incidents and fatalities in North America. Previous research on decision-making in avalanche terrain based on accident analysis and user surveys has identified many ‘human factors’, or behavioral patterns that lead to high risk decision-making. Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking provides a quantitative analysis of terrain selection by backcountry users. When combined with a public avalanche forecast and current weather conditions, can estimate the level of risk taken by each user.

Looking Forward to the Winter of 2017-18 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.

Snow Algae and Citizen Science in the North Cascades

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Robin Kodner, Kodner Lab at Western Washington University

Robin Kodner has been an assistant professor of Biology at Western Washington University since 2012. She earned her PhD at Harvard University followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs and School of Oceanography. Robin started her research career studying algal evolution over geologic time and moved to studying modern marine algal communities so that we could learn how they are responding to/impacting climate change. Her passion for being in the mountains has led Robin to expand her marine-based research into the mountains, applying the same environmental genomic techniques to study snow algae communities. She is using the snow microbiome as a model to understand how communities evolve in response to climate change.


October 22, 2017
7:00 am - 6:00 pm
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The Mountaineers
7700 Sand Point Way
Seattle, Washington 98115 United States


Northwest Avalanche Center