The Northwest Avalanche Center exists to increase avalanche awareness, reduce avalanche impacts, and equip the community with mountain weather and avalanche forecasts, education, and data.
We envision a community of backcountry users in the Pacific Northwest aware of avalanche risk, making informed decisions, and returning safely.
Avalanche and Mountain Weather Forecasting
The NWAC Forecasting Program is administered by the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The program consists of two avalanche meteorologists based in the NOAA-NWS office in Seattle, and six avalanche specialists based in satellite offices in Bellingham, Leavenworth, North Bend, and Parkdale, OR. Click here for more about the team.
The Northwest Avalanche Center begins daily weather and avalanche forecasts in the late fall after enough snow accumulates in the mountains for on-snow travel. We operate seven days a week through the winter until mid to late April. Forecast products are constructed by forecast staff using a combination of weather models, remote weather stations, snowpack data, and field observations.
We value and recognize the contribution of a variety of program Partners; including the Washington State Department of Transportation avalanche program, professional ski patrols, the Olympic and Mt Rainier National Park Service rangers, and many others.
Data Collection and Visualization
NWAC’s program maintains one of the most comprehensive mountain weather data networks in the United States. The network consists of over 50 remote weather stations owned and maintained either by NWAC, the WSDOT avalanche Program, or ski area operations. We use the NWAC website and database to archive, network and visualize these stations, providing the public with real-time weather and snowpack information. NWAC shares the financial and on-site maintenance of a weather station with our Partners. Some Partners like WSDOT, do all the maintenance, while other weather stations see an even mix of NWAC and local Partner support.
The NWAC education program focuses on providing free, basic 1-2 hour avalanche awareness classes. The program offers around 300 classes every year at local outdoor, ski and snowmobile shops as well as by special arrangement with a variety of organizations. The education program is run by a program director and contracts roughly 50 instructors who have been trained by the American Association of Avalanche Research and Education to offer the premier avalanche education curriculum available.
In addition to our basic adult awareness classes, we also offer a growing youth specific program that we bring to schools and youth programs throughout the Northwest. This program focuses on young adults in the 12-18 age range.
Beyond basic awareness, we also offer a unique workshop series called “Going Deep” which focuses on decision making in avalanche terrain for experienced backcountry users. This program brings in leaders in the field of avalanche education and consists of five evening workshops offered throughout the winter at various locations in Seattle and Portland.
Lastly, NWAC serves as a clearing house for information related to avalanche safety. The education pages on our website are full of valuable resources, and we maintain an up-to-date calendar of all avalanche education opportunities offered by various companies and organizations in the region, including a list of all of the Level 1-3 avalanche classes offered by the private sector.
The NWAC non-profit staff are based in North Bend. They manage education, outreach and fundraising and fund the www.nwac.us website and various related tech projects. The Northwest Avalanche Center is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit and is overseen by a 19-member Board of Directors.
The USFS Northwest Avalanche Center is funded by seven primary Partners; the US Forest Service, the Non-Profit Northwest Avalanche Center, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (including Snowmobile and Snowpark Programs), Washington State Department of Transportation, National Park Service, Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association, and the NW Winter Sports Foundation.
The non-profit Northwest Avalanche Center is funded entirely by private donations, a significant portion of which directly support the NWAC Forecasting Program.
Governing Documents, Audits, and Tax Returns
Governing documents, audits, and tax returns for the non-profit Northwest Avalanche Center are available upon request.