In Memory of Matt Primomo

In the aftermath of the loss of beloved community members, we wanted to share some resources.

For those of you grieving, we’re with you. If you are hurting, reach out and talk to a friend. If you think someone in your life is struggling, check in with them. Family, friends, and community are everything. 

Even if you didn’t directly know someone involved in a serious accident, these stories might still hit hard. That’s okay. In these moments, we are reminded we must take care of one another. Below are a few resources: 

These organizations provide helpful resources in the aftermath of the unthinkable happening – and even grant money if you’re in need.

Lean on your community, honor those who have passed, and take care of yourselves.

With care and concern,
The NWAC Team

“Matt’s curiosity and passion for snow and avalanches was unmatched. You could see the excitement on his face and hear it in his voice when the snow fell in the mountains. It was contagious and inspiring. His career in the snow touched so many people, whether they knew it or not; guiding clients, keeping roadways open, and providing our community with avalanche forecasts.

He was so incredibly humble and kind. Matt never flouted his lengthy resume or expertise but rather listened intently, spoke softy, and gave generously. He was everything you could ever dream of in a friend, adventure partner, and coworker.”

     – Dallas Glass, NWAC Deputy Director

Matt Primomo was a colleague, mentor, and friend to everyone at NWAC and to so many others in the outdoor community. Matt became a member of the NWAC family in 2017, and touched numerous lives throughout his work as an avalanche professional in Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Chile.

Matt was a brilliant mountain guide, avalanche forecaster, and educator. His passion and expertise inspired a myriad of people, from fellow forecasters to new-found friends at the trailhead. We know that many of you have read Matt’s forecasts, listened to him speak at a workshop, taken a course with him, or perhaps shared adventures in the mountains with him.

Words cannot describe how much we will miss Matt and how grateful we are to have known him. Our thoughts and hearts are with Matt’s loved ones.

If you would like to show your support for Matt’s family, please consider visiting the GoFundMe page.

2023 NWAC Updates: What’s new this year

Though the season has only just begun, behind the scenes at NWAC we’ve been working for months to roll out a number of big changes. Some of these projects have been underway for over a year, and all were made possible thanks to community support. To learn more about this season’s changes, including new staff, forecast process updates, observations, and an all-new app, read on!

New Staff

We’ve got some new faces at NWAC!

Liz Daniel – Development and Communications Manager

Liz is the person behind much of our fundraising efforts and communication strategy. She’s responsible for implementing our fundraising campaigns and events – including Snowbash, NSAW, and more! Liz brings with her a background in non-profit operations, including 5 years at the Snow Leopard Trust, where she aided in snow leopard conservation endeavors through grant management and donor relations. 

Devon Schoos – Education Coordinator 

Devon coordinates our hundreds of educational offerings, including avalanche awareness classes, professional mentorship programs, Laying Tracks, and more. She also coordinates all of NWAC’s volunteer forces. Devon has worked in outdoor education since 2018, both in the field as well as in program coordination and management. She’s worked in a variety of roles, from climbing instruction and ski patrolling, to managing backcountry expedition programs for youth and other outdoor education programs.

Cauri Hammer  – Membership and Communications Coordinator 

Cauri coordinates all things communications at NWAC. She crafts blog articles, social media posts, and emails, including the Backcountry Bulletin you receive each Friday. Cauri brings experience working in various outdoor-focused spaces, most recently the Northwest Outward Bound School (NWOBS), where she was the main point of contact for Washington applicants and their families as they prepared for NWOBS’ wilderness courses. 

Of important note – 100 % of our forecast staff returned this year. While we hope to add our team in the future, this allows us to ramp up faster and implement new projects. 

Morning Forecast Update Time

NWAC is one of three centers in North America that publish their forecasts in the evenings. An evening publish time allows users to plan for their days out the night before. It also means that if the weather doesn’t align, we might need to update the forecast. 

This season we’re formalizing and publicizing a 7:30am forecast update time.

If we need to update a forecast, it will happen at 7:30am. So, in addition to trip planning the night before, we encourage you to get in the habit of checking the forecast at 7:30am to check any updates.

Changes to Elevation Bands

The way elevation bands are represented and categorized has changed for the 2023/24 forecast season.

We constantly evaluate our forecasts and how we’re doing as communicators. For years, we’ve known that our elevation band labels Above, Near, and Below Treeline have been problematic. They’re vague, confusing, and can lead to inconsistencies by the user and even by our forecasting team. One of our goals is to demonstrate how avalanche danger changes over vertical space. We want to communicate this concept in a straightforward and consistent fashion. 

So, this year, we joined several other centers in using the elevation descriptors Upper, Middle, and Lower Elevation and providing elevation numbers for each band. We utilized concept models to create the elevation numbers for each zone. 

We hope these numbers more clearly communicate how we visualize danger in terrain and provide consistency. It is essential to recognize that these numbers are “fuzzy.” We know avalanche danger doesn’t change on a magic line, so while using elevation numbers helps us be clearer– remember– nature can’t be put in a neat box. 

The following video provides essential details about elevation bands and using them to identify and reduce risk in mountain travel. We encourage you to become familiar with the new elevation bands and watch this video for more information:

Changes to the Observation Platform

New Observation View & Visualization Tools

We rely on observations from our community to build the avalanche forecasts. Observations also help you build your concept of current conditions. This season, we are taking yet another step toward making it easier to submit and view observations. 

We’ve worked with the National Avalanche Center for the past two years to develop a new Observation Platform. Now there are two forms, one short and one long, where you can submit various amounts of detailed information. In the long form, you can submit an avalanche observation to our avalanche occurrence database. Adding to the avalanche database is incredibly powerful, since we all know one of the greatest clues of hazard is recent avalanches.

Not only can you spatially see observations and avalanches on a map, but the new visualization tools also let you dig into the details of where exactly avalanches are occurring. You can query each of these tools by zone, date, trigger, size, elevation, or by scrolling in the map. If you want to revisit a specific query for your zone and specific preferences, you can bookmark that query and come back to it over and over throughout the season. 

Observations help shape your plans and provide additional details to an avalanche forecast. Learn more about the new observation view and visualization tools:

National Platform

The new Observation Platform is just one part of a much larger project that NWAC contributes to along with the National Avalanche Center. The Avalanche Forecasting Platform (AFP) is a web-based tool our team uses to build forecasts, track observations, manage media, help display weather stations, and issue avalanche warnings. 

As this platform has grown and been refined, we’re excited to say of the 22 avalanche centers in the US, 17 of them will be using the AFP this winter. This means we’ll have 17 centers where the avalanche forecasts products, including graphics and layout, look exactly the same. This helps users learn and apply forecasts across the country.

Changes to Our Technology: Introducing the Avy App

And finally– we built an app!  

In late November 2023, we launched a purpose-built mobile app, called Avy, that allows users to access weather and avalanche information for NWAC and the Sawtooth Avalanche Center (SAC). The app provides a streamlined user experience for your core trip planning tools, including avalanche forecasts, weather forecasts, weather station data, and observations. Over the coming years, we hope to add the majority of avalanche centers across the country to the Avy app. 

Avy was funded 100% through individual giving to the Northwest Avalanche Center. We are grateful to be part of a community that allows us to make ambitious projects like this happen!

Read more about why we built the Avy app and how it improves your experience in our blog

Don’t have the app yet? Download Avy for Apple or Android.

A huge thank you to our community for making all of these developments possible! 

The Avy App

Download the app here: Apple | Android

In late November 2023 NWAC launched a purpose built mobile app, Avy, that allows users to access weather and avalanche information for the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) and the Sawtooth Avalanche Center (SAC). The app’s purpose is to provide a streamlined user experience for your core trip planning tools, including avalanche forecasts, weather forecasts, weather station data, and observations. Over the coming years, we hope to add the majority of avalanche centers across the country to the Avy app. 

Avy was funded 100% through individual giving to the Northwest Avalanche Center. We are grateful to be part of a community that allows us to make ambitious projects like this happen!


Gear Up for Winter: Tips for Maintaining & Repairing Your Winter Outerwear

At NWAC, we know the stoke caused by the season’s first snowfall and the anticipation of heading to the slopes or venturing into the backcountry. As you prepare for your next winter adventure, it’s important to address a commonly overlooked aspect: gear maintenance. For this blog post, we’ve invited local PNW-based company GEAR AID to explain why gear care and repair matters when getting ready for the winter season.


Building a New Type of Weather Station

The NWAC mountain weather station network is the largest of its kind, and this fall we were able to expand our network even further. Adding a new weather station to the mix requires months (and sometimes years) of planning with a number of stakeholders, and requires significant time and financial investment. It is thanks to the support from our community that we were not only able to purchase the equipment but also increase the staff hours needed over the off-season. These resources allowed us to take on building a weather station unique from all others in our network.  

Maintaining and expanding our network of weather stations is key to our forecasting. “NWAC’s automated weather stations are the observations that keep on giving. When access to the mountains is difficult for us and our partners, the weather stations are there to at least give us some idea of what is unfolding,” said Avalanche Forecaster Andy Harrington. More stations mean better insights into what is happening in the mountains 24 hours a day. 


Recreate Like a Pro

For the vast majority of us enjoying days out in the snowy mountains is a hobby, albeit a sometimes all consuming one. So when planning for and executing your trip plans, you may not be approaching it from the lens of systemic rigor that those paid to work as snow and avalanche professionals do. But if you aspire to big days in the mountains, finding the best snow, and reducing risk while gaining reward, it’s worth looking at some of the big-picture practices that avalanche workers, ski guides, and other mountain professionals bring to the table on a daily basis.


NWAC’s Short Film: The Bottom Line

We made a movie! The Bottom Line is NWAC’s first short film and tells the story of what it takes to create an avalanche forecast. Avalanche forecasters Irene Henninger, Lee Lazzara, and Matt Primomo take you along starting in the field and ending at the computer synthesizing information into the avalanche forecast.

Click here to watch

Director: Nick Meilleur

Producer: Molly Scudder

NWAC Forecasters: Irene Henninger, Lee Lazzara, Matt Primomo

Additional footage: Tommy Yacoe

P.S. Can you spot any places you like to ride in the video?

NWAC’s Weather Station Network

By Andy Harrington

Did you know that NWAC manages the largest automated weather station network of any avalanche institution in the United States?

These stations are located throughout our forecast zones, providing tabular and graphical weather and snowpack information to not only avalanche professionals, but to our entire community. Snow depth, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, and wind direction are the core measurements recorded. Other measurements are available depending on the station. Currently there are 50 stations in the NWAC network; 13 of these stations are managed and owned by WSDOT. Many of these stations date back to prehistoric times when phone lines and paper chart recorders roamed the earth. We have worked hard in recent years to upgrade our network and nowadays, you will find cell modems, radio relays, and fast ethernet connections delivering us almost real-time data about what is happening in the mountains.


Other Important Gear

In Get The Gear, we review the three essential pieces of avalanche equipment: transceiver, probe, and shovel. While everyone must carry these three items, there’s other gear that’s also very helpful to have with you in the backcountry. Some items like helmets are for individual use while other items could be for the whole group.