A new website maps out local avalanche dangers for those heading into the mountain backcountry, thanks to a joint effort by Huxley College of the Environment and the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.
The new site depicts the NWAC’s daily regional avalanche forecast on a map of Washington state and the Mount Hood area of Oregon. It’s an easier-to-read format that will help backcountry travelers assess avalanche risks.
Michael Medler, who directs the Institute for Spatial Information and Analysis, began working on avalanche-hazard visualization projects in 2004 after one Western student died and several more were buried overnight by an avalanche near Mount Baker.
“After that, I began working with my Geographic Information Systems students to develop maps that would help people understand the avalanche hazards in our local mountains,” Medler says. “Each year several students would really latch on to the avalanche projects because the issue had so much meaning for them.”
Users can zoom in to see the regional forecast for mountain ranges, but the system isn’t meant to provide slope-specific avalanche risks. It’s still up to back country travelers themselves – and their own skills and experience – to determine the risks on individual slopes, Medler says.