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brettinnj

Avalanche Forecast

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I can't believe the poor avalanche forecasts there is for the Northwest. On Mt Washington in NH,(6200') they have snow rangers that put out a detailed forecast. They even break it down to the gully and it's available around 8:00am. I have been watching www.nwac.us for the past few days. First they only give forecasts up to 7000' and at that it doesn't come out until 11:00am. Who waits until 11:00 to go out?

 

I spoke with a Ranger at Mt Hood asking if there is any other place to get a better forecast and he told me to check out CC.com.

 

What gives? They are both National Parks (N.H. is White Mountain). It's not like Hood or Rainier doesn't see the traffic.

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I would imagine since NH has ONE mountain, they dedicate all of their resources to just that one lump. Tough to do that with such a large mountain range like the Cascades.

 

I honestly don't put much faith in the avy forecasts, you almost have to go up there and see it with your own eyes before making a decision. Especially on Hood as there is lots of ways to bypass unsafe avy terrain and conversely you can find unstable snow even when the forecast says it is "safe"

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Washington is not a national park. sorry.

Why not donate to NWAC if you want a better forecast. They aren't exactly swimming in cash and funding.

 

how much faith are you putting into a website for choices you have to make on the ground anyways? NWAC does a great job of giving basic information and natural history of the snowpack to help give general ideas. None of the volcanoes out here have a road to the top (well hood, often a bootpack) nor full time meteorology offices and staff living on top year around.

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The report for Mt Washington is put out by: USDA Forest Service

White Mountain National Forest. Uncle Sam writes their paycheck.

 

Point being, why doesn't the NW have better reports? CO has reports to 11,000'. NOAA has weather reports for over 12,000' on Rainier. Where are they getting the information from? How high is the telemetry?

 

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National park = U.S. Department of the Interior

National Forest = U.S. Department of Agriculture

Both federal, but not the same. NWAC gets funding from a variety of sources.

 

What do you want better? Earlier in the day releases or pit profiles from hood, rainier, adams, multiple spots in the olympics, not to mention everything north of rainier? Like I said, donate some money to help them out. They have 3 full time members and a 4th for the winter to help. They forecast for an area larger than Switzerland.

 

CO reporting to 11k seems exactly on par with NWAC reporting to 7K for the NW -- given the 'base' elevation in the NW doesn't start at 5k.

 

The NOAA point-click forecast I have found to be based upon computer modeling and not actual telemetry on the ground (other than at the nearest reporting station). Frequently it has said it will be/is cloud at such and such point -- yet a webcam look or actually being there will yield a different observation. I doubt if there is telemetry over Muir's elevation on Rainier.. Hood it is the top of the magic mile.

 

I think you're barking up the wrong tree being down on NWAC's contributions (or supposed lack thereof) Hell, the Wallowa avalanche center is all volunteer, I believe.

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not sure this question even warrants an answer....

 

WA has lots of mountains. Some of them are big.

 

The comparison with CO makes no sense. 11,000' is more or less the mean altitude where skiing occurs in CO (give or take 2000'). In WA, sub 11,000' includes the whole state minus 3 summits. The relevant info on NWAC is basically above and below tree line. So, to extrapolate to the summit of rainier, take the alpine forecast for the Rainier area and assume more wind, colder temps, more snow. Then, when you get there, evaluate as you go.

 

You could also try calling the MRNP rangers, or one of the guide services.

 

It is a lot easier to extrapolate a detailed weather forecast to the summit of rainier (like NOAA), than it is something as localized as avy danger.

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Obviously I pissed you guys off by asking what I thought was a simple question. So why does CO have a staff of 15 professionals and the NW doesn’t?

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So why does CO have a staff of 15 professionals and the NW doesn’t?

Midwesterners, New Yorkers, and the DC crowd on ski trips...

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You started with a little dribble of piss onto NWAC:

"I can't believe the poor avalanche forecasts there is for the Northwest. "

 

then didn't really ask a question, I mean, look at your statement and with some logic you should be able to answer it yourself:

"why isn't there as accurate of a forecast for a highly variable area the size of switzerland as there is for a mountain that has a road, train, trails, and snowcats to the top every day and a full time meteorological staff that has been recording weather and snow conditions since 1892" who waits until 8am for an alpine start?

 

then you said they're both national parks and see traffic.

 

I'm still waiting to hear what you want to make it better? so far I am hearing "earlier in the day forecasts". Possibly "route by route avy conditions" if I am reading between the lines. What would make it better? Why would those changes make it better for you? Is the avy forecast on the computer the final line of avy consideration you make?

 

the avy forecast isnt suppose to be your in-situ decision maker.

Edited by Water

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Thanks Hugh. I had read that article on winter climbers. Even though the article is 2 years old I still figured the numbers were low. I thought a lot of people skied on Rainier (and others). Someone at this site said that Mt Hood was the second most climbed mountain in the world (2nd to Fuji). You would think that the Federal Government would throw more bucks that way.

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Hey brettinnj,

 

I was curious what you wanted to see improved in the avy forecast out here (route by route avy conditions on the most popular climbs?).

To me, the avy forecast for hood is plenty adequate. Are you wanting to use it as your final decision maker regarding avy conditions?

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Hood does see a ton of traffic...in the summer. Remember, most winters here you can't even get to the base of most of the mountains as all roads are snowed in. Go to Hood on a nice July weekend, and watch the ant line. And by then, the avy danger is almost zero.

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Oh, yea... I'd like to see a gully by gully avy forecast for the what, the 7000 or so gullys we have in the Cascades. We could fly 10,000 avy forecasters in on choppers every morning at 4AM - as soon as we build a couple thousand heliports. Better build a turnpike to Paradise with rest areas and restaruants every six miles.

 

NWAC does a great job providing macro and meso levels forecasting. If you want an alpine start use yesterdays forecast.

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So why does CO have a staff of 15 professionals and the NW doesn’t?

 

Midwesterners, New Yorkers, and the DC crowd on ski trips...

 

All those jokers are clown hill skiing at the resorts. When they go OOB it is darwinism.

 

 

Not to piss people off even more but states like Utah, Colorado, Montana have a greater avalanche problem than the PNW. In the time I spent running around OR and WA in the winters avy danger was that not much of problem and fairly easy to predict. Whereas the mountain states it is more problematic. As such resources, are dedicated where there is a greater need.

 

BTW If you are curious this year in the Wasatch avalanches have been quite problematic:

 

http://utahavalanchecenter.org/services/avalanchelist

 

Numerous rides by very very seasoned people some of which are friends and forecasters.

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You're comparing one smallish mountain with a road to the top to the entirety of the Cascades?

 

It's an different scene out here: Trails without railings, roads with unguarded cliffs, huge wilderness areas with few rangers, and entire mountains without gully by gully forecasts.

 

If you want more of an amusement park experience (i.e. highly managed risk), this is the wrong coast. If you want opportunity to be self-sufficient in big, wild areas, then welcome to and enjoy the Cascades.

 

NWAC gives us a general idea of what's up, but the truth is that you can be entirely safe on one slope, then go around a corner and get whacked. That's the nature of avalanches and that's why experienced people get caught- it's just not an exact science.

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