The mission of the West Central Montana Avalanche Center and its friends group, missoulaavalanche, is to provide avalanche information for west central Montana. That is accomplished by providing avalanche advisories and avalanche education programs.

It is the beginning of March and educators with the Center have racked up some pretty good numbers. Lectures and presentations began in November and have continued through the avalanche season. Five Level 1 avalanche classes were conducted along with school programs, specialized programs for specific groups and presentations and workshops for the general public.

Avalanche Center Director, Steve Karkanen, began presenting avalanche awareness programs in July with a presentation to summer session high school students. Since then he has presented programs for the Northern Rockies Avalanche Safety Workshop, the National Avalanche Center’s video conference, Missoula Search and Rescue, REI, Polson Rotary Club, Rocky Mountaineers, Missoula City Fire Department, Team Lochsa snowmobile group, Bighorn Outdoor Adventure Camp and Avalanche Center Level 1 classes. Steve reached 648 people with these programs.

Avalanche Specialist, Dudley Improta, started with a presentation on avalanche problems with the Five Valley’s Backcountry Ski Patrol on December. 1. Since then he has presented lectures for the general public at UM, taught a transceiver clinic at UM, ran an avalanche equipment talk for Trail Head employees, worked with Karkanen on presentations and classes for Missoula County Search and Rescue and the Missoula fire Department, organized a workshop for the public with the National Weather Service and the National Resource Conservation Service, helped with Avalanche Center Level 1 classes, worked with Steve and Team Lochsa and taught a free workshop with a field component for UM. Dudley also taught two Level 1 classes for Yurtski and will be a guest instructor for a National Ski Patrol Level 2 in March. These programs reached 437 people.

Travis Craft, an observer with the Center who began writing advisories this season, has also stayed busy. Travis presented two programs for the Bitterroot Ridgerunners snowmobile Club with Gary Guse, a new “sled-specific” instructor with the Center. Travis was the primary instructor for Level 1 classes; he ran two in the Rattlesnake and two near Lost Trail Pass. Travis also helped with the free lecture and field workshop at UM, did a field trip for Big Sky High School and Arlee High School. Travis reached 320 students.

Gary Guse, has also been working with avalanche center staff to improve our sled maintenance and riding skills and his avalanche safety instruction skills. Gary has vast experience as a backcountry snowmobile guide and shop owner and brings a skill set to our program that will benefit both students and staff in the future.

Brian Martens, an educator with the Center, did an impressive job heading up our school program based on the popular “Know Before You Go” program developed by the Utah Avalanche Center. Brian ran school programs for Frenchtown High School and Junior High, Hellgate High School, Polson High School, Victor Middle School and High School, Arlee High School, Florence High School and Middle School, Willard High School, Corvallis High School and Big Sky High School. Brian also managed to do programs for UM Parks and Recreation Management classes, UM Student Recreation Association, UM Backcountry Ski Club, UM Wilderness and Civilization class, LB Snow Ski and Board Shop, Missoula Parks and Recreation, Lifelong Learning Center, Corvallis Adult Education and Missoula Freestyle Ski Program. Along with all that he worked with Steve, Dudley and Travis on the REI presentations, the UM workshop and the two Level 1 classes near Lost Trail. Brian has reached 1004 students with these programs and is presenting a couple more classes this March.

Logan King, an observer with the Center who also wrote a couple of advisories this season, did programs for the BLM, the Lincoln Snow Warriors Snowmobile Club and helped with a Rattlesnake Level 1 and the UM Workshop.

Elizabeth Fricke and Darcy Chenoweth, Avalanche Center educators, ran a Level 1 for women, this class filled quickly and was the first one of its kind in the Missoula area. Elizabeth also worked with Dudley and Travis with a transceiver workshop and a Rattlesnake Level 1.

Steve, Dudley and Gary also presented training for our observers and educators.

Some of the numbers overlap, but I wanted to mention all our instructors. Overall we reached more than 2100 individuals with avalanche information. This has been a great season for our education efforts. The Level 1 classes are fee driven but the bulk of the classes are paid for through grants and fund-raising. The programs could not have happened without Steve’s grant-writing and the work of our friends group, the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation.


Dudley Improta 3/4/15