Employment Listing | Avalanche Center Director Image

West Central Montana Avalanche Center

POSITION:  Avalanche Center Director

POSITION TYPE: Full-time, seasonal

LOCATION: Missoula, Montana

DATE POSTED: May 4, 2021

CLOSING DATE: August 5, 2021

BACKGROUND:

The West Central Montana Avalanche Center (WCMAC) is seeking candidates for WCMAC Director. The WCMAC is provided through the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation (WCMAF) and operates under a Cost Share Agreement with the Lolo, Bitterroot, and Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. The WCMAC is a Type 2 avalanche center that produces backcountry avalanche forecast information for the west-central Montana advisory area. Avalanche forecasts appear on Missoulaavalanche.org Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning throughout the winter operating season (e.g., December – April). Special updates and warnings are issued as needed during periods of high avalanche danger.

POSITION DESCRIPTION:

The WCMAC Director is responsible for overseeing and developing avalanche center operations. The Director supervises up to three full-time avalanche specialists, several part-time professional observers, and guides all avalanche center duties. This position reports to the WCMAF Executive Director and works collaboratively with the Board of Directors.

This position requires a strong background in snow science, avalanche dynamics, and mountain weather meteorology. This position requires a professional working knowledge of snow physics, including snow metamorphism, the distribution patterns of common weak layers, the mechanics of slab failure, and the classification of snow crystals. 

This position requires routine fieldwork in remote mountainous terrain and a high level of physical fitness. A successful candidate must possess excellent backcountry travel skills and be proficient in snowmobiling in steep backcountry terrain in adverse weather conditions. 

The installation and removal of automated mobile weather stations occur annually throughout the west-central Montana advisory area. A successful candidate must be able to supervise, direct, and participate in the maintenance and operation. This position requires utilizing Data Garrison software and troubleshooting hardware issues in a wide range of inclement weather conditions.

A professional background in avalanche education is required to contribute and collaborate within the WCMAF avalanche education program. Furthermore, a successful candidate will be comfortable and adept at being the regional point of contact for all avalanche center media communications regarding backcountry avalanches. 

The position entails administrative duties that include the oversight and preparation of FY budgets and annual reports. The successful candidate will develop long-term partnerships with private businesses and public agencies. They will assist the WCMAF ED in acquiring funding and increasing outreach to all backcountry user groups. To this end, such responsibilities include budget tracking and management of partner agreements.

The Director works in close liaison with USDA Forest Service Avalanche Centers, state and local government agencies (e.g., USFS National Avalanche Center, Montana FWP, University of Montana, Missoula County SAR, and the National Weather Service). 

This position requires detailed planning, reporting, and communicating clearly with a broad audience range. As a supervisory position, the Director must provide guidance and feedback to staff effectively. The aptitude to manage multiple projects at any given time is also required. 

This position requires maintaining strong working relationships with the broader national avalanche community and helping advance the WCMAC into a Type 1 avalanche center.

Additional responsibilities include:

  • Issue backcountry avalanche advisories for public dissemination.
  • Issue avalanche warnings through Missoulaavalanche.org, the National Weather Service, and local media outlets.
  • Proficiency with video editing software, Microsoft Office, Google Suite, WordPress, and the ability to troubleshoot routine website problems as necessary. 
  • Manage field operations and oversee professional observation programs.
  • Safely conduct avalanche investigations when needed.
  • Act as an advisor and mentor for avalanche center forecaster(s) and intern(s).
  • Safely conducts regular fieldwork (as group leader) in avalanche terrain using backcountry skis or splitboard and snowmachine as means of travel.
  • Lead weekly forecaster meetings with regional avalanche professionals.
  • Assist WCMAF Executive Director in monitoring and maintaining annual grants and agreements.
  • Interpret National Weather Service products and models to write a daily mountain weather forecast.
  • Update website databases with snowpack, avalanche, weather, and other pertinent information for public dissemination.
  • Update social media outlets and write website articles on relevant topics.
  • Conduct interviews with local media (TV, radio, newspapers) as requested.
  • Interface with avalanche professionals in the community and emergency service organizations.
  • Other duties as assigned.

WORK ENVIRONMENT:

  • Fieldwork will be performed outdoors in remote mountain environments a minimum of three days a week. This work involves mountain travel in avalanche terrain, using vehicles, snowmobiles, skis, or splitboards.
  • The position requires irregular hours and extended shifts during the operating season to complete fieldwork, monitor the weather and snowpack, and communicate with other staff. Forecast or support staff duties often begin around 5 AM MST.

QUALIFICATIONS:

Essential Qualifications: 

  • Experience backcountry avalanche forecasting for a U.S. avalanche center.
  • Strong mountain riding skills and snowmobiling experience in avalanche terrain
  • American Avalanche Association (A3) PRO 2 or equivalent.
  • Experience in a range of different snow climates.
  • Teaching and public speaking experience
  • University degree in a technical subject
  • High-level written and verbal communication skills
  • Experience delivering presentations in professional and public contexts.
  • Familiarity with using computer hardware, software, and online applications in technical contexts
  • Able to clearly and effectively communicate avalanche hazard and risk in English, written and verbal communication.
  • Advanced (80 hour) wilderness first aid course (or equivalent)
  • Valid U.S. drivers license
  • Successful applicants must possess a diverse skill set and strong work ethic to contribute to daily operations.

Desirable Qualifications: 

  • MS degree in a technical subject.
  • Multiple years backcountry avalanche forecasting for a Type 1 avalanche center.
  • Advanced training in snow science and meteorology.
  • Training and professional experience in technical writing and scientific research.
  • Media experience (radio, TV, print, social media)
  • Ski guiding certification

COMPENSATION: Annual salary range $24,000 to $30,720 based on a six-month season, November through April. For the winter 21/22 operating season, this position begins on October 1, 2021, and includes an additional month’s salary.

CONTACT: Patrick Black, West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation, Executive Director

TO APPLY: Email [email protected] with the following information:

  • Name, email, and phone number
  • Current Resume
  • Cover Letter, containing a brief description of your qualifications and interest in the position.