West Central Montana Avalanche Center

POSITION:  Avalanche Center Lead Forecaster

POSITION TYPE: Full-time, seasonal

LOCATION: Missoula, Montana

DATE POSTED: September 28, 2021

CLOSING DATE: October 30, 2021


The West Central Montana Avalanche Center (WCMAC) is seeking candidates for Lead Forecaster. 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 forecasts for the west-central Montana advisory area. Avalanche forecasts appear on Missoulaavalanche.org on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings throughout the winter operating season (e.g., December – April). Special updates and warnings are issued as needed during periods of high avalanche danger.


The Lead Forecaster is responsible for generating backcountry forecasts and furthering the development of avalanche center programs. The Lead Forecaster supervises several part-time professional observers and assists the WCMAC Director in managing avalanche center operations. 

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 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 Lead Forecaster 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. 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 forecast information for public dissemination.
  • Issue Avalanche Warnings through Missoulaavalanche.org, the National Weather Service, and local media outlets.
  • Proficient with video editing software, Microsoft Office, Google Suite, WordPress, and the ability to troubleshoot routine website problems as necessary. 
  • Coordinate and manage the WCMAC professional observation program.
  • Safely conduct avalanche investigations when needed.
  • Act as an advisor and mentor for avalanche center forecaster(s) and intern(s).
  • Safely conduct fieldwork (as group leader) in avalanche terrain using backcountry skis or splitboard and snowmachine as means of travel.
  • 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.


  • 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 6 AM MST.


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 $22,000 to $25,000 based on a five-month operating season, November 15th to April 15th.

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 with references.
  • Cover Letter containing a brief description of your qualifications and interest in the position.