2016-2017 Valdez Avalanche Center Season Summary

Valdez Avalanche Center    

2016-17 Season Summary

Annual General Membership Meeting  May 3, 2017

Valdez Library AV Room

AAIC Report: AAIC supports five community avalanche centers. Expanded outreach includes partnerships with municipalities, local newspaper, public radio, Alaska Department of Public Safety, snowmachine clubs, and universities. Our educators taught community awareness classes as well as AIARE Level 1 & 2 courses across the state.

Unfortunately two avalanche fatalities were not prevented this winter. The first was near Snug Harbor on the Kenai during a big cycle in late January. The second was a little girl who was crushed by a roof slide in North Pole. AAIC is working to network communities to create and improve access to information and educational opportunities that aim to prevent accidents.

VAC Forecasting Report: Beginning in early November, ~306 forecasts were published. New, this year, the Valdez forecast area was presented as three separate climate zones: Maritime, Intermountain, and Continental. An average of 150 people viewed the forecast each day with over 27,000 views in this season. Over 9,000 different (unique) users were reached this season. Peak timeframe was in mid February and in late March and early April.

The season was summarized by several sunny, dry spells and strong wind with only 8 major storm events throughout the season. Several strong wind events stripped our high elevation snowpack back to its base and filled in the low lying terrain. Large avalanche cycles were tied to 2 extreme wind events, a high reaching rain cycle and early season deep, persistent snow instabilities. In total, Thompson Pass accumulated 327” of snow with 32” of water equivalent: only 65% of last year’s snow totals. Valdez town had a much cooler and snowier season receiving 249” snow with 25” water equivalent: 140% more than last season.

Kevin Salys was paid 30 hrs/wk with many volunteer hours, Sarah Carter was paid 2-4hrs/week with many volunteer hours, and Peter Carter continues to volunteer his forecasting time. Kyle Sobek continued his internship and apprentice forecasting. He was paid 2 days/week in March and April. Josh Hege and Bobby Lieberman interned as assistant instructors and caretakers of the Thompson Pass Basecamp/information Kiosk March 15-April 16. Many pertinent and timely snow, weather, and avalanche obs. were contributed by staff, volunteers, and public.

Blueberry Study Plot Observations: Ryan Chalker, Greta Palmer, Ben Stolen worked diligently to take and record timely observations that augmented our daily forecasts and supplied climate data to NWS. Daily observations including rainfall amounts will be continued at the site through the off-season by Great Palmer & Eric Cooper with possibly Aidan & Jared (they worked last summer) as needed.

Public Outreach and Education Report:

KCHU PSAs and daily announcements


Valdez STAR newspaper Enviro Box with precipitation numbers

Nov.3-6 VAC volunteers and staff participated in the Alaska Avalanche Summit, Southcentral Alaska Avalanche Workshop, and the Winter Fest in Anchorage

Nov.-Dec. PWSC AIARE Avalanche Level 1 course

Nov. 7 VAC staff helped Mike Buck teach an Awareness evening at ER Polaris/Arctic

Nov.28 Awareness at Prospector

Nov.29 VAC staff helped with Gear Swap at PWSC

Dec. 6 VAC staff helped EARAC with Delta Awareness on Ft.Greely

Dec.9-12 VAC supported AAIC in hosting the AIARE ITC in Valdez

Dec.16 Avalanche Awareness at Herman Hutchens

Dec. 17,18 Avalanche and Backcountry Riding Safety in conjunction with Valdez Snowmachine Club and Valdez Parks and Rec

Jan.11 Copper Valley Telecom Awareness

Jan.21 Backcountry Film Festival raised funds for Mike O’Leary Scholarship Fund

Jan. 24 & 25 Field and Classroom Awareness at High School

Jan.26 Sarah Carter represented AAIC at the Ladies Ride in Petersville

Feb. 3 Awarness in 1st Grade Herman Hutchens Elementary

Feb. 3 Luc Mehl fundraiser for VAC

Feb. 5 Glennallen Field Awareness with Kyle Sobek

Feb. 9 Gilson Middle School Avalanche and wilderness safety DPS

Feb. 6-7, 13-14, 21 Alyeska Terminal Avalanche training (Mike Buck, Kevin Salys, & Sarah Carter)

Feb.15 Valdez High School Avalanche and wilderness safety DPS

Feb. 18 Avalanche and Backcountry Riding Safety Field Session Kyle Sobek (also responded to SAR call-out in Tsaina Valley)

Feb.25 VAC at Kids’ Snowcross races

March 3-8 VAC staff helped teach Black Rapids Level 1 courses (1 motorized)

March 14-17 PWSCC AIARE Avalanche Level 2 course

March 17-19 AIARE Avalanche 1 motorized course

March 16-17 assisted CSO project

March 15-April 16 VAC Basecamp/Information Kiosk at Thompson Pass

March 25 Valdez Girl Scouts Awareness DPS

April 1-9 VAC staff helped forecast and teach at Arctic Man

April 15 Beacons & Eggs hosted in conjunction with Valdez Parks & Rec

April 14-16 Avalanche Forecast and Outreach at Hill Climb

April 14 VAC Fundraiser at Tsaina Lodge

April 29-30 assisted CSO project, VAC end of season BBQ at Dock Point


Total of more than 850 participants in 31 programs.

In addition, VAC educators co-taught AAIC events and educational programs taught elsewhere in the state:

Feb. 18-20 Backcountry Babes Women’s AIARE Avalanche Level 1

Feb.24-26 UAA AIARE Avalanche Level 1

April 1-9 Arctic Man Awareness

Finance Report:

2016-17 VAC to date approximations


City of Valdez                                                             $40,000

City of Valdez for Spring in Thompson Pass            $12,500

Private Contracts                                                         $6,500

Luc Mehl fundraiser                                                       $200

Valdez spring fling fundraiser                                     $2,100

Membership/Private business donations                      $800

Total VAC Income                                                      $62,100


Blueberry Weather Station equipment                          $200

Spring Basecamp/Information Kiosk                          $8,500

InReach                                                                            $420

Phones                                                                              $480

VCVB membership                                                          $100

Postage                                                                             $300

Forecasting Program equipment                                   $1600

Outreach/Education program                                       $1500

Wages                                                                           $30,400

Uniforms                                                                           $150

Fundraiser expenses                                                       $1000

AAIC admin support/Insurance/website                    $4,500

Total VAC Expense                                                       $49,150

Valdez BCFF Fundraiser for Mike O’Leary Scholarship Fund raised ~$200

Funding, fundraising, and budget for 2017-18:

Operations will be very similar in 2017-18 to 2016-17. An annual membership drive is increasing local support and donations, Morgan Gantz volunteered to help with this. Our membership has grown to 140 individuals, businesses, and community partners supporting the forecast and education programs. Please renew your membership if you have not already and encourage others to do the same. Thank you!

Katheryn Peltier has volunteered to help fundraise and designed a thank you letter for members and donors. Erica Shirk has volunteered to organize next year’s Spring Fling fundraiser silent auction.

AAIC is now part of the PICK CLICK GIVE program

Advisory Board/Friends Group:

Kevin Salys became VAC Director when Sean Wisner resigned so he could take the AAIC VP position. Karen Allred,Erica Shirk, and Will Stark committed as advisory board member. Rich Loftin joined as an advisory board member and liason to the Valdez Snowmachine Club. Our other current board members, John Cullen and DB Palmer will be asked if they want to continue serving.

Your involvement can be tailored to your interests, including outreach, finance, membership and fundraising. If you are interested or have any questions, please contact [email protected]

Other business:

In July our forecast team will attend the AAIC retreat in Fairbanks to train in non-profit business, education updates, forecasting alignment, and more.

In November our forecasting/observer team will convene to review operations and safety as defined in our employee handbook and industry standards. Scheduling will be done on google calendar. Also, VAC staff will participate with the annual Alaska Snow Safety Summit and Southcentral Alaska Avalanche Workshop.

Data management systems will be explored, so we can begin next season with a system that works and is not as frustrating as shared Dropbox xls spreadsheets. Access Microsoft?

Partnership with many entities including the Valdez Snowmachine Club is increasing our outreach and fulfilling our mission of helping Alaskans LIVE TO RIDE ANOTHER DAY!






Posted in AAIC News & Announcements, Valdez News.

Sarah Carter