Board of Directors

The Utah Avalanche Center is a collaborative effort between the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center and the Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  The Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center is responsible for avalanche forecasting and accident investigation and reporting.  The Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center is responsible for fundraising, avalanche awareness and education programs, events, the website, and business issues.  Both groups actively perform avalanche and user behavior research and regularly publish results.  About 2/3 of the funding for the Utah Avalanche Center comes from donations, grants, and events and we count on support from users like you.  The remaining funding comes from the Forest Service, the State of Utah, and Salt Lake County.

The Utah Avalanche Center is run by a group of volunteer board members.


Rich Mrazik, Board President and member since October, 2007

Rich Mrazik skied Alta for the first time in December 1999, called his mother that evening to say “I’m not coming home for a while,” and hasn’t strayed far from the Wasatch since.  Rich believes in directional skis and aspires to ski as well as Dexter Rutecki—albeit with better decision making.  When he’s not chasing sunset slackcountry laps, Rich is a shareholder in the litigation department of Parsons Behle & Latimer.


Mike Dawes, Board Treasurer and member since April, 2011

Mike Dawes has been serving as the Treasurer for the Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center since 2011.  He graduated from the University of Utah in 2005 with his Masters of Accountancy, with a tax emphasis, and is certified in Utah as a C.P.A.  Mike worked in public accounting for 8 years before transitioning to the private sector.  He currently works as an internal auditor for the LDS church.  Mike has a passion for backcountry skiing, rock climbing, and the outdoors.  Wherever he travels for work or pleasure, he always finds a crag to climb or a slope to ski.  He lives in West Jordan with his beautiful wife, three daughters, and his dog “Sheba”.  Mike’s favorite saying is “Work Hard, Play Harder”


 ​TJ Kolanko, Board Member since September, 2010



Dan Gardiner, Board Member since May, 2010

Dan Gardiner joined the Friends board in June 2010 with a deep interest in supporting the avalanche resources available to the snowmobile community.  He graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 2010 with a Juris Doctorate and currently works as a bank examiner for the State of Utah.  Dan has been widely recognized as a backcountry snowmobiler, with appearances in multiple films and magazines.  At one point he held records for the longest jump on a snowmobile.  He spends most of his free time in the mountains, riding sleds or skiing.  When the snow melts Dan can be found running trails, mountain biking, or backpacking. 

Reid Persing, Board Member since September. 2009

Reid grew up in northwestern Connecticut in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains.  His parents live just down the road from the local ski hill and snowboarding and spending as much time as possible on snow became a theme for his life from an early age.  Reid moved west to attend college at the University of Colorado where he competed in freestyle snowboarding, played a leadership role in developing a freestyle snowboarding program, and earned degrees in Chemistry and Biochemistry.  He moved to Utah after finishing his degrees for “one more year of snowboarding before graduate school.”  He was introduced to snowboarding in the backcountry that winter and has never left.  Reid’s background in natural sciences grew into a passion for avalanche science and he used to bombard the forecasters with technical questions about snowpack mechanics at every opportunity.  He sent in regular snowpack observations and assisted with the UAC’s education efforts before joining the Board of Directors in 2009.  

In his time on a snowboard Reid has also competed nationally, traveled internationally, and spent summers at Mt. Hood and Whistler.  He coaches for a freestyle snowboard youth development team in Park City, gets around the backcountry on a splitboard and a sled, and still spends a 

good bit of time at the resorts.  He works as a biologist for Environmental Planning Group, a local environmental consulting firm.


Laura Briefer, Board Member since June, 2011

Since moving to Utah from California in 2002, Laura has developed a love of the mountains of Utah, and an interest in avalanche safety.  Laura worked for the Town of Alta for six years, and through professional partnerships with the Utah Department of Transportation Avalanche Safety Office and the US Forest Service, developed an understanding and appreciation of the importance of both avalanche forecasting and avalanche education.  Currently, Laura is the Water Resources Manager for Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities (SLCDPU), a municipal water supplier responsible for the provision of drinking water to more than 300,000 people in the Salt Lake Valley. Laura has 19 years experience in natural resource and environmental professions in the public and private sectors. She has a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and is a Master’s graduate student at the University of Utah studying Public Administration. Laura spends much of her free time running, cycling, and skiing in the Wasatch foothills and mountains with her husband and two children. 


Steve Achelis, Board Member since November, 2010

Steve Achelis is a member of the Brighton Ski Patrol, Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, and the former commander of the Salt Lake County Search and Rescue team. When he isn’t in the mountains, Steve is a software entrepreneur whose projects include rope rescue software, a website devoted to avalanche rescue and survival (, and apps and websites for prehospital medical providers. He is also the author of the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing paper map and website, and the book Mountain Responder which tells of his experiences as a backcountry rescuer.