Forecasters from the early years
Jeff came to the UAC from Deer Valley Mountain Resort and worked as a forecaster for two seasons before heading out to pursue other opportunities in California with his partner Faerthen Felix. During his tenure here, Jeff also served as Executive Director of the American Avalanche Association. Today, Felix and Brown work for the University of California at Berkeley. Brown is the Director of a consortium of field research and education facilities located in the Sierra Nevada mountains north of Lake Tahoe, including the Central Sierra Snow Lab, Chickering Reserve, North Fork Association Lands, Sagehen Experimental Forest, and Onion Creek Experimental Forest. The two live on site at Sagehen Creek Field Station, which Felix co-manages. Research topics include forest management, hydrology, climate change, wildlife and fisheries. Felix and Brown now spend their winters skiing in the Tahoe area and the European Alps.
Carol Cilberti grew up in Missoula Montana, and like many of the rest of the forecasters, moved to ski in the Greatest Snow on Earth. Tragically, in just her 2nd winter at Alta, her boyfriend was killed in an avalanche on Little Superior, not far from the town of Alta. This was a pivotal moment for Carol and set her on a course to understand snow, avalanches and weather. After ski patrolling for a few seasons at what was then known as Park West Ski Resort and getting her Master's Degree in Meteorology from the University of Utah, Carol was hired on at the UAC. In February of 1997, Carol and her partners were skiing out of Butler Fork of BCC when they came upon an avalanche debris pile that had completely buried a beacon-less snowshoer. She quickly organized a probe line, got a definitive strike and excavated a live woman who had been buried for nearly an hour. After the 2002 season, Carol left for "greener waters" to become a meteorologist in Eureka, CA and has since become an avid surfer.
Bruce worked for the Utah Avalanche Center out of the Logan Office from 1996 through 2000. He has also worked as a guide and educator for Utah Mountain Adventures and White Pine Touring since 1996. A long time avalanche educator, Bruce has taught for the Utah Avalanche Center, the Oakley School, the National Ski Patrol, the University of Utah, Utah State University, the Telluride Mountain Guides, and the Silverton Avalanche School. These days, he finds himself involved in Avalanche Education fulltime throughout the winter months. Over the years Bruce has worked as a ski patroller, avalanche technician, and Forecaster for the Utah Department of Transportation, the Brighton Resort and the Solitude Mountain Resort. Bruce has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Utah and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Faerthen came to the UAC from years at Deer Valley Mountain Resort and was the lead forecaster at the Moab/La Sals avalanche office for three seasons. During her tenure, Felix expanded services from the La Sal Mountains to the Abajos and Wasatch Plateau. Additionally, Felix was an instructor with the Silverton Avalanche School, the Telluride Avalanche School, and the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. She served as Editor of The Avalanche Review, and was on the Board of the American Avalanche Association. Today, Felix and partner Jeff Brown work for the University of California at Berkeley. The two live on site at Sagehen Creek Field Research Station, which Felix co-manages. Research topics include forest management, hydrology, climate change, wildlife and fisheries. Felix and Brown now spend their winters skiing in the Tahoe area and the European Alps.
Sue Ann Ferguson received a BS in physics from the University of Massachusetts, and PhD. in Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington, where she was mentoed by Dr. Ed LaChappelle, one of the original snow rangers at Alta in the 1950s. Her working career included forecasting avalanches and fire weather in Alaska, Director of the UAC from 1984-86, and avalanche meteorologist at the Northwest Avalanche Center from 1986-1992. Sue was most recently team leader of the Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory in Seattle. In addition to academic contributions in snow science, mountain weather, global climate change, and fire weather, she published instructional books on glaciers and avalanches, and, of course, The Avalanche Review, the avalanche periodical she helped found. She was also instrumental in founding the American Avalanche Association. Behind all of her accomplishments was a most wonderful, sharing and caring person, and all of those who knew her miss Sue greatly after her untimely death from cancer in December of 2005. We miss you Sue.
Max Forgensi worked winters for the Utah Avalanche Center in Moab from 2003 to 2013. He cut his teeth skiing in upstate New York and moved out west taking jobs as a ski instructor, snowmaker and then for five years as a Breckenridge Ski Patroller. Summertime employment varied from trail crews in Rocky Mountain National Park, and five years as a Park Service Hotshot, before settling down in Moab as a recreation foreman and then as an Engine Captain. Max currently works as a Natural Resource Specialist (Recreation) on the Whitman Ranger District in northeast Oregon’s untapped Wallowa and Elkhorn mountain ranges. Max moved on from forecasting desert ranges to get skis on his families feet regularly and continue the pursuit in creating holistic and inclusive recreation opportunities on Forest Service lands. Max currently lives in Baker City, Oregon with his wife Erin and his children Tindra and Kegan. Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort is their home mountain, although they all call the Colorado Plateau home.
Ethan has directed the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) since 2005. He has approached snow and avalanches from both a practical and theoretical perspective. He grew up in Boulder skiing Colorado’s Front Range. After a few winters in the San Juan Mountains, he worked at Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana as a ski patroller and at the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center in Salt Lake City as an avalanche forecaster. Ethan also studied meteorology at the University of Utah (BS) and snow drift formation at Colorado State University (MS). He has spent a lot of time looking at the microstructure of snow and its metamorphism in very large freezers in Colorado and Switzerland (PhD). Ethan has published a variety of articles on snow, weather and avalanches and been a member of national and international working groups on snow and avalanche projects. Ethan lives in Leadville.
Liz Hebertson worked as a Research Assistant and Avalanche Forecaster at the Bear River Avalanche Information Center, Utah State University, from 1995-2000. She completed her PhD in Ecology in 2003 specifically investigating climate factors associated with extreme snow avalanche events and other forest disturbances in the Intermountain West. She presently works for the USFS, Forest Health Protection, Ogden Field Office as a forest entomologist/plant pathologist. She is also a member of the Weber County Search and Rescue K-9 Team with two dogs trained in avalanche rescue and recovery.
Manti-Skyline Plateau 2008-2011
Grant grew up in Missoula, Montana and actually went to the same high school as Bruce Tremper, albeit 29 years later. After getting his degree in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Montana, he moved to Salt Lake, finding employment at Backcountry.com. Grant quickly learned the ropes with the UAC in 2007/2008, taught hundreds of avalanche courses, conducted field work in the Wasatch, the Uintas, and the Plateau, and eventually took over forecasting duties on the Plateau in 08/09. With budgets drying up, Grant moved to Revelstoke, BC to accept a job as an avalanche forecaster with the Canadian Avalanche Centre and continues to work in that capacity. He spends summers as a Type 1 Wildland Firefighter/Helitack crewmember in Canada.
Mike began ski patrolling and avalanche forecasting in the Wasatch in the mid-1970s. He founded the Utah Avalanche Center in Logan in 1985 and served as Director and Forecaster until 2000. In 2000 Mike was hired by the Snowbasin Resort Co. to oversee avalanche forecasting and mitigation for the Olympic Winter Games in 2002. Mike remained at Snowbasin as Snow Safety Director and later Patrol Director until 2009. Mike continues to work as an avalanche forecaster in the Powder Mountain Snow Safety Department. Mike has trained and handled 6 WBR SAR dogs including 2 currently working for Powder Mountain and Weber Co. Sheriff SAR. Mike is a Professor of Forest Ecology at Utah State University where he teaches and conducts research on the ecology of high elevation five needle pines in the world’s remote mountain ranges.
Greg Johnson studied under Dr. Bruce Jamieson at the University of Calgary obtaining a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering. His first job out of school was forecasting with the UAC in Logan from 2000 - 2002. After working in Logan, Greg worked for the USFS in Ketchum, ID and then the Canadian Avalanche Centre in Revelstoke, BC until 2010. These days, Greg works globally as an avalanche safety engineer and ACMG snowboard guide.
Dave grew up in the Wasatch and began skiing in the backcountry while in high school. Dave's interest in snow began when he moved to Logan to attend Utah State University, where he received an undergraduate degree in fish and wildlife and a Master's in ecology. In 2003, he began working as an observer for what was then the Bear River Avalanche Information Center, which was associated with the University. He then worked as an instructor and assistant forecaster from 2004 to 2006, as the center transitioned away from the University. His graduate work included aspects of snow dynamics and hydrology, but ultimately led to environmental work in Salt Lake City, where Dave continues as a UAC observer and avalanche instructor.
Originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Kimbrough learned to ski on a landfill covered with snow outside of Cleveland Ohio... and soon engaged in auto racing, inspired by Hemingway's comments about only three sports in the world (bull-fighting, mountaineering, and auto-racing - everything else is a game). On leave from the Army in 1963, Tom caught his first glimpse of the Teton Range and, one might say, the rest is history. Kimbrough began ski patrolling in the winter of 66/67 and since patrolled at Alpine Meadows in California and then Alta before taking a job at the Utah Avalanche Center in 1987. But officially, he began climbing and skiing on the government dime in 1973 as a Jenny Lake Climbing Ranger in Grand Teton National Park, where he worked until 2003. Kimbrough continues to ski and climb on the government dime (social security and retirement) in the Wasatch Range with his wife Barb Eastman (a famous climber in her own right) and son Paul Kimbrough (a famous extreme skier now living in the Tetons).
Kevin was born and raised in Wisconsin and moved to Utah in 1982. Kevin was fortunate to have experienced the 1982-83 ski season as a free-heel greenhorn working in Little Cottonwood canyon at Snowbird. Kevin started sending in backcountry observations to the Utah Avalanche Forecast Center in SLC in the 1980s with the guidance from Mike Jenkins at Utah State University and provided avalanche advisories out of the Logan branch from 1988-1993. During his education at USU, Kevin earned a BS degree in Environmental Studies and and MS degree in Recreation Resources Management. Currently, Kevin is the Director of Campus Recreation at Utah State University where he administers a comprehensive recreation department for the students at USU and continues to ski in the mountains around the Logan area.
Even though the UAC wasn't official until the 1980/1981 winter, Pat and Jeff Larsen recorded an avalanche hotline out of the SL Ranger District office in the winter of 1979/1980. Pat began backcountry skiing in the winter of 73/74 and is quick to say that the famed Wasatch climber/skier Harold Goodro changed her life. In this way, she in turn taught and mentored hundreds through cross-country ski programs at the University of Utah. She earned BA and M.ED. degrees from the University of Utah. Pat retired as an Educational Technology Facilitator for SLC School District. She taught a variety of Ed. Tech. courses over her 28-year career which included basic GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) workshops. Pat and her husband, Jim, continue to backcountry ski with the same energy and enthusiasm that they've had for 40 years, making annual trips to Canada and Europe to further their passions in the outdoors. Pat is also an avalanche instructor for the UAC.
Jeff Larson and Pat Lambrose were the original avalanche forecasters, recording snow and avalanche information out of the Salt Lake Ranger District in the winter of 1979/1980. Jeff worked for the USFS in the summers working fires, wilderness, trails and - as an avid backcountry enthusiast - teamed with Pat to record information on an informal basis for that 79/80 season, before the official start to the UAC the following year in 1980. Jeff cites snow rangers Binx Sandahl and Ray Lindquist as early mentors. Jeff worked for the Utah Avalanche Center for four seasons before becoming the head of snow safety at Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Retired from skiing, Jeff now lives with his family in Missoula, Montana.
Spencer learned to ski at the now-defunct Hidden Valley Ski Area, near Estes Park. He still enjoys touring there. Spencer joined the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) in 2004. He spent the two years prior in Montana obtaining a MS in Earth Sciences from Montana State University. Spencer investigated how shear strength of weak layers changed over space and through time. He and his colleagues dug many snowpits, moving over 25,000 kg (55,000 lbs) of snow one winter. He learned to backcountry ski in northern Utah, where he managed to graduate from college, spent three winters forecasting for the Utah Avalanche Center-Logan, and married a wonderful gal. He hopes that his sons will grow up to be the fourth generation of the family to ski and the fifth to fish in Colorado.
Alex came to the Utah Avalanche Center after a few years working as an engineer at Black Diamond Equipment, where he routinely showed up to work by 9am after having skiied any number of Wasatch Peaks that morning. In 1995, the American Alpine Club honored Lowe with the Underhill Award for outstanding mountaineering achievement, the highest honor in U.S. mountaineering. The Montana State University applied mathematics graduate's climbing achievements at altitude, on rock, ice and mixed terrain were legendary. He climbed for nearly 10 years with The North Face professional climbing team. Tragically, in 1999, Lowe was killed while on expedition to climb and ski Shishapangma in Tibet when a giant avalanche released far above them as they happened to be crossing the valley beneath it. A memorial fund was established in his honor (Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation) and thanks to this fund the Khumbu Climbing Center was conceived. Lowe left behind a wife and three sons. We miss you Alex.
Barry spent 8 years as a ski patroller at Alta before being hired on for the inaugural year at the Utah Avalanche Center for the season of 1980/1981. He, Duain Bowles, Pat Lambrose, Jeff Larsen, and Al Soucie comprised the staff for the fledgling avalanche center. They provided a much needed resource for the growing backcountry community by providing real time weather, snow and avalanche information on a daily basis. Barry and Duain were instrumental in installing and maintaining numerous automated weather stations and serving a a conduit between the mountain resorts and where they were located at the SLC National Weather Service. After four seasons, he left the financially tenuous avalanche office for a full time position on the Payette National Foreest as a computer systems analyst. Barry lives in McCall Idaho where he still ski patrols part time as well and continues to put in hours for the NIFC - the National Interagency Fire Center.
Darren learned to ski while being towed behind a snowmobile while growing up in Connecticut. In 1984, Darren triggered his first avalanche while backcountry skiing in Colorado and soon after took his first avalanche course. His background includes 14 seasons of wildland firefighting and seven years as a consulting forester in Montana and Idaho. In the early 90's he was a ski instructor and Ski Flakes television show host at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. He was forecaster for the UAC in Logan from 1997 until 1999. He has B.S. in Forestry from Colorado State University and an M.S. in Communication from Utah State University. He directs the Utah Forest Landowner Education Program for USU Extension. He continues to ski powder, teach courses, and provide observations to the UAC in Logan.
Andrew McLean is a fourth generation Utahn and his ancestors originally settled in the Salt Lake valley to start the Fisher Beer brewery. After leaving Utah at age four, he moved to a variety of different states before spending most of his youth in the Seattle area where he ski raced at the Alpental ski area. He later attended the Rhode Island School of Design and his degree in Industrial Design eventually brought him back to the Salt Lake City area as a Product Designer for Black Diamond Equipment. After thirteen years at Black Diamond, he began skiing full time and spent the 03/04 winter working as a forecaster at the UAC. Since then, he has worked full time as a Ski Mountaineer and lives in Park City, Utah with his wife Polly and two daughters, Mira and Stella. In 1995 he wrote “The Chuting Gallery – A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch.” and he presently runs the website StraightChuter.com.
Moab 1992-1995, 2001-2002, 2005-2011
Dave grew up in Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in 1985 with a degree in Business and Computer Science. After realizing the cubicle life wasn’t going to work out, he moved to Alta, UT and was hired on the ski patrol the next year. Summers were spent climbing. In 1992 Dave was hired on as a forecaster with the La Sal Avalanche forecast center and has been bouncing back and forth between southern and northern Utah ever since, including a 6 year stint as an avalanche forecaster with the Utah DOT in Little Cottonwood from ’95 to 2001. In 2001 and 2002 Dave did a couple of months of work each winter for the La Sal Center. Dave was forecasting and teaching full time again at the La Sal Avalanche Center from 2005-2011. Dave now works as a rigger and Rope Access Safety Supervisor for Ropeworks, Inc. out of Reno, Nevada and lives with his family in Truckee, CA.
Brad graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, but not before taking a year off and going to school at the University of Alta in the winter of 80/81. His senior thesis involved snow and avalanche work, but the pull of the Wasatch Mountains proved too much, and he returned to live and work in Utah. After a few years patrolling at Solitude, Brad began spending more time in the backcountry and found mentors in Al Soucie, Mugs Stump, and others. Brad's forecasts were spoken with the clarity of experience - as he was often described as a field worker who "walked in the mountains until he couldn't walk anymore". He is often credited with developing the Observer Network, a Wasatch Range orographic pattern work sheet, and pioneering a forecaster's approach from "avoiding avalanche terrain" to Safe Skiing in the mountains. Brad left to get a Master's Degree in Botany from the University of Vermont and has headed the Conservation Fund in Alaska ever since.
Brian worked for the La Sal Avalanche Center in Moab from 1993 to 1996. His introduction to skiing began with wandering the hills of Northeast Ohio on cross-country skis. After a move west to Arizona in 1979 , ski touring and exploring the mountains and plateaus near Flagstaff became his focus. During his time in Flagstaff he earned a BS degree in geology from the University of Northern Arizona and began ski patrolling at the Arizona Snowbowl. Following a move to the Wasatch to work with the ski patrol at Solitude Mountain Resort for several years, he was hired to work as a forecaster with Dave Medara in Moab. Brian continues to tromp around the La Sals, volunteering and providing observations for the UAC/Moab. He lives in Castle Valley, UT.
Dave ski bummed around Snowbird, Alta and the Wasatch backcountry before landing a job on the Alta Ski Patrol in 1973. While at Alta he helped get Wasatch Backcountry Rescue established and served as its president for several seasons. After patrolling for over a decade, Dave returned to the University of Utah and upon graduating landed his dream job as a Forest Service Snow Ranger in the Cottonwood Canyons. Dave forecasted at the UAC the winter of 88/89. Dave still keeps his nose in the snow touring around the Central Wasatch and if he isn’t fly fishing on a local river, he helps out now and then with local avalanche education and safety classes when asked.
Originally from California, Seth moved to Utah after high school and worked as a ski patroller at Park West (now the Canyons) and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Meteorology. He did an volunteer, post-grad project for the UAC and was hired full time the next year, incidentally to replace another world class climber Alex Lowe, who had moved back to his native Montana. Seth was one of the top all-around climbers in the U.S. and equally at home on the rock, ice, or any of the high alpine routes in the world. Perhaps his crowning achievement was a near-free (except for 10' of aid) of a 4300' wall on the Shipton Spire in Pakistan. Tragically, Seth was killed in May of 2000 by a serac fall while checking out an ice cave near their camp on the Ruth Gorge in Alaska. He and his partner had just returned safety from a route on Mt. Johnson a few days before. Seth will always be remembered for his self-effacing demeanor and his solid judgment in the mountains. He left behind a wife and more friends than one could count. We miss you Seth.
Al is originally from Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, 1973, with a BS in Agricultural Science. Al served in the Connecticut Air National Guard from Sept. 1967 to Aug 1973. He moved to Utah during 1976 and began working seasonal for the Uinta National Forest in June of 1977. Al’s first season of work at the Utah Avalanche Center was the first season that the Center was in operation, beginning during the fall of 1980. He was an avalanche forecaster at the UAC from 1980 to 1988 and 1990 to 1992. Al’s avalanche background began working as a volunteer with the Solitude Ski Patrol for two seasons from 1977 to 1978..and subsequently attended - and then taught - many professional avalanche courses over the years. He was also a Snow Ranger with the Forest Service in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Oct 1987-April 1988 & Nov 1990-Aug 1992.
Evan graduated from Middlebury College in 2000 with a focus on avalanches and GIS and soon found an opportunity with the UAC to apply those skills. After a season as an intern and a second season during the SLC Winter Olympics as a staff assistant, he took a position as a full time forecaster with the Manti-La Sal center for 3 seasons. During that time he met a great woman from British Columbia. Evan left forecasting for a career as an IFMGA Mountain Guide and he and his wife now own Valhalla Mountain Touring, a backcountry ski lodge in British Columbia.
Bruce was the Director of the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center for 29 years from 1986 to 2015. Bruce grew up skiing in the mountains of western Montana where his father taught him the basics of avalanches at the age of 10. After a successful ski racing career, he did avalanche control at Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Montana, earned a Masters Degree in Geology from Montana State University, studying under the well-known avalanche scientists Dr. John Montagne and Dr. Bob Brown. He then took over as the Director of Avalanche Control at Big Sky Ski Area in Montana and worked as a backcountry avalanche forecaster for the Alaska Avalanche Center. Bruce has been featured in numerous national and international television documentaries about avalanches including those produced by National Geographic, Discovery Channel and PBS and he regularly appears on national network news programs. Bruce wrote the books "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain," and "Avalanche Essentials" both published by Mountaineers Books.
Mark was the original forecaster with the La Sal Avalanche Forecast Center in 1988, when the Forest Service contracted him to issue avalanche, weather, and recreation reports for the La Sal and Abajo Mountains out of Moab, Utah. Prior to becoming a forecaster, Mark was a long time Outward Bound instructor, guiding and teaching throughout the intermountain west. Mark was tragically killed in avalanche in Gold Basin in the heart of the La Sals. Of the six touring party members, four were completely buried, though miraculously two were buried with a hand free and were able to dig themselves out, but not in time to save the others. This was the first significant accident to occur in the La Sals, and the worst avalanche accident to occur since 1939. Mark left behind a wife and two sons. We miss you Mark.
Duain and Barry Matthias, along with Pat Lambrose, Jeff Larson, and Al Soucie, comprised the forecast staff for the 1st official year of forecasting in 1980/1981. Duain came to the UAC from Bozeman, Montana where he ski patrolled at Bridger Bowl and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from what was then Montana State College. Duain had a knack for computers and weather instrumentation and helped install many of the sites we still use today. Even Onno Wieringa, general manager and ex avalanche director at Alta called Duain, "the smartest guy I ever knew". Duain was a protege of some of the early Montana pioneers of snow research, including Bob Brown and John Montaigne. After three years at the UAC, Duain transferred to the Utah Department of Transportation Avalanche Program and worked with Binx Sandahl, becoming the 2nd UDOT Avalanche employee in Little Cottonwood (they were previously FS Snow Rangers). Tragically, Duain died from a heart attack while riding his bike near his summer home of Bozeman, Montana. He was 60 years old, and left behind a wife and and four chldren. We miss you Duain.