Changes at the Flathead Avalanche Center
The avalanche education, training and information outlet in the Flathead has been in flux over the past few years with old partnerships ending, and new ones forming. The National Forest is hoping to build partnerships and answer some of the demand for upgraded services through the Flathead Avalanche Center.
The Center recently hired a part-time director Erich Peitzsch. He works for the US Geological Survey based in Glacier Park as a Physical Scientist. He has also been the Avalanche Forecaster during spring plowing on the Going to the Sun Road.
“Basically we get into the office around 4-4:30 in the morning, look at weather models, and look at the remote weather stations to determine what has happened overnight; if it snowed, how much snow has fallen, what’s the temperature, and that still applies here in this position as well during the winter,” Peitzsch said.
Peitzsch said they’re then typically in the field, skis on, by 7 or 8 in the morning. This routine for the spring time avalanche watching for the Park Service will be similar to what Peitzsch and other Flathead Avalanche Center personnel are doing this winter. The Center is putting out an avalanche forecast three times a week: Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday through a hotline (406)257-8402 and online at www.flatheadavalanche.org.
Peitzsch has been meeting with people across the backcountry recreation community.
“Folks right now, they want a lot of collaboration between the Center and the community. And ultimately, if the community is providing support, then they certainly deserve some sort of investment in the avalanche center,” Peitzsch said that investment comes through in a quality product.
In the past there was a collaborative effort in the Flathead with the Glacier Country Avalanche Center Incorporated which has since dissolved. Peitzsch said right now there is a lot of momentum in the community for collaboration and quality avalanche education and forecasts. He said his role is to bring the Flathead Avalanche Center up to standards consistent with other avalanche centers across the west.
Funding for this 20-to-30-hour per week position comes from the Forest Service and Recreational Trails Program grants through the US Department of Transportation.