Item: Challenges to an avalanche center in a time of seasonal climate variability: a case study
Title: Challenges to an avalanche center in a time of seasonal climate variability: a case study
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 2006 International Snow Science Workshop, Telluride, Colorado
Authors: David W. Lovejoy, Leland R. Dexter, and Kevin Tatsugawa, Prescott College, Prescott, AZ, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
Abstract: Kachina Peaks (San Francisco Peaks) rising to nearly 13,000 ft. in northern Arizona represent an exception to the commonly held perception that snow avalanches are unimportant in the arid Southwest. On this prominent sky island, obvious, and often sizable, open swaths intrude mature stands of mixed conifers and aspens illustrating the power of sliding snow. Dramatic increases in winter backcountry recreation, combined with users that are often poorly informed of hazards, constitute the ingredients for disaster. This became evident during the 1994-1995 season when a very large hard slab event claimed Arizona’s first avalanche victim. The 2004-2005 winter season, with its near recordbreaking snowfall, produced numerous significant natural avalanche cycles. During these cycles, several close calls occurred as a result of skier and snowboarder triggered slides. These events prompted the rebirth of an old idea with a new name, format and momentum, the Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center, Inc. Then, as fast as impetus was gained, it became threatened by a near-record drought during the subsequent winter. The 2005-2006 season was marked largely by bare slopes with the first significant snowstorm delayed until March 11th, providing a vivid reminder of continued erratic seasonal weather that has historically besieged the region. The questions become: how can an avalanche center meet public needs under such conditions? How can we adapt to this level of irregularity? How can we provide information and training during times of need, yet sustain ourselves in dormancy during periods of droughts? This poster presentation and companion paper will characterize the history and nature of our problem, and attempt to further the discussion on strategies for meeting future challenges. Perhaps lessons learned in Arizona will have application in other regions as climate change increases seasonal variability on a broader scale.
Keywords: snow, avalanche forecasting, san francisco peaks, kpac, backcountry skiing
Digital Abstract Not Available