All NAS classroom instructors are recognized experts in their respective fields. All our instructors are professional members of the American Avalanche Association and follow the A3 recommended guidelines for curriculum.
With more 30 years of experience working with avalanches Dale trains and works with avalanche professionals and rescuers around the world. He has extensive avalanche experience as a rescuer, forecaster, researcher, educator and technology developer while working in recreation, industry and government domains. He honed his skills while working 20 years with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Along the way Dale also included 20 years of professional ski patrolling, and he has more than 40 years of mountain rescue experience. Dale worked for RECCO AB for more than 10 years. He was active for 20 years as the US representative to the Avalanche Rescue Commission for the International Commission for Avalanche Rescue; for 5 years he served as the sub-commission’s vice president. He is also a past president of the American Avalanche Association.
Paul was the ski patrol director at Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington State for over 30 years. He also directs the Northwest Avalanche Institute a group that consults on avalanche matters for a variety of clients including Burlington Northern railroad, guide services, the military, SAR groups, USFS, NPS, and local land use agencies. Paul’s extensive ski safety and risk management consulting work with ski areas across the country includes several recent ski area inbounds avalanche trials. Additionally, Paul is co-owner of International Mountain Guides (IMG), a climbing guide service based at Mt. Rainier. Since the 80's, Paul’s professional work experience has included snow safety director, ski patrolman, and heli-ski guide in winter and as a mountaineering guide and climbing ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park in the summer. Paul was a past chairman of the National Avalanche School steering committee. He is also a former vice president of the American Avalanche Association. Paul received a BA in Economics from the University of Puget Sound in 1978.
Dr. Karl Birkeland is the Director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center, where he provides national direction and guidance for the agency’s avalanche centers and military artillery program. As a part of his job he works to transfer new and emerging technologies to field practitioners within the avalanche community. Karl is also an adjunct Professor of Earth Sciences at Montana State University where he supervises a number of graduate students. Karl’s professional work with avalanches as a ski patroller, educator, backcountry forecaster, and researcher spans almost 40 years. He founded the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center in Bozeman, and he earned both his MS and PhD degrees investigating snowpack variability and related ramifications for avalanche forecasting. When he is not working in the snow, Karl enjoys spending as much time as possible in the mountains and on rivers with his wife and two daughters.
Doug Chabot has been director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center since 2000. He received his BA in Outdoor Education from Prescott College in 1986. From 1990 to 1999 he worked as a professional ski patroller at Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Bozeman, Montana. Starting in 1995, Doug has worked for the GNFAC as an avalanche specialist. He's also a mountain guide, climber and avalanche consultant in Central Asia. Doug has been on numerous climbing expeditions to Alaska, Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, resulting in many first ascents and new routes. In 2011, Doug co-founded Iqra Fund, a nonprofit devoted to getting girls educated in northern Pakistan. (www.iqrafund.org).
Mike has recently been named the Program Director for the National Avalanche School. Mike attended the NAS in 1997. He is in his 30th year working for Mt. Rose Ski-Tahoe. For the past 20 seasons he has been the Patrol and Risk Manager for the resort. During his time at Mt. Rose he went through the planning process with the USFS to open The Chutes in the 2004/05 season that is some of the steepest sustained vertical inbounds avalanche terrain in North America. Mike is the past Treasurer of the American Avalanche Association (A3). He is also a recreational course provider and Instructor with AIARE. Mike lives in Reno, Nevada with his wife Daniela and his three girls. He has a 7 year old Border Collie named Mac and a 2 ½ year old German Sheppard named Kona that work with him on the mountain. He is looking forward to giving back to a program that started his formal avalanche education.
Ethan has approached snow and avalanches from both a practical and theoretical perspective. 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 studied meteorology at the University of Utah (BS) and snow drift formation at Colorado State University (MS). He 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 authored to a variety of general interest and scientific articles, and chaired the committee that produced Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the United States (SWAG). He was part of the working group that produced the International Classification for Seasonal Snow on the Ground (2009) and is head of the Snow and Avalanche Division of the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences. Ethan is currently the Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, a program of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He lives in Leadville, Colorado with his wife and two children.
Chris McCollisterChris works both as ski area avalanche forecaster for Jackson Hole Resort and as a backcountry forecaster for the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center. He has a MS in Physical Geography with an emphasis on GIS. Chris developed an innovative GIS program that integrated historical weather and avalanche data for Jackson Hole Resort. He has been a field instructor for the NAS since 2001.
Mike works as the avalanche hazard reduction leader for Jackson Hole Ski Patrol and as a forcaster for the Bridger-Teton NF Avalanche Center. Mike is the coordinator and lead instructor for the JH NAS Field Session. He has had extensive experience guiding and forecasting for Valdez Heli-Ski and Chugach Powder Guides and is currently a guide and snow safety consultant for Tordrillo Lodge in the Alaska Range. Mike floats, fishes, hikes and skis with his wife and daughter, both of whom ski better than he does.
Scott managed to avoid being caught in an avalanche while earning degrees in Chemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the 1980’s. Scott spent most of the 1990’s and 2000’s as an avalanche forecaster and snow safety director at Big Sky Resort in Montana. While recovering from a series of knee surgeries from 2008-11, he focused on studying his and other avalanche professionals’ experiences, mistakes, and decision-making. Scott has presented at several ISSW’s, contributes regularly to The Avalanche Review, and is a frequent speaker at regional avalanche awareness events and professional development seminars. Recently, Scott and other avalanche professionals formed Avalanche Worker Safety, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing workplace accidents involving avalanche workers in North America. Scott served as Secretary of the American Avalanche Association and resides in Hailey, ID with his wife and son. He’s currently working as the Director of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center in Ketchum.
Mark is the Director of the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center where he has been since 2015. Before that he worked as a forecaster at the Gallatin NF Avalanche Center, as a professional ski patroller at Big Sky, as a helicopter and alpine rescue coordinator for Gallatin County Search and Rescue, and as a NOLS climbing and mountaineering instructor. He earned a MS in Engineering at Montana State University studying the energy balance at the snow surface and weak layer formation. His undergraduate engineering degree is from the University of Virginia. He has learned more about avalanches and people from visiting avalanche accidents, recovering victims, and having conversations with their partners and families. The lessons from every accident go with him everyday in the field. He is equally comfortable on skis, snowmobiles or snowbikes. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and three boys.
Lel grew up in Switzerland and started her skiing career in the Alps at the age of three. She ski raced during her college years in Vermont and even had a short stint competing in Extreme competitions when she moved to Squaw Valley in 1994. Lel has been a member of the Squaw Valley ski patrol since 1994 and from 2004 to 2010 was the assistant avalanche forecaster there. Lel has been guiding in the Chugach mountains since 1999, and in 2000 became a guide at Chugach Powder Guides. She has been guiding for Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in the Tordrillo Mountains since 2010. Lel is a licensed blaster in the state of California and is an avalanche control route leader at Squaw. She has her Level 1, 2, and 3 avalanche certifications and is an AIARE Level 1 and 2 avalanche instructor. Since 2004 Lel has been teaching avalanche courses in the Lake Tahoe area and far beyond in South America. Lel feels passionately about teaching people on the miracle of snow science and how to travel safely in the mountains. She has been an EMT since 1989 and a professional member of the American Avalanche Association since 2000. She was a member of the board for the American Avalanche Association and held the Ethics Chair position. Lel is a guide member of Heli Ski US and instructor for the HSUS Guide School.
Simon is an avalanche specialist at the Forest Service National Avalanche Center. He studied wet snow avalanching at Montana State University and has worked as an avalanche forecaster for the Moonlight Basin ski patrol, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the Sawtooth Avalanche Center, and the Northwest Avalanche Center. He was the director of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center from 2012-2014 and the interim Director of the Northwest Avalanche Center during the 2018-2019 season. He lives in Bellingham, Washington.
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 (Jr. National Ski Team, US Ski Team Talent Squad and NCAA Division Downhill Champion), he started doing avalanche control at Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Bozeman, Montana in 1978. He then earned a Master’s Degree in Geology from Montana State University where he studied avalanche science, was the director of Avalanche Control at Big Sky Ski Area in Montana, worked as a backcountry avalanche forecaster for the Alaska Avalanche Center and was the director of the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center for 29 years. Since his retirement he continues to work part time on avalanche education videos and books. He has published a number of scientific papers on various avalanche topics, was the editor of The Avalanche Review for six years and has been an invited speaker and/or consultant in Switzerland, Japan, Norway, New Zealand and Canada. He was in charge of coordinating backcountry avalanche safety for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. He produced the avalanche education video “Winning the Avalanche Game,” co-produced the popular “Know Before You Go” video and has written two avalanche books; “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” and "Avalanche Essentials" both published by Mountaineers Books. He has been featured on more than a dozen national and international television documentaries about avalanches including programs produced by National Geographic, PBS, Discovery Channel, History Channel and most of the national network news programs.
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