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 AAA 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 is currently the risk manager for Crystal and several other Boyne western resorts. Paul 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 a co-owner of International Mountain Guides (IMG), an AMGA accredited 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 is a member of the National Avalanche School steering committee. He is a former vice president of the American Avalanche Association. Paul received a B.A. 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 over 35 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 B.A. 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. 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 doing education work for girls in northern Pakistan (www.iqrafund.org).
Max ForgensiMax started his ski industry career in 1995 as a ski instructor at Big Tupper while working towards his Civil/Environmental Engineering degree at Clarkson University. During subsequent winter seasons, he served as a ski patroller at Breckenridge and then as a Forest Service avalanche forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center in Moab. Max has been an AIARE instructor since 2003 and is currently a mountain sports administrator on the White River National Forest, focusing on mountain operations and construction projects at Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts. Living in Leadville and a father of two young snow aficionados, he finds time to run and backcountry ski between completing his Masters of Natural Resources through the University of Idaho.
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.
Andy is the Program Director for the NAS and serves as the Chair for the NAS Steering Committee. He brings over 20 years of ski patrol experience to the National Avalanche School, many of those years as an avalanche technician in Colorado’s demanding snow climate at Breckenridge Ski Resort (the last several of those years with his avalanche dog, AyUp). He has taught avalanche courses for AIARE, the AAI, and the AAA (AvPro) and has guided climbing expeditions to many of the great mountain ranges of the world. Andy has dedicated much of his life exploring, working in, teaching about, and trying to understand the cold, snowy reaches of our planet.
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.
Simon works as the national avalanche specialist at the Forest Service National Avalanche Center. He has an MS in Geology from Montana State University and has worked as an avalanche forecaster for the Moonlight Basin ski patrol, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. He was the director of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center from 2012-2014. Simon splits his time between Hailey, ID and Bellingham, WA.
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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