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Snow Geeks Unite on Campus

A large crowd of fleece clad Southcentral Alaska Avalanche professionals gathered on the APU campus talking about snow and avalanches November 1st. for a preseason tune up. APU hosted the first regional snow workshop in 2011, this second event was organized in collaboration with Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center and APU Outdoor Studies Department. More than a hundred snow experts spent an engaging Friday to hear a full spectrum of presentations from other practitioners. At least 20 APU students had a chance to participate in the event, and five faculty members sat in as well.

100+ snow nerds in the same room. Photo by Graham Predeger, CNFAIC

100+ snow nerds in the same room. Photo by Graham Predeger, CNFAIC

The day’s program highlights included Ron Simenhois from Juneau delivering a geeky talk on the most current theoretical understandings of slab mechanics, Andy Dietrick and Jim Kennedy of Alyeska Ski Patrol sharing great video footage from last year’s unusual start of winter, and Jim Nelson of National Weather Service providing tips for weather forecasting at Eastern Turnagain Arm. The afternoon’s talks were started with a bubbly panel conversation on problems of multiple groups on avalanche slope at the same time. Numerous breaks allowed smaller hallway conversations on all avalanche topics. It was a successful professional development and networking opportunity for professionals and students!

Katreen Wikstroem-Jones installing mid-elevation weather station for her data collection along Turnagain Arm. Some of the instrumentation used here was purchased with BP equipment grant. Photo by Eeva Latosuo.

Katreen Wikstroem-Jones installing mid-elevation weather station for her data collection along Turnagain Arm. Some of the instrumentation used here was purchased with BP equipment grant. Photo by Eeva Latosuo.

APU continues to move forward as a strong stakeholder in the local avalanche community. Snow and avalanche science related student projects and theses are picking up speed in time for another snow season, and faculty and students are participating in dialogue and R&D on many levels. For example, Katreen Wikstroem-Jones, MSES student, is working on a Seward Highway avalanche snow entrainment research in collaboration with Alaska Railroad, Alaska DOT and Swiss Institute of Snow and Avalanche Research, and Brian Gehring, MSOEE student, is going to study Southcentral Alaska backcountry skier demographics and risk tolerance with help from the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center. While Anchorage streets are still dry, many of us are already neck deep in thinking snow. That is just how us snow geeks roll.

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