2014 Speakers


Simon Trautman

Simon was recently hired as the National Avalanche Specialist for the Forest Service National Avalanche Center. Previously, he studied snow and avalanches at Montana State University and worked as an avalanche forecaster for Moonlight Basin, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. Simon and splits his time between Hailey, Idaho and Bellingham, Washington and likes most activities that involve mountains, oceans, or food.

Topic of Workshop

The line between work and play can be difficult to distinguish for avalanche professionals. This presentation explores a near miss in the mountains of Idaho and the lessons learned from lucky breaks, angry bosses, and our own propensity for fun.


Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy has been involved with avalanche education since the early '80s. He was a daily weather observer for the Alaska Avalanche Warning Center, did avalanche control work for the Coronado Mine and worked with well known educators Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler as a field assistant at the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. Tom was the general manager of Hatcher Pass Lodge in Alaska for 10 years where he was responsible for the many aspects of running a business as well as keeping guests safe in a mountain environment. He is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, a AAA Certified Avalanche Instructor, an AIARE Level 1 and Level 2 course leader, a fully certified ski instructor and has guided skiing trips in Alaska, Colorado and Europe. Tom was instrumental in the development of AIARE course materials and is the AIARE Director of Operations.

Topic of Workshop

Avalanche Education in North America
History, Current Status, and Current Opportunities for recreational and professional training.


Greg Pederson

My research is focused primarily on climate variability and its role in driving biological and physical components of mountainous ecosystems of western North America. In addressing these issues I use instrumental and tree-ring based records of climate to assess the time intervals and spatial scales over which these processes operate. Of particular interest is the influence of interdecadal climate regimes, long-term temperature trends, and ocean-atmosphere teleconnections in driving observed changes in mountain snowpack, streamflow, glaciers, and forest disturbance events. Recent studies have addressed the susceptibility of natural resources within national parks and protected areas to climate variability and change, and sought to apply both the modern and paleoclimatic records to present day resource management problems.

Ph.D. Watershed Management & Ecohydrology. 2010. University of Arizona, School of Natural Resources.
M.S. Environmental Science. 2004. Montana State University
B.S. Ecology and Evolution in Botany & Zoology. 2000. Michigan State University

Topic of Workshop

Northern Rockies historic snowpack variability and change & the 2015 snow forecast

The recent documented declines in snow across the western U.S. are of concern for water and wildfire managers as well as winter sports enthusiast. Our understanding of the magnitude of recent snow declines relative to the range of natural variability, however, has been limited by relatively short observational records (~60-80 years). In this presentation we'll look at the modern snow record relative to estimated snow conditions spanning past 800 years, and discuss the major controls on snowpack variability. We'll also look at projections of most likely snowpack conditions over the next 30 years, and delve into a fun discussion on the official and unofficial 2015 snowpack forecast.


Steve Karkanen

Steve Karkanen, Director, West Central Montana Avalanche Center (WCMAC) 2006-present.

Steveís outdoor career began in 1979 as a professional ski patroller in the winters and as a wildland firefighter for the US Forest Service in the summers.

Steve patrolled until 1999 when he became involved in collecting snowpack information and writing avalanche advisories for the WCMAC in the late 90ís. In 2006, responsibility for the avalanche program was assigned to Steve as part of his full-time fire job.

Steve retired from the Forest Service in 2011 after serving 32 years in Fire Management, 22 of which as the Lolo Hotshot Crew Superintendent and 6 as the WCMAC Director.

Although retired from the agency, Steve continues working with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center as Director through a service contract and cost share agreement between the agency and the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation.

He is married, has 3 stepdaughters, enjoys alpine touring in the backcountry, regular alpine skiing, snowmobiling until he gets stuck, fly fishing, hunting and hanging out at Flathead Lake.

Topic of Workshop

Case Studies
2013-14 Avalanche Incident Case Studies focused on backcountry and urban avalanche incidents in and around the West Central Avalanche Forecasting Area. What can we all learn from these.

Coming Soon!


Erich Peitzsch
Erich is the Director of the Flathead Avalanche Center. He has served as the lead avalanche specialist for the USGS/GNP Going-to-the-Sun Road Avalanche Program in Glacier National Park for 8 years and a Physical Scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey where he studies snow and ice. Before moving to northwest Montana, he completed his Masters of Science in Snow Science at Montana State University in Bozeman in 2009. He began his avalanche career as a professional ski patroller alongside the great avalanche hunters at Alpine Meadows Ski Area in Lake Tahoe, CA. When not working in the snow, you just may find him dressed up as a superhero chasing his two young sons around, running and climbing in the mountains, and eating copious amounts of ice cream.
Topic of Workshop

For the FAC of it

The Flathead Avalanche Center (FAC) is a community resource focused on avalanche safety and education. In his presentation, Erich will discuss the current state of affairs and the future of FAC as well as engage the community regarding the direction of FAC. He will also illustrate how to use FAC products in decision making processes that will include the unveiling of a new, fresh look to the FAC website.