Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center

Founded in 1990 to “provide the public with current snowpack and mountain weather information and avalanche education,” the GNFAC is a tremendous resource for any backcountry visitor. Based in Bozeman, Montana, the GNFAC covers an enormous area, including the Bridger, Gallatin, Madison, and Washburn Ranges, the Lionhead area near West Yellowstone, and the mountains around Cooke City. The GNFAC is staffed by Doug Chabot, Ron Johnson, and Scott Schmidt. Together they compile daily advisories that you can receive by e-mail, their Web site, or just by calling them.

One of the chief functions is the Avalanche Center's variety of tailor-made avalanche seminars and workshops that are given in the early winter. Many long-time backcountry skiers consider the workshops a mandatory annual event before the season begins. There are two avalanche workshops: basic and advanced.

There are two basic avalanche courses this year. The course includes lectures on two evenings and a Saturday in the field. Course content includes hazard recognition, route selection, fundamental snowpack analysis, and basic search and rescue procedures. Cost is $5.00 for each evening session and $15.00 for the field session or the whole thing for $25.00.

First session: December 5th and 6th, 2001, 7:00-9:30pm, at MSU in the SUB, Ballroom B. December 8th, 2001, all day field session at Bridger Bowl. 2nd Session: January 30th and 31st, 2002, 7:00-9:30 p.m., at MSU in the SUB, Ballroom B. February 2nd, all-day field session at Bridger Bowl.

There is just one advanced class and it consists of two evening sessions and one Saturday field session. Course content includes a brief review of basic topics, snow metamorphism, avalanche slab fracture mechanics, and avalanche rescue. The field session includes snowpack analysis, route finding, and advanced avalanche rescue techniques. Cost is $45.00 (cheaper for MSU students).

February 6th and 7th, 2002, 7:00-9-30 p.m., at MSU in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom B. February 9th, 2002, all day field session at Bridger Bowl. Call 994-3621 for more information on either course.

For more info on the numerous other programs, classes, and seminars the Avalanche Center provides, visit or give 'em a call at 587-6984.