Who We Are

by VICTOR MCNEIL
Posted: Thu, 2/8/2018 2:08 PM

Who We Are

The Wallowa Avalanche Center (WAC) was born in 2009, after a local skier was buried and killed by an avalanche in the Northern Wallowas.  A group of locals banded together, their mission being to provide greater avalanche knowledge and information sharing to those recreating in the mountains of NE Oregon.  Not long after its inception, the WAC became a 501(c)(3) non-profit.  For the first few seasons a weekly snowpack summary was provided, highlighting observed and anticipated avalanche conditions, snowpack characteristics and recent and anticipated weather events.  

Currently the WAC is considered a Type 2 Avalanche Center, meaning we offer 1-2 regularly scheduled avalanche, snow and weather summaries per week.  These summaries do not contain specific danger ratings you would see at a Type 1 Avalanche Center.  As a Type 2 center we focus on information and messaging that will be relevant and effective over the course of several days.  As a Type 2 center we are required to follow specific guidelines set forth by the National Avalanche Center.  Some of these guidelines include: establishing agency support through the Forest Service; establishing community support; creating a business plan; and having an understanding of the local geography and terrain usage, snow climate and weather patterns, user demographics, and accident history and potential.  

Our Staff

The WAC is fortunate to have three Professional Avalanche Forecasters on staff this season.  Victor McNeil, Michael Hatch and Chris Edwards have all passed the Avalanche Level 3 advanced certification course for experienced and professional avalanche practitioners, guides and patrollers.  The Level 3 course has certain pass/fail components and is the highest-level certification course in the avalanche profession.  Michael Hatch has spent 12 seasons ski guiding in the Sawtooths and Wallowas and also teaches Level 1 and 2 avalanche courses through AIARE.  Chris Edwards has been ski guiding in the Wallowas for a decade and is an Assistant Ski Guide under the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA).  Victor McNeil is a fully certified Ski Mountaineering Guide under the AMGA and has spent the past 9 seasons ski guiding in the Wallowas.   This team is dedicated to providing you with information and resources to keep you safe in the mountains of NE Oregon.  

Moving Forward

The Mission of the Wallowa Avalanche Center is to keep winter backcountry travelers safe in the mountains of Northeast Oregon through education, avalanche advisories, mountain weather information and observations.

This season thus far we’ve hosted 7 free avalanche awareness presentations reaching nearly 250 people.  For the months of January and February we are issuing two advisories per week, whereas in the past we’ve issued one per week.  We were able to replace the aging Beacon Park at Salt Creek Summit with a new system, through a Wildhorse Foundation Grant.  Our Eastern Oregon Backcountry Festival raised over $5,000 this year and we saw an increase in overall participation.  Through the generous donations and successful fundraising events we’ve had this winter, we’re in a better place financially to continue to grow and provide the public with better tools and resources.  Thanks for all your support now and in the future!  If you have any questions/feedback contact me at victor@wallowaavalanchecenter.org