Observers Needed

As we progress towards a formal paid observer program which is dependent on funding, we are looking to establish a group of pro-observers.  At this time, we can offer gear discounts and a PAC sweatshirt to folks who submit at least 5 professional-level observations per year.  We are willing to work with folks on training.  We are willing to train both non-motorized and motorized users.

For more information contact Todd at [email protected]


Observation Tips

The PAC appreciates your time submitting an observation! Please consider these tips with thanks to the Utah and Sierra Avalanche Centers:

Use language that you’re comfortable with. It’s much better to accurately describe what you saw using non-technical language than it is to incorrectly use technical terms and abbreviations. The Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the United States (SWAG) is a whole book full of technical terms and abbreviations that avalanche pros use as a reference, but don’t memorize.

Photos and videos can communicate a lot. Provide context to your photos and videos with brief written descriptions. With a written description, you don’t have to “on-sight” a narration while recording video. Feel free to adjust photos to best show what you intend, and to trim videos to their most valuable content. We recommend sizing to photographs to 800 pixels for easier uploads.

Snowpack tests are a great way to offer information that can be compared from one ob to the next. Take a few seconds to perform the test neatly. You’ll get a lot faster the more of them you do. For more information on how to properly perform and record the results, go to chapter 2 of the SWAG. Messy, poorly performed snowpack tests can produce unreliable results.

Formal snow profiles take training and practice are a great addition. If you choose to record layers and input them into SnowPilot, remember that you can put in as much or as little information as you like. SnowPilot is available for free.

Snow pit photographs are great if you don’t want to prepare a formal profile.  Some of our forecasters actually prefer these and they are easy for the general public to understand.

Cutting test slopes is not recommended. It is inherently dangerous and can provide misleading information; however, small but representative test slopes may provide good information with less risk. Please use caution! Test slopes (e.g. mini golf for you TGR folks), by definition, have minimal consequences.

We would love more observations from motorized users.  Any information is useful including how far deep you were trenching, ease of travel, avalanches observed etc.

Consider organizing your observations around obvious clues and red flags:

  • Avalanche Activity. Describe where you saw avalanches (location, elevation, & aspect), width, depth, and trigger. If you had a close call, there is no judgement because we will all benefit if you feel like sharing what happened.
  • Collapsing or cracking. Did you see shooting cracks, or hear the propagating collapse of a weak layer (whumpfing)?
  • A lot of new snow. Depth, type, and relative density of new snow. Is it bonded well to the old snow underneath? Is the new snow upside down?
  • Active wind transport or evidence of previous wind transport.
  • Signs of rapid thawing in the spring. Also, lack of an overnight refreeze in the spring.

Secret stashes are secret for a reason. We don’t want anyone to submit an observation for fear of disclosure of their secret stashes.  Feel free to keep things general enough with just aspect, drainage and elevation info at your discretion.   There is also an option in our form to keep your observation non-public, only the forecasters will see this info.