Saving lives by reducing avalanche risk to people working, traveling, and recreating on and around national forests.
The National Avalanche Center (NAC) was established in 1989 and formally recognized and funded in 1999. We provide program guidance and training to avalanche centers and military artillery programs. We also support USFS field units with avalanche related questions requiring avalanche expertise.
Avalanches kill more people on National Forests than any other natural hazard. Each winter, approximately 30 people die in avalanches in the United States, and nearly all of these deaths involve recreation on National Forests.
The Forest Service believes in providing reasonably safe recreational opportunities for the public. As such, our goal is to provide information, education, and planning tools designed to reduce avalanche risk and improve backcountry and ski area safety.
Forest Service snow rangers introduced avalanche forecasting, mitigation, and the use of military weapons for avalanche control to the U.S. in the 1940s. At the time, all U.S. ski areas with avalanche concerns were on National Forest land, so the agency assumed responsibility for mitigating avalanche hazards. Though the Forest Service transitioned out of much of the avalanche mitigation work at ski areas by the 1990s, we continue to be an integral part of the program at several ski areas through our military artillery program. Additionally, in the 1970s the FS began to take on the role of providing backcountry avalanche advisories and education for the public. Currently, the Forest Service operates a network of 14 backcountry avalanche centers. These operations are supported in large part by public donations and other partnerships (often 50% of the costs). Avalanche centers publish daily avalanche advisories and other products that are accessed several millions of times each winter, and they provide free or reduced-cost avalanche related education to tens of thousands of people annually.