Joosen, C. (2008). The Importance of Micro-Scale Avalanche Forecasting in Mount Washington’s Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.

Proceedings from the International Snow Science Workshop, October 2008, Whistler, BC.

ABSTRACT: For over fifty years U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers have patrolled Mount Washington and issued avalanche advisories. The focus of these activities has occurred in Tuckerman Ravine, a popular East Coast steep skiing destination and Huntington Ravine, renowned for alpine ice climbing. These two alpine cirques are within a day’s drive of 75-80 million people wanting to cut their teeth in the East’s most significant avalanche terrain. The Mount Washington Avalanche Center is tasked with educating these users through forecasting for avalanches, icefall, crevasse problems and communicating these in an advisory. Upwards of 4000 people can be expected to make the 7 mile round trip pilgrimage on a sunny spring Saturday. High visitation in this concentrated use environment paired with Mount Washington’s spatial variability has made micro-forecasting critical for successfully conveying stability issues to the public. Avalanche forecasting occurs on a micro-scale through the issuance of ratings for 16 independent areas. Stability may vary by one to three ratings within this relatively small area due to the intense spatial variability caused by Mount Washington’s extreme wind, high tensile strength hard slab, and the associated bridging over weak layers. Winds between 160 and 225 kph occur on a regular basis through the winter and provide the dominant forecasting variable. This micro-scale focus gives more detailed point specific information to visitors so they may better mitigate risk in a heavy use environment.

 Micro-Scale Forecasting ISSW 2008 (PDF)


Allen, K. U. (2000). Avalanche Terrain and Conditions in the Presidential Range, New Hampshire, US.

Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop, October 2000.

ABSTRACT: The Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire has the greatest concentration of avalanche terrain east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Mount Washington, the highest summit in the range (1917 m) and the highest peak in the northeastern United States, is a small mountain with a fierce reputation. Harsh winter weather and a high accident rate have earned Mount Washington the distinction of having the worst weather in the world and as the most dangerous small mountain in the world. The highest wind speed ever recorded over land was measured on Mount Washington at 371 km/h. Hurricane force winds (>121 km/h) are measured on average of 110 days per year. While the notoriously severe winter weather of the Presidential Range is commonly acknowledged, much less is known about the avalanche terrain, snowpack and weather conditions which characterize this small mountain range. The consistently high winds and their influence upon avalanche conditions are unique to avalanche prone areas in the United States. Winter recreation use of the Presidential Range, including Mount Washington is intense. Since 1954 there have been 10 avalanche fatalities and many other avalanche accidents in the Presidential Range. Historical data indicate that avalanche accidents have increased in the past decade, mirroring the national trend in recreation related avalanche accidents in the United States.