Over the years we have kept our products fairly consistent with slow change being a general theme. In our avalanche advisory formats we have followed periodic agreements made within the professional avalanche community at our annual National Avalanche Center meetings. Over the past 20-25 years we have gone through several iterations of the danger scale definitions. We have added another descriptor- “Considerable”, reworked the travel advice and more recently added “Avalanche Problems” as several examples. Only when you take an advisory from 20 years ago and compare it to today do you get a sense of drastic change. Saying this, there is no way to ignore the pace of technology and take advantage of digital tools to deliver messages. One thing we have begun to capitalize on over the past several years is our new WordPress website platform. Certainly integrating social media tools such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook as well as blogs like our “The Pit” and the “Weekend Update” are recent evolutions. These were chosen to reach out and make more people aware that we provide daily avalanche forecasts to help them understand avalanche danger and have a safe day in the hills. As we use these different mediums we have the advantage of using feedback through Google Analytics. This has been revealing, interesting, and often perplexing on how people use our website. As an example many more people visit our site to read about the aftermath of an accident than come to see information designed as preventative information to avoid accidents. However, we understand that’s human nature and we’re not much different when we go to our colleagues websites to read more about avalanche accidents.
Using Google analytics has made us think about how we use our time, focus our efforts and determine what we could do better. This brings me to the topic of the Weekend Update and how many people use this tool. The intent of starting the Update on Friday nights 4 years ago was to provide last minute updates for people planning a weekend. In particular, providing updates on higher summit weather forecasts provided by the National Weather Service at http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=GYX&product=REC&format=CI&version=1&glossary=1&highlight=on and the Mount Washington Observatory at https://www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/higher-summit-forecast.aspx The weather update timing is based around model runs and when this new data is released by the algorithms. Depending on the weather model they are updated every 6 or 12 hours, synchronizing together at midnight and noon. So the twelve noon info could be very helpful if a weekend storm track is still in question or wind speeds still need to be dialed in a bit. In reality, it was rare that this model run came together as a critical new piece of data. Additionally, winter use numbers are quite low for the Friday product, only averaging between 50-70 unique users on Friday and Saturday morning. As we transition into late March these number begin to rise dramatically to a peak in April with a mean around 550-600 visits. Although we regret stopping anything that people find useful, we have decided to shift our focus and stop providing Weekend Updates during December, January, February, and most of March. In its place we have discussed providing condition reports, pictures of the Sherburne, updates of the Winter Lion Head Route, etc. when they are time sensitive in “The Pit”, but not on a scheduled weekly basis. We believe in winter this will be more useful and won’t become obsolete in a day or two like the Weekend Update. This week we will also provide a questionnaire/survey on the Weekend Update page to get feedback about whether or not to continue it’s use during Spring Skiing when it appears more popular. We are open to feed back around what products you think will be most helpful and will include a text box to offer comments. We thank you for reading, seeking advice, and heeding safety suggestions so you can make it back to your car at the end of the day. It’s been about 25 years for me up here on the big little mountain and I have learned a lot along the way. In great part for using one mouth and two ears so I’m eager to hear what you think. To the 50 or so that read this tonight thanks for your commitment and loyalty to www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org The End. Chris