Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center honored with Forest Service award

Release Date: Jun 26, 2020

Volunteers with KPACFLAGSTAFF, Ariz., June 26, 2020 — Most folks don’t associate avalanches with Arizona—especially in the middle of summer—but this force of nature occurs on the steep, snow-laden slopes of the San Francisco Peaks on the Coconino National Forest every winter. A unique organization based in Flagstaff has worked for fifteen years to keep winter backcountry enthusiasts informed and safe on the mountain, and has recently been awarded the Forest Service’s 2019 Award for Citizen Stewardship and Partnerships. 

The Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center (KPAC) provides avalanche education, safety training and snowpack information for the Kachina Peaks Wilderness of northern Arizona. A non-profit organization, KPAC operates primarily with volunteers and partners with the Forest Service, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue and Arizona Snowbowl Ski Patrol. 

According to Paul Dawson, Flagstaff Ranger District trails coordinator and KPAC liaison, “KPAC is a unique organization in the country and fills a critical avalanche safety role. The group exemplifies the core Forest Service values of safety, service, conservation and interdependence.”

Record snowfall in 2019—the fourth wettest winter in the last two decades—meant the weekly avalanche and snowpack summary provided on the KPAC website was an essential source of information. KPAC ensured the safety of local residents and visitors to the San Francisco Peaks in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

“This award recognizes the substantial effort to professionalize our organization, as well as our investment in citizen science by collecting and reporting on the snowpack,” said James Foulks, KPAC board member.

Volunteers with KPACKPAC takes its role as an educator seriously. Their experts offer several levels of classes based on National Avalanche Association curriculum each winter, from free avalanche awareness sessions to multi-day on-snow field courses. Scholarships are available and made possible through fund-raising. During Flagstaff Festival of Science annual “Science in the Park” event, the KPAC booth attracts a crowd for model avalanche demonstrations.

Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center is the second partnering organization with the Coconino National Forest to receive this national Forest Service award. The Flagstaff Trails Initiative was recognized in 2018.

The Initiative is a collaboration between the Forest Service, City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Arizona State Parks, National Park Service, and multiple nongovernmental organizations and businesses, to improve the quality and connectivity of, and community support for, a sustainable trail system.