Sawtooth Avalanche Center Season Opener


For Immediate Release
Contact: 208-622-0095




Sawtooth Avalanche Center Season Opener



December 4, 2019


After last year’s epic snowfall and avalanches, it was inevitable this season would seem like a dry year. While last week’s storm dropped some much-needed snow in the mountains, the south central Idaho snowpack is only 50-70% of average - ouch. If you’d like to relive last winter while waiting for enough snow to ride and slide in the hills, view or download our Annual Report:


We’re thrilled to announce three major developments at the Sawtooth Avalanche Center (SAC):

  1. Expanded Forecast area: Thanks to an ORMV grant from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, we added staffing to nearly double the area covered by our Avalanche Forecasts. The additional terrain on the Sawtooth, Boise, and Salmon-Challis National Forests near Banner Summit and Stanley, Smiley Creek, Atlanta, and Carey increased our coverage area to over 2 million acres (1.15 million acres previously).
  2. Website improvements: The Friends of the SAC received a grant from the Ferris and Minor families and the Nicholas Martin Jr. Family Foundation, allowing us to build a new website platform. Users will see a clean modern look, better viewing on mobile devices, improved media function, search features, and other improvements. We’ll be working on a second phase of upgrades next summer.
  3. New Forecast template: The USFS National Avalanche Center and several major USFS avalanche centers across the western U.S. pooled resources to develop a common Avalanche Forecast template and mechanism to insert the Forecast into any avalanche center website. The Sawtooth Avalanche Center will use the system this season before a widespread rollout for the 2020-21 season. This collaborative effort aims to maximize avalanche centers’ financial resources while improving consistency among avalanche center products, making it easier for recreationists to use the products to stay safe while traveling in the backcountry.   


When can you view the new Forecasts? We will begin publishing daily Backcountry Avalanche Forecasts at when the snowpack is deep enough to keep skiers and snowmobilers off of the ground. Forecasts are issued each morning by 7:30 am and are available on the website as well as by email subscription. On weekday mornings, you can also tune into KECH 95.3 FM or KDPI 88.5 FM to hear a quick summary of the current avalanche conditions. The Sawtooth NF Facebook page (@sawtoothnationalforest) has daily updates too. Longtime avalanche center partner The Friends of the SAC also post conditions and events information on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@ or # sawtoothavy).


There are a couple staffing changes at the Sawtooth Avalanche Center this season. Forecaster Ben Vandenbos returns but is now working full time as our 4th seasonal staff member. Martin Stefan is joining the team as a Volunteer Avalanche Specialist. The Friends of the SAC are supporting Martin, a Norwegian resident, for his 5 month stay as part of the USFS International Visitors program. Welcome Martin!


The SAC covers over 3,200 square miles and typically has only one forecaster in the field daily. Information from other backcountry users is critical to producing accurate Avalanche Forecasts. The website overhaul included significant upgrades to our Observations submission and viewing platforms. There are several ways to submit observations:


  • Backcountry travelers can post their observations on the SAC website at
  • Email. Email photos and text to
  • SMS (Text). Text and images can be sent via SMS to (208) 481-5921.
  • Social Media. Backcountry users can use the hashtag #sawtoothavy on Instagram and Twitter when posting about their day or send a Facebook message to @sawtoothavy. Interested users can also follow the #sawtoothavy hashtag to see what others are observing in the backcountry.



Have you taken an avalanche course lately?  The Friends of the SAC have a full slate of Avalanche Awareness and Introduction to Avalanches education programs – visit for local class offerings and event information. These classes, as well as other avalanche safety programs throughout the state, can also be found on our Idaho Avalanche Education Calendar: Our popular “Digging Deeper” education series is back this winter. These events will be held every other week throughout the winter at rotating venues in the Wood River Valley, Stanley, and Boise. Intended as an informal, “fireside chat” style program, SAC forecasters will give brief presentations on tools, tricks, technology, and other topics of interest, leaving plenty of time for intimate discussion. The first Digging Deeper program is this Thursday, December 5th, at 6:30 pm at Sawtooth Brewery’s Ketchum Public House.

Once we have enough snow, we’ll install the Avalanche Rescue Training Park at the NW end of the Baker Creek parking lot on HWY75. The Training Park is free and always open; all you need is an avalanche beacon and probe. This is a great community tool to improve your avalanche beacon skills. In



conjunction with the Friends of the SAC, we plan to offer free Rescue Clinics at the Baker Creek facility and the Smiley Creek Lodge - visit the website and stay tuned for dates and times. The ski patrol on Bald Mountain again plans to set up their beacon practice area in the bowls as soon as snow depths permit. It provides an excellent opportunity to practice your skills on your skis or board.


The Friends of the SAC, a local 501(c)3 organization, have several exciting community events planned for this season. Highlights include the Homegrown Film Festival on December 6th and 7th at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum and four nights of Banff Film Festival movies January 31-February 4 - visit or search “sawtoothavy” on social media platforms for ticket information and details. The Friends host dozens of free or low-cost education programs every year, and they provide extensive financial support to the SAC. The avalanche center would not exist in its current state without the Friends’ hard work and the community support the SAC receives.


If you’re out sliding and riding in the hills, please let us know what you’re seeing, even if you don’t trigger any avalanches. Hope to see many of you out playing in the snow soon!

Forecasters Scott Savage, Ethan Davis, Chris Lundy, and Ben Vandenbos and Volunteer Martin Stefan


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