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This winter the snow conditions might have been less than ideal, but the center reached a record number of people. By the end of the season today, it will have reached 1.3 million users via email blasts, its website and a phone hotline, which still gets more than 20,000 calls a year, said Bob Comey, director of the center.

The center started in the 1970s. It provides backcountry users with up to date weather and snow information for western Wyoming, including the Tetons, Togwotee Pass and the Greys River, as well as information on the region's avalanches.

Snow conditions can differ slope to slope, or even on a single slope. The rating is a general guideline for an entire area, such as the Tetons, or Togwotee Pass. Yet the most deaths occur during days labeled "moderate" or "considerable," two of three lowest danger ratings, Comey said. People read the report and let their guard down. and begins work for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. He creates an area specific forecast for marketing blasts and also to brief the ski patrol. Forest Service employees.

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On days like this, when there isn't need to use explosives, Comey heads to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. aerial tram car to the top, he briefs the ski patrol, then once atop Rendezvous, he checks weather plots scattered around the mountain.

He also rates the avalanche danger for the day using a five level scale, from low to extreme.

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Western Wyoming's steep, yet accessible slopes lure backcountry recreationists from when the first flurries start to Mens Nike Cortez Nylon fly to late spring and sometimes even early summer when the snow from the valley floor is long gone, but the mountains are still white.

TETON VILLAGE Beneath a beckoning blanket of snow is a story. Or perhaps a warning if you know how to read the layers beneath the frosted surface.

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The weather stations sit just outside the ropes marking the ski resort boundaries, or in clumps of trees, off the beaten path. They measure such things as wind speed and direction, snowfall, weight and density. Data is transmitted from the plots by computer, but every morning Comey, or another forecaster, also checks manually. Measuring snow is tricky because wind moves it around so easily, he said.

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In the winter, working at the forecasting center is really a seven days a week job. Comey is in the backcountry on his days off, checking weather plots on Teton Pass or Togwotee Pass, visiting reported avalanche sites, digging snow pits to look at the layers, constantly checking the weather and, of course, doing some skiing to verify all of his findings.

throughout the mountain, which is why multiple weather stations provide data in an effort to offer information specific to certain areas.

This year there were about 830 reported avalanches. Of those, 544 were at the resort, most triggered by explosives.

end of March, there hadn't been an avalanche in more than a week and little snow the night before only two inches. Comey's morning was relaxed. As he perused weather sites and data, resort employees ducked their heads in the office, greeting Comey with a question: "How much?"

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When a layer slides, the snow can reach speeds of up to 80 mph uprooting trees, moving boulders and/or washing away people in its path.

The center's consistency makes it seem as though the report appears on its own each morning. But really it's the work of a small, dedicated staff of meteorologists who specialize in snow science. on a typical winter day. His head still on his pillow, he pulls graphs and weather reports onto his iPhone. Comey and the other three forecasters at the center are all meteorologists, but they use data provided by the National Weather Service in Riverton so they can focus on avalanches. Comey heads into the office, a small room in a building at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Some days, the rating is easy and obvious, Comey said. Other days it's much tougher. Comey knows people will use the rating as a basis for making decisions in the backcountry. There's pressure to get it right.

window Comey can look out at the ski hill for a first hand view of the weather. The early morning is spent compiling "the big sheet," a collection of data from weather stations such as wind speeds, recent snowfall, humidity, total snowfall and temperatures, all of which can impact avalanche risks.

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If it snowed a lot during the evening, patrollers arrive earlier at the mountain to shoot explosives in hopes of triggering slides before skiers arrive. The forecasters provided data on what might slide to help plan mitigation efforts.

Evaluating snow conditions is a vital skill for backcountry users. And while they scrutinize what they see before them in the mountains, many also use information they glean before they leave home from the Bridger Teton Avalanche Forecast Center.

The routine early morning ski lap gives him a chance to experience the mountain's conditions ice this March morning at the top of Rendezvous Bowl, giving way to a smooth, fresh layer of snow midmountain before turning sticky and then to slush at the bottom. The climate differs Nike Cortez Qs 72

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There were three avalanche related deaths in Wyoming this year, all in the backcountry, Comey said. Despite a rotten snowpack, it was a fairly average year.

In a gloved hand he examined the snow crystals, and using a glass tube took his own measurements. At the first station the snow was denser than reported. Density is an important element to understand in the snow. If denser snow comes in first, it can pack down, but when light snow falls and heavier settles on top it creates instability, he said. Comey is always trying to understand the snowpack structure, which layers are weak, which are strong and how they stack on each other.

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Wyoming avalanche center works to keep people informed and safe

"Our job is to be the person who paid attention to what happened overnight," Comey said.

At this hour the mountain is quiet and empty save for a lifty or patroller making his or her way to their station on the mountain.

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