After more than a decade of excellent leadership under Karl Birkeland, the Forest Service National Avalanche Center (NAC) recently announced that Simon Trautman will step into the role of Director. Karl co-founded the NAC in 1999 and retired from a three-decade career in the avalanche industry this past December.

“This is awesome news for the NAC and the Forest Service avalanche program in particular, and the US avalanche program in general. Simon is uniquely qualified,” Karl says. He shared some of Simon’s career highlights with us:

  • After serving in the US Navy, Simon earned a BS degree in Geology from Western Washington University and an MS degree in Earth Sciences at Montana State University. His MS research on wet snow avalanches was one of the first to quantitatively explore rapid changes in wet snow stability over the course of a day.
  • He ski patrolled at Moonlight Basin Ski Area, then worked at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. He directed the SAC for several years before being hired as a National Avalanche Specialist at the National Avalanche Center in 2014. While working at the NAC he also did an extended detail as the Acting Director of the Northwest Avalanche Center, during which he helped to expand and modernize their field operations and avalanche forecasting program.
  • At the NAC, Simon has been the primary project manager behind the development of and the National Avalanche Forecasting Platform, and he has worked with the National Weather Service, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and Avalanche Canada on a number of high-profile projects. Over the past few years, he has also gained a great deal of experience with the Military Artillery for Avalanche Mitigation Program.

Snow avalanches kill more people on National Forests than any other natural hazard. Each winter, 25 to 30 people die in avalanches in the United States, and nearly all of these deaths involve recreation on National Forests. The NAC provides program guidance and support to 14 Forest Service avalanche centers and military artillery programs. They also provide field support and the transfer of information and technology. The American Avalanche Association (A3) and the NAC work closely to operate, and we are excited to continue our partnership with Simon at the helm. Learn more about the NAC here.