Radio Diary: A day in the life of an avalanche forecaster

Gabrielle Antonioli’s forecasting days start at 4 a.m., when she analyzes weather and snowpack data to help keep mountain-goers safe.
Antonioli digs a research pit for the NASA SnowEx campaign in 2021. She said that while it's important to dig these snow pits to analyze weak layers, it's just as critical to be immersed in the snowpack all season long. (Courtesy of Gabrielle Antonioli)

by | Mar 8, 2023 | Avalanches

Record snow levels in the area have made for seemingly endless powder days and a reinvigorated snowpack, but also avalanches. Search and rescue officials say there have been a number of close calls this season for skiers and snowboarders in the backcountry.

Gabrielle Antonioli is one of the forecasters at Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center, which provides daily avalanche information to help keep mountain-goers safe. 

I think a lot of people think that avalanche forecasters just go out and dig pits and then look at whether it propagates or not and leave,” Antonioli said. “But really, they’re just a tool to look at trends over time and try to pick up on patterns of weak layers. Usually you just have to be pretty immersed in the snowpack and what’s happening, what weather changes are happening to it, as well as how that terrain specifically drives weather around it.”

Antonioli brings years of experience studying avalanche conditions in the Mountain West and working with the American Avalanche Institute. She’s also the region’s sole female forecaster in a traditionally male-dominated field.

She walked KHOL through a day in her life where she sends out the morning avalanche report and investigates the snow on the west side of the Tetons. Listen below to her radio diary.

More information about current snow conditions is available on the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center’s website.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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