Backcountry skiers and snowboarders in the Cascade Mountains of Washington and Northern Oregon have gained a new avalanche forecasting tool. An interactive map allows skiers to put more data in their arsenal before venturing out in the backcountry.

The new Avalanche Danger Forecast Map builds on the daily forecasts by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC). The map provides users with a daily overlay of predicted conditions based on the danger rose model, a round grid that estimates potential avalanche levels on various slope aspects and elevations.

The map with its overlays allows users to zoom in to see the forecasts close to Cascade Mountain ski areas, most of which have gates that allow skiers to exit boundaries into the backcounty. You can check out the forecast for terrain surrounding Mt. Baker, Stevens Pass, Mission Ridge, Alpental, Summit at Snoqualmie, White Pass, Crystal Mountain, Timberline Lodge, and Mt. Hood Meadows.

The map allows you to view forecast overlays for the previous 10 days to glean history and snowpack stability trends. You can jump back a week, for instance, to scan the difference for each day.

Take a look at the difference in the following maps. This first map is based on the forecast for avalanche conditions around Stevens Pass for March 13, 2012. The red indicates potential locations of high danger while the orange identifies considerable danger.

NWAC map 3-13

Map courtesy of NWAC/Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

Jumping back one day gives you a different perspective. High danger was more pervasive across the Stevens Pass region for March 12, 2012.

NWAC map 3-12

Map courtesy of NWAC/Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

NWAC includes several advisories with the map. Those advisories include the following statements:

“The avalanche danger forecast is a regional forecast only and is not intended for slope-specific use or interpretation.”

“Remember that the snow pack is highly variable, very dynamic, and snow structure and related stability can and do change within a few feet and often within a few hours, sometimes dramatically.”

“Remember, YOU are responsible for using and applying any information found here. Choice not Chance causes most avalanche accidents.”

The map’s cartography and design was created by Ben Kane, a graduate of the Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Development of the map was funded by the Friends of NWAC. Look here to find the map.