News Releases
Office of Governor Gary Locke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 4, 1997
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Gov. Locke saves Northwest Avalanche Center for the winter

OLYMPIA - Gov. Gary Locke is using $35,000 from his office emergency fund to keep open the Northwest Avalanche Center through this winter. The center had predicted it would close in January after its funding was cut during the last legislative session.

"There is no doubt the Northwest Avalanche Center saves lives," said Governor Locke. "We've had a drop in avalanche deaths even while more people are driving our mountain passes and using mountain backcountry for recreation during the winter. I'm pleased to make this emergency grant to protect people while we look to long-term funding solutions for the center."

In addition to the governor's emergency appropriation, the Snowmobile Advisory Committee to the State Parks and Recreation Commission is providing $5,000 to fill the $40,000 funding gap created when the Department of Transportation's share of the center's budget was cut.

"We are thrilled the governor has appropriated money to keep the avalanche center open," said Cleve Pinnix, director of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission "It's a unique service that allows thousands of winter recreationalists to get up-to-date weather information and keep safe while playing in the wilderness."

"The Mountaineers is delighted that Governor Locke has recognized the importance of the Northwest Avalanche Center with this appropriation," said Marcia Hanson, president of The Mountaineers. "This gives the recreational community more time to work with the public and private sectors in exploring ways to fund the center on a permanent basis. But more importantly, the center will remain open this winter, protecting the lives of climbers, hikers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers and motorists heading over the mountain passes."

"Experienced cross-country skiers, snowshoers, climbers and snowboarders rely on the Northwest Avalanche Center every day," said Kathleen Beamer, public affairs vice president for Recreational Equipment Inc. "Knowledge of the snowpack stability is key to safe winter travel, and the center is the best, most reliable source for that information in the Northwest." REI provided a grant to The Mountaineers to help build grassroots support for the Center.

Since it was created in 1977, the Northwest Avalanche Center has been instrumental in reducing the number of avalanche fatalities in mountain backcountry and on highways. While winter travel and recreation in the mountains has increased, avalanche deaths have dropped to less than two per year from a rate of three-to-four per year during the 1970's.

The avalanche center received more than 75,000 inquiries for winter mountain weather information on its hotline and Web site last winter. It provides weather information and avalanche forecasting twice a day and monitors and maintains 17 remote mountain weather monitoring stations.

The Northwest Avalanche Center is cooperatively funded by a variety of federal, state and private sources. Last biennium, the state Department of Transportation provided $80,000 or slightly less than half of the center's funding. This biennium, $40,000 was cut from DOT's portion of the funding. Because the cut came so late in the legislative session, the center was not able to cover the shortfall from other sources and planned to close in January 1998.

The Northwest Avalanche Center Hotline is 206-526-6677. Its Web site address is

» Return to this month's News Releases
» View News Release Archive

Access Washington