Avalanche Forecaster Gets Into Job After Losing Friends In Avalanches

Feb 17, 2021, 11:37 PM | Updated: 11:52 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s one thing to love your day job. However, Westminster College computer science professor Greg Gagne also loves his morning job.

“Absolutely. Yeah,” he said with a smile. “It is my passion.”

Gagne is a part-time forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. He’s worked with them for more than 20 years and has been forecasting for about five years.

Utah Avalanche forecaster Greg Gagne sits in front of a monitor showing Wednesday’s avalanche danger. (Steve Breinholt/KSL-TV)

Right now, though, he’s seeing things in the Wasatch Mountains, particularly in Salt Lake County, he hasn’t seen in quite a long time.

“Conditions are pretty dangerous,” he said. “They’ve been dangerous all season long, but this is the most dangerous they’ve been this season — and quite frankly, the most dangerous it’s been for quite a few years.”

Part of forecasting involves fieldwork, and every time Gagne sees an avalanche in the backcountry, he remembers why he started working with the Utah Avalanche Center.

“I first moved here from New England and knew nothing about avalanches, and within my first three years here, I lost a friend to avalanches,” said Gagne.

That’s when he decided to get educated about avalanches.

Utah Avalanche forecaster Greg Gagne sits in front of a monitor showing Wednesday’s avalanche danger. (Steve Breinholt/KSL-TV)

He called the Utah Avalanche Center and asked if could follow a forecaster into the field to see what it involves.

“Things were never the same ever since,” he said. “I learned so much in that day. It was amazing.”

Now, Gagne wants to educate others with his fieldwork and forecasting, so their memories of the backcountry are better than his.

“When I’m out there, I think of my friends that I have lost, and it helps because they’re with me. I feel like I’m doing something with them,” said Gagne. “So, it’s very rewarding. Yeah.”

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Avalanche Forecaster Gets Into Job After Losing Friends In Avalanches