National Forest Foundation

Those Who Know Snow: Snow Ranger Pro Tips in the Backcountry

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by Kate Jerman

Max Forgensi has worked in the snow as an avalanche forecaster, avalanche educator and Snow Ranger for the Forest Service since 2003. We asked Max to share a few pro tips on how to enjoy a safe and fun winter in the backcountry on your National Forests, here’s what he had to say:

Make sure you’ve got the gear! Besides the requisite beacon, probe, shovel, I also recommend an avalung or air bag system. Top of my list is a container to keep a drink warm and a super comfy puffy jacket for the top of the objective. Don’t forget all types of wax; wax for spring days for your skins, kick wax if someone loses a skin and rub on wax if your skis get a bit sticky.  

Go into the backcountry with friends that you respect, trust, like and who have a risk tolerance close to yours and that communicate openly, honestly and assertively. At the end of the day it’s about breathing fresh air, the company and coming home safely. 

Bring plenty of tasty food and warm drinks to share. Sharing is caring, so spread the love of food around to make sure everyone is hydrated and has the energy to match the effort. 

Bring a way to communicate to your loved ones at home. Know where there is cell service. Call if you are going to be late. Update if you can during the day. Send pictures, but only if those receiving the pics won’t be jealous of your powder day!  

When you hit the “land of diminishing returns,” or to the point when it becomes too risky, turn around! If the visibility gets poor, the wind picks up continuously or it is getting late, tomorrow is another day. 

Always “Know Before You Go”. Weather and snow conditions can change quickly and drastically. Get the avalanche forecast (avalanche.org) and weather forecast (weather.gov). Ask yourself; “What are the avalanche problems forecasters are concerned about? What is the weather expected to do?” Fill in a zip code on the National Weather Service home page. It will load general weather for the area. In order to get point specific, zoom in and click on the map for a point-specific forecast. 

We asked Max what he like most about his job. 

What do I like most about my job? The merry band of snow enthusiasts I get to meet and work with, the level of professionalism, expertise and the stoke everyone brings to the snow environment! There are so many stories to share and much to laugh about. 

Where do you go to play in snow?

Max likes the Tenmile Range, places near Leadville, Colorado and the quieter side of the mountains in the heart of Colorado. 


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