With more and more people venturing into the park's backcountry, the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center is teaming up with the National Park to provide more localized avalanche information. Wikipedia photo.
Before this week, Grand Teton National Park was yet to have its very own avalanche forecasting system despite being a beloved zone of backcountry skiers and riders. Nestled up on the 9,770-foot Surprise Pinnacle adjacent to Surprise Lake, sits the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center’s (BTAC) newest weather monitoring station. The setup is solar powered and comprises an anemometer, temperature and humidity sensors. This forecaster is also the first to be located within the Cathedral group of the Tetons, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide. One the greatest features of the new device is a webcam that will overlook Shadow Peak, 25 Short, and Turkey Chute, all of which are some of the park’s more infamous backcountry zones—and the footage will be accessible in real time.
Efforts for the new station began earlier this summer, when Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) joined forces with the BTAC to kickstart a crowdfunding campaign to build a new weather station located in the park, particularly in the central part of the range. GTNP has become one of the most popular backcountry zones in North America, and each year more and more people are venturing out into its terrain. Before, most weather data was gathered from outside of the park’s boundaries, which posed a huge dilemma: accuracy. Even over short distances, precipitation, wind, and temperatures can dramatically change.
Bob Comey, a BTAC forecaster, has found in some instances that a storm in the Tetons can deposit six inches of snow in JHMR's Rendezvous Bowl but on Thunder, just a short distance away, there will only be an inch. This variance makes forecasting even trickier, therefore, establishing a more localized data collection system to refine the area’s forecast became a top priority for both GTNP and BTAC this upcoming winter.
Their goal was to raise $25,000 by Sept 1st and the local community's response was incredible. It only took a few weeks for the needed funds to be met. When the Surprise Pinnacle station starts transmitting data, it can be viewed real-time on JHAvalanche.org. Its sister tower at Surprise Meadow is expected to begin recording observations starting Oct 1st.