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New avalanche director plans to use social media

| November 27, 2010 8:00 PM

SUN VALLEY (AP) - The new director of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center in central Idaho plans to use social media to make avalanche information more easily available to the public.

Chris Lundy said the avalanche center's videos on YouTube have received 32,000 views since being launched last year, more than 700 people have linked to the center on Facebook, and the center has a strong following on Twitter.

The videos show skier-triggered avalanches.

"If a picture's worth a thousand words, a video's like a million," Lundy told the Idaho Mountain Express. "People are way less likely to go and ski a steep slope after seeing that."

Lundy has worked at the center as a forecaster since 2004, but this is his first season as director. He describes himself as a computer nerd.

"We're trying to follow the trends of how people get their information," Lundy said.

He said the center should help keep people safe in a region where backcountry recreation in winter is popular.

"Avalanches are a part of our lives here, even if you're just driving down the street and you see one in the hills," he said.

Lundy went to Montana State University in Bozeman to get an engineering degree but said he got sidetracked by all the outdoor activities. He said his thesis work focused on snow science and avalanche studies.

He later became a ski patroller at Bridger Bowl near Bozeman and triggered many slides as part of his job.

He said he's an active ski mountaineer, and though central Idaho doesn't get as much snow as some other areas, the backcountry is less crowded.

"I like to measure our snow in inches per person," he said.

He predicts a great ski season this year due to a weather pattern called La Nina, which normally causes above-average snowfall.

He said that could lead to a reduced chance of dry spells, which cause a sugary snow layer that can cause slides when fresh snow falls on that layer. Fewer such dry spells, he said, mean there may be fewer times this winter when conditions are right for avalanches.

"I just think we're due for a good winter," Lundy said. "We're going to be optimistic."

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