The mission of the Alaska Avalanche School is to provide exceptional experience-based avalanche safety education to all users of the mountain environment.The Alaska Avalanche School (AAS) was founded in 1976 by Doug Fesler, the chief ranger of Chugach State Park, who spent many years recovering the bodies of avalanche victims and wanted to try to stem the rise in avalanche accidents through education. One of the first schools of its type in the country, the AAS gained an international reputation for providing top quality, intensive field-oriented avalanche and mountain safety training for backcountry travelers. In its early years, the School was part of the Snow Avalanche Safety Program under the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. In 1986, when the statewide avalanche program fell victim to budget cuts, Fesler teamed up with Jill Fredston, the director of the newly defunct Alaska Avalanche Forecast Center and co-author of the classic primer Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Avalanche Hazard, to create the Alaska Mountain Safety Center, a nonprofit organization. As part of their mission to promote mountain safety through education, publishing, consulting, and research, they directed the AAS until the winter of 2005-2006 when the Alaska Avalanche School was established as a separate nonprofit organization. With a staff of 45 instructors, the school teaches over a thousand participants each winter season, both in the field and in the classroom.


Access: Avalanche education is available to all Alaskans who live, work, or travel in avalanche terrain.

Community Culture: Alaskans work together to have a culture of respect for mountain hazards.

Decision-makingAlaskans embrace & foster educated decisions in avalanche terrain.

Reduce Fatalities: Lowering the rate of accidents and deaths in Alaska in avalanche terrain through education.


To fulfill the organization’s mission and vision, five strategic initiatives have been identified for AAS to focus on during the years to come.  Each of these bigger picture initiatives are supported by a set of goals and will be reviewed often to ensure progress.

  • Meet community demand for recreational avalanche education statewide while maintaining the high quality of our course offerings and better supporting a talented instructor base.
  • Serve Alaska’s professional avalanche community by continuing our focus on professional course offerings to meet Alaskan needs.
  • Grow our capacity to serve Alaska’s snowmachine community and raise awareness for the need for avalanche education in the snowmachine community.
  • Offer more recreational courses that are less lengthy and/or advanced than a Level 1 course, tailoring offerings to those unaware of how they interact with avalanche terrain and/or those with limited exposure to avalanche terrain.
  • To prepare the school for forty years to come, invest in sustainable office administration and grow a diverse board with robust governance that represents the avalanche community.

To view our school’s plan in greater detail and understand the process we used to align our school with community needs please click on the link below.


The Alaska Avalanche School’s volunteer Board of Directors is made up of recognized leaders across many areas of expertise. They represent the broad diversity of our community and contribute significant amounts of time, talent, and energy to further the mission of the organization.

Andy Moderow : President

Andy Moderow


Jenny Mcconnel : Vice-President

Jenny Mcconnel


Andrew Dahlin : Treasurer

Andrew Dahlin


Andalyn Pace : Scribe

Andalyn Pace


Peter Wadsworth : Board Member

Peter Wadsworth

Board Member

Jessie Janowski : Board Member

Jessie Janowski

Board Member

Christina Twogood : Board Member

Christina Twogood

Board Member

John Sykes : Board Member

John Sykes

Board Member

Rob Bowler : Board Member

Rob Bowler

Board Member


Get to know the professional instructors at Alaska Avalanche School. Click on an image for a full bio statement.

Melis Coady : Executive Director

Melis Coady

Executive Director

Heather Johnson : Assistant Director

Heather Johnson

Assistant Director

Caleb Rauch : Program Director/ Instructor

Caleb Rauch

Program Director/ Instructor

Rachel Sullivan : Program Manager

Rachel Sullivan

Program Manager

Sam Henderson : Operations Manager/ Instructor

Sam Henderson

Operations Manager/ Instructor

Anitra Winkler : Instructor

Anitra Winkler


Blaine Smith : Instructor

Blaine Smith


Brooke Edwards : Instructor

Brooke Edwards


Caleigh Warner : Instructor

Caleigh Warner


Chelsea Bomba : Instructor

Chelsea Bomba


Chris Bruno : Instructor

Chris Bruno


Christina Twogood : Instructor

Christina Twogood


Daniel Krueger : Instructor

Daniel Krueger


Eeva Latosuo : Instructor

Eeva Latosuo


Elias Holt : Instructor

Elias Holt


Forest Wagner : Instructor

Forest Wagner


Fredrik Norrsell : Instructor

Fredrik Norrsell


Graham Predeger : Instructor

Graham Predeger


George Creighton : Instructor

George Creighton


Jake Kayes : Instructor

Jake Kayes


Jeff Moskowitz : Instructor

Jeff Moskowitz


Kakiko Ramos-Leon : Instructor

Kakiko Ramos-Leon


Kyle Van Peursem : Instructor

Kyle Van Peursem


Mary Gianotti : Instructor

Mary Gianotti


Mike Buck : Instructor

Mike Buck


Mike Janes : Instructor

Mike Janes


Pat Gault : Instructor

Pat Gault


Sam Roche : Instructor

Sam Roche


Tim Thomas : Instructor

Tim Thomas


Tully Hamer : Instructor

Tully Hamer