Our Team of Avalanche Educators
Melis Coady, Executive Director
Melis has lived and worked in Alaska for 17 years enjoying a career on snow and glaciers as a climbing ranger for Denali National Park, senior guide for the Alaska Mountaineering School and a field instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School. She has completed Avalanche Level 2 training, and has skied/climbed on 7 continents including two seasons as a field guide for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. A dedicated educator, Melis has spent over a decade certifying students in emergency medicine as a wilderness medicine instructor for the Wilderness Medicine Institute and as a climbing instructor navigating avalanche terrain. On the board of two non-profits, Denali Rescue Volunteers and the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund, Melis shares her deep dedication to safety in the outdoors with a broad audience. She looks forward to helping AAS continue to be a leader in avalanche education.
Aleph grew up in Vermont exploring the woods on her cross-country skis. She ventured out west and fell in love with snow and avalanche studies at Prescott College while pursing her degree in Outdoor Experiential Education. After college an internship with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center landed her in the San Juan Mountains. This launched her into a diverse career where she has garnered experience as a highway avalanche forecaster, a backcountry avalanche forecaster, a patroller and a ski guide. She has worked and skied in many of the western states, experiencing different snow climates and spent a summer patrolling in New Zealand. Through all the jobs and travels she has been an avalanche educator sharing her passion for snow. She is the former director of the Alaska Avalanche School as well as the Silverton Avalanche School, an American Avalanche Association Certified Instructor and AIARE instructor. She loves helping her students learn to have an opinion about the snow and be part of the decision-making process. She is currently an avalanche forecaster for the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. Photo credit: email@example.com.
Anitra grew up in interior Alaska dog mushing and taking turns towing snowboards behind snow machines. She attended UAS in Juneau and almost immediately joined the four year outdoor studies program where she took AV 1 and 2 and for two years was the teaching assistant for a variety of classes from Sea Kayaking to Mountaineering. She spent last winter helping out at the Avalanche School and looks forward to doing more this year.
The rest of the year she can be found in Kodiak commercial fishing and enjoys traveling and powder skiing.
Brad fell in love with the outdoors where he grew up in the Pacific Northwest and began working in the outdoor recreation industry at the age of 14. Since 2000, Brad has lived in the Turnagain Arm region, where he can play and work on the water in its solid and liquid forms. During the last 18 years working on the snow, Brad has worked as a ski touring guide, a mechanized ski guide, and an avalanche course instructor. He also spent several seasons working with snow sports movie production crews and avalanche mitigation teams during that time. Brad’s real strength comes from countless days in the field, both personally and professionally, and an never-ending desire to keep skiing the backcountry. Like most snow professionals, Brad has blended his work and play time on the snow with the necessary certifications it takes to stay on the "sharp end" of things, and he has had the chance to gain this experience in a variety of locations and snow climates. Brad is proud to be a part of Alaska's original avalanche school. When not obsessing about snow or water, Brad can be found enjoying Alaska with his wife Shannan and 3-year-old son Will.
A long time Alaskan resident, Brooke Edwards has been involved with the ski industry on multiple levels for going on two decades. She first received her Avalanche Level 1 certification from the Alaska Avalanche School in 1997 in Hatcher’s Pass and it was that course that made her decision to move to Alaska fulltime. Since then she has been engaged in the avalanche community as a board member for F-CNFAIC, an avalanche observer, a NOLS instructor, a ski instructor at Alyeska Resort and working on staff for Chugach Powder Guides.
Eeva is Associate Professor in Outdoor Studies at Alaska Pacific University and part time avalanche educator with Alaska Avalanche School. Born and raised in Finland, she has called AK home for the last 10 years. Before moving up north, she sampled other mountain regions in North America. This included skiing Mount Baker during the record snow in season ‘94-‘95, ski patrolling in Colorado for five years and teaching mountaineering courses in the North Cascades & the Coast Range. Eeva teaches Level 1 & 2 courses for AAS and would love to travel around Alaska to teach more custom courses. With all the spare time, she trains her operational avalanche rescue dog, Sisu, and drinks strong coffee.
Elliot grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. His family encouraged his love of being in the outdoors from a early age, taking him on many family death-marches, which probably explains why he likes going alpine climbing so much nowadays.
He graduated from Green Mountain College with an Adventure Recreation degree, and moved to New Hampshire to pursue climbing and a guiding career. Elliot started guiding on Denali in 2007, and in 2014 finally made the move up to Alaska full time, lured up by the promise of un-ending powder skiing and the love of a beautiful lady (his future wife).
Now he spends his free time enjoying the climbing and skiing Alaska has to offer and traveling to pursue these passions and his profession. He is currently working on obtaining his IFMGA certification.
Along with the Alaska Avalanche School, he also guides for the Alaska Mountaineering School and Exum Mountain Guides.
Fredrik grew up in Sweden, where he started leading groups in the outdoors at 17 years old. He initially came to the USA in 1998, where he earned his MS in chemistry at Utah State University. In his spare time, he volunteered for the university’s Outdoor Program, leading trips and teaching courses in backpacking, mountaineering, and climbing rescue skills. He was also involved with Logan Avalanche Forecast Center providing backcountry observations. Since 1995, Fredrik has worked full-time in outdoor education, spending over 2500 days teaching and leading groups in the outdoors, everything from backpacking in the Utah desert and sea kayaking in New Zealand, to mountaineering in Patagonia and winter camping expeditions. His experience as a teacher was recently summarized by one of his students: "You were by far the best teacher I have ever had—including a lifetime in private school, four years at Harvard, and the rest of NOLS.” When not teaching, Fredrik is pursuing his passion for nature and adventure photography.
Growing up in Fairbanks, Forest has a keen appreciation for winter. He has worked in various snowpacks and currently lives in Juneau.
Graham was born and raised in Anchorage. He began skiing the Chugach backcountry in high school as a naive, uneducated teenager. He migrated to the Vail Valley after receiving a natural resource management degree from CSU spending eight seasons working in Colorado as a USFS backcountry snow ranger on Vail Pass. During this tenure, Graham absorbed all the information he could regarding snow and avalanches through formal classes, practical experiences and a few near misses. Working as a forecaster for the CNFAIC since 2011 has allowed his snow and avalanche education to continue, bringing Graham full circle back to a more coastal snowpack. He is a Professional Member of the American Avalanche Association and AVPRO trained. A personal goal for Graham has been to further involve and engage the motorized community in their local avalanche center. Spare time is spent sled-skiing, mountain biking and chasing his 3-year-old Daughter around!
Heather moved from northern Idaho to Alaska in 1998, and immediately fell in love with the remote and mountainous landscape. She graduated from the Outdoor Studies program at Alaska Pacific University in 2003 and has been teaching wilderness, sea kayaking, and glacier travel skills for the program since 2005. In the winters Heather enjoys teaching avalanche education and working as a ski patroller for Alyeska Ski Resort and is currently an avalanche forecaster for the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. She is also an avid photographer and spends her summers documenting weddings and assorted adventures around Alaska and afar. In her free time she can be found backcountry skiing and packrafting in her backyard near Girdwood and loves exploring new places in Alaska.
Originally from Minnesota, Jake spent much of his childhood trying to ski, and play outside as much as possible. Jake first came to Alaska to attend Alaska Pacific University. While in college Jake developed a love for ice climbing and backcountry skiing. During the winter, when not working for the Alaska Avalanche School, Jake works at his alma mater Alaska Pacific University teaching winter travel skills. In the summer, you can find Jake exploring different parts of the Alaska Range, leading courses and guiding on Denali. When Jake’s not in the mountains he lives in Chickaloon, and spends his time fly fishing and packrafting.
Jed Workman was originally introduced to the mountains on a tiny ski slope in Connecticut at age five. In 1988 his high school outdoor program tied him into his first climbing rope and lured him into an obsession. Jed moved to Salt Lake City in 1990 where he completed a BFA at the University of Utah in printmaking while minoring in powder in Little Cottonwood Canyon. A few years working in the Black Diamond warehouse enabled him to build a small climbing arsenal and put away enough pennies to spend the summers in Yosemite. Several years in Yosemite lead to expeditions to Alaska, Pakistan and China. In 2003 Jed permanently moved to the Matanuska Valley of Alaska with his wife Allie, where they are just as likely to shoot a moose, net a salmon, ski a couloir or clip a quick-draw. Since 2000, Jed has guided for the National Outdoor Leadership School, the Alaska Mountaineering School, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides. Jed is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, a US Heli Ski member, avalanche level III certified, a wilderness first responder, avalanche forecaster for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, and director and a forecaster for the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center.
Jenna grew up in Colorado where she cultivated her lifelong connection to the mountains. She found her passion for skiing later in life but then quickly connected it to a means to access the mountains in winter. After moving to Alaska in 2002, Jenna became an adamant backcountry skier devoted to improving her powder-swhishing telemark turn in the big mountains, and then more recently, learning to fit in as an occasional AT skier. Jenna is the former owner of Backcountry Babes, bringing women’s-specific avalanche courses to Alaska. She has an Avalanche Level 3 certification, is a Pro Member of the American Avalanche Association, and has been teaching introduction to backcountry skiing and avalanche courses through multiple organizations in Alaska since 2009. Besides enjoying skiing and the outdoors for her own play, Jenna has worked for many years as a wildlife biologist in Alaska and the Rocky Mountain West, is always on the search for a good wolverine sighting (she has seen 8 so far!), and now has a master’s degree in sustainable design. Jenna enjoys connecting with people, experiencing the amazing awesome of nature, and empowering herself and other people to play smart in the outdoors.
Jessie grew up in Oklahoma, but always knew her heart belonged in the mountains. From a young age, she developed a love for skiing during annual Spring Break ski trips with her family. Her passion for the mountains drew her to Alaska in 2010 after graduating from the University of Oklahoma. While she has ice climbed, choss wrangled, mountain biked, and bushwhacked her way across Southcentral Alaska, she is most deeply in love with backcountry skiing, her self-described purpose in life . She became so enamored with snow science after her Level 2 with AAS, that she began pursuing a future in avalanche forecasting. She has been a board member of the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center since 2016, focusing her efforts on education and outreach. Last season as a volunteer she taught Know Before You Go avalanche awareness classes for AAS and rescue clinics for CNFAIC, personally reaching a combined 700+ students! She is stoked to be interning for the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center this season and to continue teaching courses for AAS. When there is not enough snow in Alaska to ski, she can be found with her husband Sam Galoob, wandering North America in her van the Chimichanga Chaser, exploring desert slot canyons, climbing beautiful granite walls, shredding the finest singletrack, soaking in natural hot springs, and chasing the best Mexican food in all the land.
Joe is an internationally certified, IFMGA mountain guide with a passion for mountain adventure in Alaska. He has been climbing and skiing around the world for 30 years with significant time in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Alps, and throughout South America and the western United States. Of all the places he's visited, the mountains of Southcentral Alaska are his favorite. Joe has an undergraduate degree in geology and geography from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and a graduate degree in watershed science (snow science focus) from Colorado State University. In addition to guiding, Joe works as a writer and photographer. His guidebook for backcountry skiing in Southcentral Alaska, The Alaska Factor, was published in 2012. Joe is also a photographer and is responsible for many of the images on this site. Please visit his website, Stock Alpine. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Cathy.
John is currently working on a masters degree in snow science at Montana State University in the Department of Earth Science. His research focuses on modeling the travel behavior and decision-making of backcountry skiers using GPS tracks and survey responses. During the summers John works as a mountaineering and wildness backpacking guide for Alaska Mountaineering School and Alaska Alpine Adventures. Outside of guiding, John enjoys taking long walks in the mountains (preferably with skis on his feet), with heavy packs and high uncertainty of success.
Karsen grew up in Bozeman, Montana. She was first lured into the mountains by her mother who incentivized the experience with pockets full of jellybeans. Thus began a deep and abiding appreciation for steep, snowy places and an unfortunate sweet tooth. She now works as a full time pro patroller for Alyeska resort, starting avalanches and splinting knees. The other half of the year, Karsen works as a wildland fire medic and raft guide.
Leighan was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and started her ski career as a Nordic racer in high school. She spent eight winters in the lower 48 learning the craft of downhill skiing in the snowy mountains of Utah, Colorado, and Montana. She has worked as a ski patroller, heli-ski guide, avalanche educator, climbing guide on Denali, and more recently as a commercial pilot. She lives in Talkeetna, Alaska with her climbing ranger husband, a feisty three-year-old, and an airplane.
Mik skied the slopes of Minnesota, usually being pulled behind a snow machine, until she moved to Colorado where she traded snow machines for chair lifts. Mik has worked as a ski patroller for over a decade beginning at Arapahoe Basin, CO before moving to Alaska where she joined the Alyeska Ski Patrol. Mik has also been a park ranger for the National Park Service and an outdoor educator for the Outward Bound School teaching sea kayaking and glacier mountaineering. Mik is a member of Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs and spends time training her dog Zooka. Together, they are a certified avalanche rescue team. Mik lives in Seward with her husband Mark.
Born in Juneau, Alaska Mike has spent most of his working career outside. After several years as a lead guide and Instructor at the Alaska Mountaineering School, Mike transitioned to winter avalanche work and has run the industrial forecasting and avalanche control program for Alaska Electric Light & Power in Juneau since 2010. An American Avalanche Association Certified Instructor and Pro Course Instructor, Mike also loves to teach avalanche courses. He has taught courses for the University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Avalanche Specialists and Alaska Avalanche School. In addition to being the father of a family of aspiring dirt bags, Mike is also involved with the volunteer rescue group SEADOGS with his dog Otis training for Wilderness and Avalanche Search.
Nancy took her first avalanche class as a 17-year-old college student and has been a serious student of snow ever since. She has been teaching for the Alaska Avalanche School since 1990. She has worked as an avalanche forecaster, international mountain guide and even did a stint studying snow and teaching winter camping in Antarctica, but teaching is her passion.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Nick began climbing and skiing mountains as soon as he could walk. Home is now Girdwood, Alaska. He is a graduate of the Outdoor Recreation Leadership program from Colorado Mountain College and Alaska Pacific University’s Outdoor Studies program. Since 2008, Nick has been a year-round mountain guide, ski guide and educator. In the winter and spring, if not teaching Avalanche Courses - Nick guides backcountry ski and snowboard trips with his own company Remarkable Adventures. As well as guides snow cat and heli-skiing with Chugach Powder Guides. During the spring and summers Nick leads ski mountaineering expeditions in the great ranges of Alaska or you may find him living abroad ski guiding in places like New Zealand. Along with his extensive experience in Alaska and abroad, he is an AMGA Certified Ski Guide, Wilderness First Responder, Avalanche Level 3 and Leave No Trace Master Educator. Nick loves to share his knowledge about safe mountain travel and looks forward to sharing his passion for the mountains with you.
Sam will be returning to the Alaska Avalanche School for his second season, after supporting AAS’s “Know Before You Go” educational outreach program last season. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, and loves to “nerd out” in the snow. During the 2017-2018 season, he will also be an intern with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, and is a member of the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center Advisory Board. He has been travelling in his camper van, “The Chimichanga Chaser” with his wife Jessie, across North America in pursuit of the best skiing, mountain biking, climbing, canyoneering, and yes, chimichangas since May 2017.
Originally from Rochester, NY, Sean grew up playing in the snowy hills of the Finger Lakes. Eventually he wanted more than icy, man-made ski trails and infrequent snowstorms. Alaska Pacific University's Outdoor Recreation program drew Sean to Anchorage but the beautiful mountains, unbelievable snow totals, and warm community kept him around. After graduating with a BA in Outdoor Studies concentrating in Snow Science, Sean moved to Girdwood, seeking a better stage for ritual dances, prayers, and offerings for the snow gods. When he’s not looking for powder, Sean works for the Alaska Mountaineering School as an ice climbing guide and Nova River Runners as a raft guide.
Tim taught himself how to ski at 16 because he was tired of walking down Cascade Volcanoes (and its way more fun). At 18 he took his first avalanche class in Central Oregon. Since then he has worked as a guide, professional ski patroller, certified avalanche dog handler, avalanche instructor, and a volunteer with SAR groups. He is currently a Highway Avalanche Specialist. Although he enjoys the summer grind winter will always have his interest.
Originally from the Matanuska Valley, Chelsea grew up playing in the Talkeetna and Chugach mountains at every opportunity.
Her love for the outdoors landed her in Juneau to complete a certificate in Outdoor Studies through the University of Alaska Southeast. While completing the certificate, she was bamboozled into sticking around and enrolling in an Outdoor Adventure Studies bachelor degree. She called Juneau her home for 5 years, balancing exploration of glaciers, the Coast Mountains and the Tonagass National Forest with academics.
During the summer of 2014, Chelsea received an internship at the Alaska Mountaineering School, where she now works as a mountaineering instructor and guide on Denali and the surrounding Alaska Range peaks.
The new job transplanted her back to south central Alaska in the spring of 2015. That spring, Chelsea took her Level 2 with Alaska Avalanche School and discovered a new passion for snow science and avalanche education.
Chelsea’s first love is skiing but she also enjoys climbing rock or ice, fishing, biking and tasty IPAs.
Born and raised in Alaska, Blaine has a long history of playing and working in the outdoors. Blaine started guiding hiking trips in the Talkeetna Mountains and glacier hikes in the Chugach Mountains in 1987 and since then has combined a host of outdoor jobs to make a living. Blaine worked as a mountain guide for 20 years, guiding primarily in the Alaska Range and the Andes. He has also taught mountaineering for the University of Alaska and avalanche safety for Alaska Pacific University. Blaine started with the Alaska Avalanche School under the tutelage of Doug Fesler and Jill Fredston in 1989. After teaching thousands of students about avalanches and decision making in the backcountry, Blaine is more enthusiastic than ever to empower people to safely enjoy the backcountry. Blaine has been published in Accidents in North America, The Canadian Mountain Guides Journal, Lessons Learned II: A Guide to Using Case Studies in Outdoor Education and the International Technical Rescue Symposium Proceedings.
Blaine lives with his wife Deb in the mountains outside Eagle River Alaska where he tries to get out skiing every day of the winter.
Pat Dryer lives in Juneau, Alaska and is an avid skier and backcountry enthusiast. Originally from Wisconsin, he moved to Juneau and started Ski Patrolling at Eaglecrest Ski Area. During that time Pat has become an avalanche educator for the American Avalanche Association as well as the National Ski Patrol. He also assists with the City of Juneau Urban Avalanche Advisory as a forecaster. Pat has served as the President of Juneau Mountain Rescue for 6 years as well as a Director on the Alaska Search and Rescue Association, Mountain Rescue Association, and the Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center boards. When he is not skiing or patrolling Pat, his wife Jackie and son Oliver can be found boating and exploring Southeast Alaska.
I was involved with two avalanche body recoveries in a month’s time as a member of the Vail Mountain Rescue Group in the winter of 1992-1993. At the time, avalanche education was very expensive and many classes emphasized snow science. Myself and three other members of the group thought it would be better to save lives by providing affordable, effective and practical avalanche education. We would rather spend our time educating about avalanches than going on avalanche rescues. We started the Walter Kirch Avalanche Seminars for all backcountry users. The success of the classes lead to them being offered at Colorado Mountain College. In 1996 we offered our first snowmobile specific class. Avalanche 1 was started in 2005 to provide avalanche education to meet the specific needs of snowmobilers.
Annie Stadig- Intern
Annie Stadig. I am 28 years old from Texas studying outdoor studies with a concentration in snow science at APU. Have a previous degree in Sport Administration from the University of Louisville. Fell in love with Norway and snow while traveling through Europe. As a surfer, discovering snowboarding was the jazz to me, I love sliding around on water in all of its elements. Finding some pretty rad and capable friends in Norway, I decided to take a break and put some roots in Alaska while using my GI Bill to get up to speed with them. I hope my career and capabilities allow me to spend lots of time on some mountains near an ocean.
Sammie Ellsworth - Operations Manager
Born on a rural farm on the McCarthy road, Sammie grew accustomed to the sight of be
mountains during dark, cold snowy months of Alaskan winters. The youngest of five, she grew
up playing outside, riding horses, mushing dogs, and doing endless chores. Striving for more
than her tiny bush school offered, in 2014 she completed Alaska Pacific Universities Early
Honors Program, where she threw herself into the climbing community. The following year, she
stayed at Alaska Pacific University and set her sights on receiving her bachelors in Adventure
Therapy, majoring in Outdoor Studies and minoring in Psychology. Through this amazing
program, she spent months learning both soft and hard skills in incredible places (i.e. skiing in
the Alaska Range, climbing in British Columbia, monitoring human impacts on the front range).
During the next few years of her college education, her love for skiing and avalanche education
increased. She now has both her Level 1 and 2 avalanche certifications and hopes to continue on
the Professional track. During the summer of 2017, Sammie received an internship at the Alaska
Mountaineering School, where she now works as a mountaineering instructor and guide on
Denali and the surrounding Alaska Range peaks. If you don’t find her in the office drinking
coffee, she is probably making sweet pow turns or snuggled up with a good book and her dog.
Raven – Office Guard Dog
Born in rural Alaska, this Border Collie/ Bernese Mountain Mutt is the ruler of Sammie Ellsworth. Be warned: Raven will greet you with a lot of barking…unless you happen to bribe her with peanut butter, meats of any kind, milk bones, or other dogs to play with. She has her pick of the couches, but is always here for moral support. Her favorite office activities are scaring the mailman, policing the neighborhood, playing fetch, napping, and more napping. When she is not in the office, she is probably playing in the snow or snuggled up with her human.
Kakiko-San RL - Program Manager
Born and raised in Mexico, Kakiko, started rock climbing and mountain climbing in college, came to Alaska for first time in 2005 to climb Denali. That's where the seed was planted. He cultivate that plant during a few years when he moved to Alaska in 2010 for the passion for the snowy mountains, learned to snowboard and to ski, took his Level I & II with AAS, and started volunteer with our local Mountain SAR. Now he is harvesting the fruits of the hard work and learning process by enjoying working closer to the mountains, going to the Alaska Range volunteering with Denali NPS or Guiding. Now he is helping behind the scenes of AAS as Program Manager, mixing his office skills with mountain passioned people.