People
Ryan Matz
Avalanche Center Director

Ryan joins the Avalanche Center as full time Director for the 2021-2022 season. Originally from Northern California, he used college as an excuse to live closer to a ski area and has been chasing snow and related employment around the country since. Experience as a mountain guide ultimately led to work as an avalanche forecaster with the Mount Washington Avalanche Center. Ryan returns to avalanche forecasting this season after several years doing other recreation work on the Mt. Hood National Forest. He’s completed Professional Level 2 avalanche training and holds a M.S. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism from the University of Utah. When there’s not enough snow to ski or snowmobile, Ryan can often be found on a trail, either in running shoes, on a bike, or with a baby carrier. He looks forward to soon chasing his toddler son around in the mountains.

Jeff Thompson
Forecaster

Jeff gained most of his Avalanche Education and experience in the central mountains of Colorado. After graduating from Colorado Mountain College with a Ski Area Operations degree Jeff joined Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and served as the Head of Snow Safety for many years. He has taught many Avalanche courses as well. After 20 years in CO Jeff and his family moved to northern Idaho where he took the job as the Director of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center. In the winter Jeff also spends time Ski Patrolling at Schweitzer Mountain as well and is a Avalanche Rescue dog handler. When Jeff isn't playing in the snow he can usually be found with his wife and daughter on a wild desert river, camping in the woods or enjoying some singletrack on his bike.

Kevin Davis
Forecaster

Kevin has been involved with the Avalanche Center since 1996 when he first began volunteering to provide pit data for the advisory.  In 2006 he became the director of the program.  Kevin’s avalanche experience has come through 20 years of backcountry skiing in Montana, Idaho, and Canada.  His formal training extends from Level 1 from the American Avalanche Institute to Level 1 from the Canadian Avalanche Association and Level 2 from the National Avalanche School and numerous professional development courses.  Kevin has been teaching Avalanche Awareness courses since 1998 and became a AAA certified instructor in 2016.  He’s happy anytime there’s snow in the mountains.  Kevin can be reached at kevin.davis2@usda.gov

Ben Bernall
Forecaster

Ben has been working as the Avalanche Specialist for the Kootenai National Forest since 2015. His avalanche education includes Canadian AST-1 and 2 courses as well as Level 2 and 3 courses through the American Avalanche Institute.  His entry into the world of winter backcountry travel began in 1994 when he borrowed some telemark skis from a friend and made some skins out of bailing twine.  This turned into an obsession that eventually led to assisting with teaching avalanche awareness through the local SAR unit. When he is not working in the snow Ben helps manage the Trails and Recreation program in Troy, Montana. In his spare time he chases two kids and a wife around in the mountains biking, skiing, running and drinking coffee.  Ben can be reached at Benjamin.Bernall@usda.gov

Eric Morgan
Forecaster

Eric joined the Avalanche Center in 2005.  Eric has extensive experience in wildland fire fighting.  He is trained to deal with complex situations that can have severe consequences.  This perspective gives him a great advantage for relating the nuances of avalanche hazards and describing the situational awareness that backcountry travelers require when venturing into mountainous terrain in the winter.  Eric has been an incredible asset with his strong backcountry skills, eagerness to learn, and great teaching skills; Eric teaches advanced fire courses.  Eric has attended Level 1 and 2 AAA and level 2 AIARE, and the National Avalanche School this year.  When not teaching his “Fire and Ice” class he can be found kayaking, skiing, hunting, or doing anything to get out of the house. Eric can be reached at eric.morgan@usda.gov

Liz Figgins
Forecaster

Liz has been assisting IPAC since 2016.  She began her backcountry ski career in Chamonix roughly 20 years ago with very limited skills, knowledge, and gear.  Thankfully she survived that winter and went on the pursue her Level 1 and Level 2 avalanche certifications through AAI while ski bumming in the Tetons for the majority of her 20s.  She has been recreating and skiing in the Inland Northwest since 2009.  She is currently an Assistant Center Manager at Kootenai Dispatch (wildland fire) and forecasts (avalanche) primarily for the Kootenai area.  She enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with her husband and 3 kids when she isn’t working.  Liz can be reached at elizabeth.figgins@usda.gov.

Caitlin Bailey
Forecaster

Caitlin grew up snowboarding at resorts and started to learn how to splitboard as an adult.  Caitlin is a full time silvicultural technician out of Superior, MT on the Lolo National Forest and began assisting IPAC in 2018 with data collection. Her formal avalanche training consists of AAI Avy Rec 1 and 2, Rescue Fundamentals, and Professional 1.  She is a Montana country girl born and raised with most of her free time being spent with her menagerie of animals.  She has a soft spot for anything with fur or feathers and currently tends a flock of horses, mules, chickens, pigs, goats, dogs, ducks, and cats!  She can be reached at caitlin.bailey@usda.gov

Mikey Church
Forecaster

Mikey grew up skiing across Europe as a military dependent, and continued his love of the steep and icy skiing and working various mountains in northern Vermont until he moved to Montana in 2008.  Mikey, who works in Recreation for the Lolo National Forest, began assisting IPAC with data collection in 2018.  Mikey's avalanche training consists of AAI Rec Avy 1 and 2, Rescue Fundamentals, and Profesional 1. Outside of work, Mikey can be seen chasing his 4 year old down the slopes, single track, rivers, and grocery aisles. Mikey can be contacted at michael.church@usda.gov