The Mission of the Wallowa Avalanche Center is to keep winter backcountry travelers safe in the mountains of Northeast Oregon through education, avalanche advisories, mountain weather information and observations.
We begin bi-weekly avalanche forecasts in the fall after enough snow accumulates in the mountains for on-snow travel in the backcountry and continue them until early April. We also offer a variety of classroom and field based educational programs, including instruction specifically aimed towards youth, backcountry skiers, snowmobilers, and professionals.
Victor McNeil, Director
Victor began spending winters in the Wallowas in 2009, and has worked as a professional ski and mountain guide for the past 12 years. As a native of Oregon, Victor graduated from Southern Oregon University, with a degree in Small Business Management. During the spring and summer, Victor guides in Alaska, Washington and Peru on high altitude peaks and technical summits. As an American Mountain Guide, Victor has achieved the highest level of certification in Mountain Guiding, through the American Mountain Guides Association. Victor has achieved a Level 3 Avalanche Certification through the American Avalanche Institute. La Grande, OR is home for Victor with his wife and 2 Golden Retrievers. When not out backcountry skiing, Victor is working on his snowmobile skills and how to develop better avalanche education for motorized backcountry users.
Rex Stanley, Development Director
Rex hails from the small town of Baggs, WY, where he grew up snowmobiling with his family and learning to snowboard on the slopes of Steamboat Springs, CO. He attended Boise State University where he graduated with a degree in Business Management. Currently living in La Grande, OR, he is learning to explore the backcountry of the Wallowas and Elkhorns via his split-board and snowmobile. He hopes to increase the reach that the WAC has for all backcountry users, and build upon the growing backcountry culture here in Northeast Oregon. When the snow melts, he can be found hiking and riding his bike with his pup and wife. He also serves as board member of the local mountain biking chapter, Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club.
Michael Hatch, Avalanche Specialist
Michael Hatch grew up in Boise, ID and earned a B.S. in Resource Conservation/Wilderness Studies from the University of Montana, and an M.S. in Education from Eastern Oregon University. Currently Hatch is the director of the Outdoor Adventure Program and instructor of Health and Human Performance for EOU. Hatch worked for over a decade as a backcountry ski guide in the Sawtooths and Wallowas. One of Hatch’s biggest passions is teaching avalanche courses, as an AIARE Course Leader for Level 1 and 2 classes. Hatch is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association and is also a board member for the WAC.
Tom Guthrie, Avalanche Specialist
Caleb Merrill, Avalanche Specialist
Caleb Merrill grew up on the coast of Maine, eventually venturing west in search of more snowfall and vertical relief. He began his career in the snow and avalanche arena in 2006 as a ski patroller at Solitude in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. Early morning avalanche mitigation routes with explosives along exposed ridgelines are amongst the favored memories of this job. Caleb became a guide with Ruby Mountain Helicopter Skiing in 2014, and has enjoyed exploring the nooks and crannies of this hidden gem of a range while learning amongst some of the best guides in the industry. He is the creator, host, and producer of The Avalanche Hour Podcast- a side project aimed at creating more dialogue amongst the snow and avalanche community. Caleb is actively progressing through the AMGA ski guide program in hopes of certification. He completed an AIARE level 3 course in 2014, and is currently an AIARE course instructor. He looks forward to a winter in the Wallowas- getting to know the terrain, snowpack, and people.
Kelly McNeil, Avalanche Specialist
Kelly grew up in Eastern Wyoming where she started exploring the Big Horn mountains on snowmobiles and dirt bikes at an early age. During that time, she also learned to ski in the South Dakota Black Hills. Kelly moved to Montana for her undergrad and was introduced to backcountry skiing. After many years of school and earning her Ph.D. from Oregon State University in 2009, she began a career as a professor at Eastern Oregon University, where much of her work focuses on public health and research in outdoor physical activity including the study of behavior in outdoor environments. Recently Kelly has started to assess how public health theories and practices can be utilized for avalanche education and forecasting. Since 2017, Kelly has helped organize and run operations at the Wallowa Avalanche Center, including teaching avalanche courses for both motorized and non-motorized users. In 2019 Kelly took her Professional Level 1 Avalanche Course and will be taking her Professional Level 2 Course this February. Last winter Kelly completed her AIARE Instructor Training Course at Togwotee, WY on a snowmobile. Kelly is a Professional Member of the American Avalanche Association, a guest host on the Avalanche Hour Podcast, and has also completed her AMGA Alpine Skills Course.