Western Washington University has a new web-based map that should help backcountry skiers and snowboarders assess regional avalanche danger.

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Backcountry skiers and snowboarders have a new tool to explore regional daily avalanche-danger levels.

A web-based map (seati.ms/xL4m67), created by students and faculty at Western Washington University (WWU), takes the regional avalanche forecasts issued by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center and displays the same information spatially. This allows backcountry travelers to zoom into specific regions and examine the forecast avalanche danger. But it also prevents users from zooming in too closely, because the forecasts are regional, not site-specific.

The site also allows users to scroll back through a week’s worth of forecasts, which can help them understand how avalanche dangers change over time.

The mapping tool was created by the Institute for Spatial Information and Analysis at WWU’s Huxley College of the Environment. The director of the program, Michael Medler, began working with graduate students on avalanche-hazard visualization projects after a Mount Baker avalanche in 2004 buried several WWU students, killing one of them.

Mark Moore, a spokesman for the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, said it’s important for users to understand that even though these maps display the hazards for specific points on the map, the forecasts themselves are regional in nature.

“We do not want to imply that regional forecasts can be slope specific in their accuracy,” Moore said.