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Mountain weather can be very hard to forecast. It is often unpredictable and changes rapidly throughout a forecast period.  As a rescue technician and mountain safety professional, paying close attention to the weather throughout the day plays an important role in the success of a rescue mission or a day of work.  

When looking into the future at weather forecasting models for mountain environments,  it is important to remember that it is just a forecast.  Let’s pause for a second and think about the definition of a forecast.  A forecast is merely a prediction or an estimate of future events. It paints a picture of what may occur over the forecast period but is not guaranteed correct. For professionals looking at a forecast, anything beyond 48hrs out is not a guarantee, nor the majority of the time is it relevant.

All commercially available forecasts are based off weather models. It is a good idea to look at several different forecasts to see if they all agree. Pay close attention and follow the forecast daily.  If most forecasts are the same or similar that generally means that all the different models are in agreement and the chances of the forecast being correct are much greater.

Reviewing forecasts from a general regional geographic forecast and then working in to a specific location is often a good technique. There is a long list of websites out there that offer a ton of information. A little bit of research and learning how to interpret weather patterns will go a long way in helping you to interpret weather patterns and formulate your own forecast.

At the bottom is a few links to some great weather products as well as some tutorials.


3 Main Factors to Take into Consideration

Three main factors of mountain weather are wind, temperature and precipitation. If you prepared for these three changes in weather than you will greatly increase your chances of success in the mountains. Some points to consider:


  • Do I have a windstopper in my pack?

  • Is is getting too windy for the helicopter to work and should I adjust my plan accordingly?

  • Does the terrain I am in become more of a hazard? (Trees, more wind on ridgetops)


  • Am I prepared for a dramatic shift in temperature? (Dress in layers so you can increase or decrease clothing options)

  • Am I staying hydrated? (Remember dehydration can occur in cold temperatures as well)

  • Protect your skin!  Wear sunscreen year round


  • Is this going to be a short lived event or prolonged?

  • What are the precipitation amounts forecast for that day? (how will this affect the terrain I am travelling in? ex: flash floods, slippery conditions or increase avalanche danger)

  • Do I have the suitable attire to make it through a storm (Rain gear or Snow gear)

Regardless of whether you are an expert or novice in mountain weather or forecasting principles, being prepared for an unexpected change in weather is paramount to mountain safety. Keep in mind that weather changes quickly in the mountains and on any given day you may see a combination of sun, rain, snow and extreme winds.  It is all just part of being in the mountains.

Some Great Links:

Weather Sites

Useful Tutorials for Mountain Weather

Direct Links

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