Alex Marienthal

Degree(s) Held

B.S. Earth Science, Snow Science, Montana State University, 2009

Degree Sought:

M.S. in Earth Sciences

Title of Research Project:

Forecasting large and infrequent avalanche events


Jordy Hendrikx and Karl Birkeland

Email Address:

Research Interests:

Deep slab avalanche forecasting, wet snow avalanches, climate change, avalanche education


- American Association of Geographers, Member
- American Geophysical Union, Member
- American Avalanche Association, Member

Project Summary

  • Forecasting deep slab avalanches using seasonal meteorological metrics.
    • Statistical procedures are used that test the correlation between meteorological metrics and deep slab avalanches. Seasonal meteorological metrics that are related to the formation of the lower snowpack will be tested as well as metrics used in previous studies, such as meteorological and snowpack variables from days preceding deep slab avalanches.
  • Review of wet slab avalanche forecasting through a case study of the historic March 2012 wet slab avalanche cycle at Bridger Bowl, Montana.
    • Meteorological variables relating to weather and the snowpack have recently been used to forecast wet slab avalanches. Similar weather patters and snowpack structures mentioned in previous studies were observed before an historic and rare wet slab avalanche cycle on March 27th, 2012 at Bridger Bowl ski area.
  • Managing GIS databases to record and map avalanche, weather, and snowpack observations.
    • Relational database schemes link the location of snowpits, weather observations, and avalanche events with their properties, characteristics, and timing. Creation of standard database schemes and recording procedures will allow for more robust and in depth analysis of snow, avalanches, weather, and climate.
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Depth hoar crystals (3mm grid) formed between November 2011 and January 2012. This layer formed 30-55cm thick at the base of the snowpack and was responsible for many large avalanche cycles in the Bridger Mountains (Photo: Alex Marienthal).


This avalanche was triggered with explosives by Bridger Bowl ski patrol on March 27th, 2012. It was one of six large wet slabs triggered that morning. All avalanches slid to the ground as a result of rapid warming and the introduction of liquid water to a weak snowpack that consisted of a thick cohesive slab above the old depth hoar layer (Photo: Pat Clayton).


Marienthal, A., Hendrikx, J., Chabot, D., Maleski, P., and Birkeland, K., 2012. Depth hoar, avalanches, and wet slabs: A case study of the historic March, 2012 wet slab avalanche cycle at Bridger Bowl, Montana. Proceedings of the 2012 International Snow Science Workshop, Anchorage, AK. [In Press].

Marienthal, A. 2011. Recognizing decision fatigue as a factor in decision making. The Avalanche Review 30(2), 29.

Marienthal, A., Mancey, J., Guy, Z., Rains, F., and Schwab, D. 2010. Snow avalanche research and forecasting with GIS and geospatial sciences. Proceedings of the 2010 International Snow Science Workshop, Squaw Valley, CA., 687-692.

Marienthal, A., and Mancey, J. 2010. Statistical modeling of maximum snow avalanche runout distance in Glacier National Park, USA, an inter-regional application of derived statistical runout models. 2010 Intermountain GIS Conference Program [presentation abstract], p. 92.

Marienthal, A., Mancey, J., Guy, Z., Rains, F.A., Schwab, A. 2010. Geospatial science and snow avalanche research. 2010 Intermountain GIS Conference Program [presentation abstract], p. 93.

Marienthal, A., Mancey, J., Guy, Z., Rains, F.A., Schwab, A. 2010. Geospatial science and snow avalanche research. The Avalanche Review 28(4), 26-28.

Marienthal, A., 2010, Wake-up call in Montana: The Avalanche Review 28(4), 15.

Relevant Training and Professional Involvement:

  • National Science Foundation Workshop “Science: Becoming the Messenger”, Missoula, MT – May 2012.
  • GNFAC Professional Development Seminar “Decision Making for the Avalanche Professional, Bozeman, MT – March 2012.
  • Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop - November 5th, 2011.
  • Northern Rockies Avalanche Safety Workshop - October 1st, 2011.
  • GNFAC Professional Development Seminar "Surprise Avalanches" - March, 2011.
  • International Snow Science Workshop, Squaw Valley, CA. - October, 2010.
  • Montana Association of Geographic Information Professionals Intermountain GIS Conference, Bozeman, MT - April, 2010.
  • Emergency Medical Technician - Basic, December, 2007.
  • Level 1 Avalanche Course, AIARE - January 21-23, 2005.

Work Experience:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, Cartography and GIS, Montana State University.
    August 2011 – Present
  • Instructor, Backcountry Skiing, Junior Mountaineering Team,  Montana Mountaineering Association
    January 2012 – May 2012
  • Avalanche Educator, Basic and Advanced Avalanche Awareness, Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.
    November 2010 – Present
  • Ski Patrol, Bridger Bowl Ski Area.
    November 2010 – Present   
  • Volunteer Observer and GIS Consulting, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.
    December 2010 – Present
  • Volunteer Ski Patrol, Big Sky Ski Resort.
    November 2007 – April 2008 

A day in the field near Big Sky, MT. View of the Southern Madison Range (Photo: Jordan Mancey).