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New director named for Utah’s Forest Service Avalanche Center

Paige Pagnucco is the new Director of the Utah Avalanche Center starting in May.
Courtesy of Utah Avalanche Center
Paige Pagnucco is the new Director of the Utah Avalanche Center starting in May.

A long-time forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center has been named as its new director.

Paige Pagnucco will succeed former director Mark Staples starting in May. She first joined the avalanche center in 2003 as an avalanche education and outreach coordinator in the Logan area. While some of the forecasters have been working for the avalanche center longer than her, she is the longest tenured employee for the nonprofit side.

“I've been most recently the program director for all our awareness and education programs statewide,” Pagnucco said. “And just started out, just doing basic awareness in the Logan area. And then over time, just built-up responsibilities in the organization, including development, grant writing, fundraising, creating awareness programming and help with education, curriculum, sort of everything.”

She says it will be a big change moving from the nonprofit side to the forecasting center.

“I feel like I'm in good hands in terms of the transition and making sure that things happen - like people get paid and we continue to do our forecasts as well as we do,” she said. “Luckily, I'm inheriting a program that's super solid. We don't have to hire anybody. Everybody's skilled at what they do, and they all make incredible contributions to the program. So, I feel really lucky I'm coming in to such a great opportunity.”

Pagnucco spent nearly a decade doing avalanche prevention at Park City Mountain Resort between 1992 and 2001, when she learned the ins and outs of avalanche mitigation and training rescue dogs.

Fellow forecaster Drew Hardesty is thrilled about her appointment.

“Paige brings so much experience and professionalism and is a great leader,” Hardesty said. “We're really going to be happy to have her come in and take the reins and that's just a big win for us at the Utah Avalanche Center.”

Pagnucco will start the new position the first week of May. As director of the avalanche center, she will oversee the operations of the forecast center and is a paid employee of the U.S. Forest Service. The executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Utah Avalanche Center Chad Brackelsberg is also leaving – later this fall. Hardesty says that position will also be filled soon.

The Utah Avalanche Center will wrap up its daily forecasts Sunday and will begin issuing intermittent updates as conditions warrant through the end of the month.