Our Team of Avalanche Educators
Melis Coady, Executive Director
Melis has lived and worked in Alaska for 17 years enjoying a career on snow and glaciers as a climbing ranger for Denali National Park, senior guide for the Alaska Mountaineering School and a field instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School. She has completed Avalanche Level 2 training, and has skied/climbed on 7 continents including two seasons as a field guide for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. A dedicated educator, Melis has spent over a decade certifying students in emergency medicine as a wilderness medicine instructor for the Wilderness Medicine Institute and as a climbing instructor navigating avalanche terrain. On the board of two non-profits, Denali Rescue Volunteers and the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund, Melis shares her deep dedication to safety in the outdoors with a broad audience. She looks forward to helping AAS continue to be a leader in avalanche education.
Aleph grew up in Vermont exploring the woods on her cross-country skis. She ventured out west and fell in love with snow and avalanche studies at Prescott College while pursing her degree in Outdoor Experiential Education. After college an internship with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center landed her in the San Juan Mountains. This launched her into a diverse career where she has garnered experience as a highway avalanche forecaster, a backcountry avalanche forecaster, a patroller and a ski guide. She has worked and skied in many of the western states, experiencing different snow climates and spent a summer patrolling in New Zealand. Through all the jobs and travels she has been an avalanche educator sharing her passion for snow. She is the former director of the Alaska Avalanche School as well as the Silverton Avalanche School, an American Avalanche Association Certified Instructor and AIARE instructor. She loves helping her students learn to have an opinion about the snow and be part of the decision-making process. She is currently an avalanche forecaster for the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. Photo credit: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad fell in love with the outdoors where he grew up in the Pacific Northwest and began working in the outdoor recreation industry at the age of 14. Since 2000, Brad has lived in the Turnagain Arm region, where he can play and work on the water in its solid and liquid forms. During the last 18 years working on the snow, Brad has worked as a ski touring guide, a mechanized ski guide, and an avalanche course instructor. He also spent several seasons working with snow sports movie production crews and avalanche mitigation teams during that time. Brad’s real strength comes from countless days in the field, both personally and professionally, and an never-ending desire to keep skiing the backcountry. Like most snow professionals, Brad has blended his work and play time on the snow with the necessary certifications it takes to stay on the "sharp end" of things, and he has had the chance to gain this experience in a variety of locations and snow climates. Brad is proud to be a part of Alaska's original avalanche school. When not obsessing about snow or water, Brad can be found enjoying Alaska with his wife Shannan and 3-year-old son Will.
A long time Alaskan resident, Brooke Edwards has been involved with the ski industry on multiple levels for going on two decades. She first received her Avalanche Level 1 certification from the Alaska Avalanche School in 1997 in Hatcher’s Pass and it was that course that made her decision to move to Alaska fulltime. Since then she has been engaged in the avalanche community as a board member for F-CNFAIC, an avalanche observer, a NOLS instructor, a ski instructor at Alyeska Resort and working on staff for Chugach Powder Guides.
Eeva is Associate Professor in Outdoor Studies at Alaska Pacific University and part time avalanche educator with Alaska Avalanche School. Born and raised in Finland, she has called AK home for the last 10 years. Before moving up north, she sampled other mountain regions in North America. This included skiing Mount Baker during the record snow in season ‘94-‘95, ski patrolling in Colorado for five years and teaching mountaineering courses in the North Cascades & the Coast Range. Eeva teaches Level 1 & 2 courses for AAS and would love to travel around Alaska to teach more custom courses. With all the spare time, she trains her operational avalanche rescue dog, Sisu, and drinks strong coffee.
Elliot grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. His family encouraged his love of being in the outdoors from a early age, taking him on many family death-marches, which probably explains why he likes going alpine climbing so much nowadays.
He graduated from Green Mountain College with an Adventure Recreation degree, and moved to New Hampshire to pursue climbing and a guiding career. Elliot started guiding on Denali in 2007, and in 2014 finally made the move up to Alaska full time, lured up by the promise of un-ending powder skiing and the love of a beautiful lady (his future wife).
Now he spends his free time enjoying the climbing and skiing Alaska has to offer and traveling to pursue these passions and his profession. He is currently working on obtaining his IFMGA certification.
Along with the Alaska Avalanche School, he also guides for the Alaska Mountaineering School and Exum Mountain Guides.
Fredrik grew up in Sweden, where he started leading groups in the outdoors at 17 years old. He initially came to the USA in 1998, where he earned his MS in chemistry at Utah State University. In his spare time, he volunteered for the university’s Outdoor Program, leading trips and teaching courses in backpacking, mountaineering, and climbing rescue skills. He was also involved with Logan Avalanche Forecast Center providing backcountry observations. Since 1995, Fredrik has worked full-time in outdoor education, spending over 2500 days teaching and leading groups in the outdoors, everything from backpacking in the Utah desert and sea kayaking in New Zealand, to mountaineering in Patagonia and winter camping expeditions. His experience as a teacher was recently summarized by one of his students: "You were by far the best teacher I have ever had—including a lifetime in private school, four years at Harvard, and the rest of NOLS.” When not teaching, Fredrik is pursuing his passion for nature and adventure photography.
Graham was born and raised in Anchorage. He began skiing the Chugach backcountry in high school as a naive, uneducated teenager. He migrated to the Vail Valley after receiving a natural resource management degree from CSU spending eight seasons working in Colorado as a USFS backcountry snow ranger on Vail Pass. During this tenure, Graham absorbed all the information he could regarding snow and avalanches through formal classes, practical experiences and a few near misses. Working as a forecaster for the CNFAIC since 2011 has allowed his snow and avalanche education to continue, bringing Graham full circle back to a more coastal snowpack. He is a Professional Member of the American Avalanche Association and AVPRO trained. A personal goal for Graham has been to further involve and engage the motorized community in their local avalanche center. Spare time is spent sled-skiing, mountain biking and chasing his 3-year-old Daughter around!
Heather moved from northern Idaho to Alaska in 1998, and immediately fell in love with the remote and mountainous landscape. She graduated from the Outdoor Studies program at Alaska Pacific University in 2003 and has been teaching wilderness, sea kayaking, and glacier travel skills for the program since 2005. In the winters Heather enjoys teaching avalanche education and working as a ski patroller for Alyeska Ski Resort and is currently an avalanche forecaster for the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. She is also an avid photographer and spends her summers documenting weddings and assorted adventures around Alaska and afar. In her free time she can be found backcountry skiing and packrafting in her backyard near Girdwood and loves exploring new places in Alaska.
Jed Workman was originally introduced to the mountains on a tiny ski slope in Connecticut at age five. In 1988 his high school outdoor program tied him into his first climbing rope and lured him into an obsession. Jed moved to Salt Lake City in 1990 where he completed a BFA at the University of Utah in printmaking while minoring in powder in Little Cottonwood Canyon. A few years working in the Black Diamond warehouse enabled him to build a small climbing arsenal and put away enough pennies to spend the summers in Yosemite. Several years in Yosemite lead to expeditions to Alaska, Pakistan and China. In 2003 Jed permanently moved to the Matanuska Valley of Alaska with his wife Allie, where they are just as likely to shoot a moose, net a salmon, ski a couloir or clip a quick-draw. Since 2000, Jed has guided for the National Outdoor Leadership School, the Alaska Mountaineering School, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides. Jed is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, a US Heli Ski member, avalanche level III certified, a wilderness first responder, avalanche forecaster for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, and director and a forecaster for the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center.
Joe is an internationally certified, IFMGA mountain guide with a passion for mountain adventure in Alaska. He has been climbing and skiing around the world for 30 years with significant time in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Alps, and throughout South America and the western United States. Of all the places he's visited, the mountains of Southcentral Alaska are his favorite. Joe has an undergraduate degree in geology and geography from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and a graduate degree in watershed science (snow science focus) from Colorado State University. In addition to guiding, Joe works as a writer and photographer. His guidebook for backcountry skiing in Southcentral Alaska, The Alaska Factor, was published in 2012. Joe is also a photographer and is responsible for many of the images on this site. Please visit his website, Stock Alpine. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Cathy.
John Sykes has been working at Alaska Avalanche School for the last three winters. John is also an adjunct instructor for Alaska Pacific University’s Glaciology and Glacier Travel course. During the spring and summer, he is a guide and instructor for Alaska Mountaineering School in Denali National Park. John started his mountain education with a semester at National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming and went on to a bachelor’s degree in psychology and outdoor studies from Alaska Pacific University. During the 2014-15 season, John will also be an intern with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center in Girdwood. John spends time each year exploring Alaska’s remote mountain ranges traveling under human power. Most recently he completed a month-long ski traverse from Mt. Illiamna in the Chigmit Mountains across the Neocola range and over Mt. Spurr, finishing with a crossing of the Tordrillo Mountains to Beluga Lake.
Leighan was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and started her ski career as a Nordic racer in high school. She spent eight winters in the lower 48 learning the craft of downhill skiing in the snowy mountains of Utah, Colorado, and Montana. She has worked as a ski patroller, heli-ski guide, avalanche educator, climbing guide on Denali, and more recently as a commercial pilot. She lives in Talkeetna, Alaska with her climbing ranger husband, a feisty three-year-old, and an airplane.
Nancy took her first avalanche class as a 17-year-old college student and has been a serious student of snow ever since. She has been teaching for the Alaska Avalanche School since 1990. She has worked as an avalanche forecaster, international mountain guide and even did a stint studying snow and teaching winter camping in Antarctica, but teaching is her passion.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Nick began climbing and skiing mountains as soon as he could walk. Home is now Girdwood, Alaska. He is a graduate of the Outdoor Recreation Leadership program from Colorado Mountain College and Alaska Pacific University’s Outdoor Studies program. Since 2008, Nick has been a year-round mountain guide, ski guide and educator. In the winter and spring, if not teaching Avalanche Courses - Nick guides backcountry ski and snowboard trips with his own company Remarkable Adventures. As well as guides snow cat and heli-skiing with Chugach Powder Guides. During the spring and summers Nick leads ski mountaineering expeditions in the great ranges of Alaska or you may find him living abroad ski guiding in places like New Zealand. Along with his extensive experience in Alaska and abroad, he is an AMGA Certified Ski Guide, Wilderness First Responder, Avalanche Level 3 and Leave No Trace Master Educator. Nick loves to share his knowledge about safe mountain travel and looks forward to sharing his passion for the mountains with you.
Originally from Rochester, NY, Sean grew up playing in the snowy hills of the Finger Lakes. Eventually he wanted more than icy, man-made ski trails and infrequent snowstorms. Alaska Pacific University's Outdoor Recreation program drew Sean to Anchorage but the beautiful mountains, unbelievable snow totals, and warm community kept him around. After graduating with a BA in Outdoor Studies concentrating in Snow Science, Sean moved to Girdwood, seeking a better stage for ritual dances, prayers, and offerings for the snow gods. When he’s not looking for powder, Sean works for the Alaska Mountaineering School as an ice climbing guide and Nova River Runners as a raft guide.
Born and raised in Alaska, Blaine has a long history of playing and working in the outdoors. Blaine started guiding hiking trips in the Talkeetna Mountains and glacier hikes in the Chugach Mountains in 1987 and since then has combined a host of outdoor jobs to make a living. Blaine worked as a mountain guide for 20 years, guiding primarily in the Alaska Range and the Andes. He has also taught mountaineering for the University of Alaska and avalanche safety for Alaska Pacific University. Blaine started with the Alaska Avalanche School under the tutelage of Doug Fesler and Jill Fredston in 1989. After teaching thousands of students about avalanches and decision making in the backcountry, Blaine is more enthusiastic than ever to empower people to safely enjoy the backcountry. Blaine has been published in Accidents in North America, The Canadian Mountain Guides Journal, Lessons Learned II: A Guide to Using Case Studies in Outdoor Education and the International Technical Rescue Symposium Proceedings.
Blaine lives with his wife Deb in the mountains outside Eagle River Alaska where he tries to get out skiing every day of the winter.
Marne Lastufka- Office Manager
A life long Alaskan, Marne grew up in spending summers commercial fishing in Kachemak Bay and winters attending school in Anchorage. The commercial fishing operation later turned into a Lodge, where she was head sea-kayak guide and operations manager. Marne attended college at Montana State University, where she was a member of the Nordic Ski Team. After completing school and returning to Anchorage, she started her first stint at the Alaska Mountain Safety Center in 2000. She eventually helped transform the Safety Center to the current Alaska Avalanche School. After 6 winters, and many evolutions of the “office” from a heat-less shed, to her living room, to a window-less room in the Mosley Sports Center, Marne took a hiatus from the School to travel, start a small business (or two), and a coffee plantation in Hawaii. She is pleased to be back involved with AAS again.
In her spare time, Marne enjoys gardening, telemark skiing, bee keeping, and terrorizing Airport Heights with her one-person skateboard gang.
Chelsea Bomba- Special Ops/ Instructor
Originally from the Matanuska Valley, Chelsea grew up playing in the Talkeetna and Chugach mountains at every opportunity.
Her love for the outdoors landed her in Juneau to complete a certificate in Outdoor Studies through the University of Alaska Southeast. While completing the certificate, she was bamboozled into sticking around and enrolling in an Outdoor Adventure Studies bachelor degree. She called Juneau her home for 5 years, balancing exploration of glaciers, the Coast Mountains and the Tonagass National Forest with academics.
During the summer of 2014, Chelsea received an internship at the Alaska Mountaineering School, where she now works as a mountaineering instructor and guide on Denali and the surrounding Alaska Range peaks.
The new job transplanted her back to south central Alaska in the spring of 2015. That spring, Chelsea took her Level 2 with Alaska Avalanche School and discovered a new passion for snow science and avalanche education.
Chelsea’s first love is skiing but she also enjoys climbing rock or ice, fishing, biking and tasty IPAs.
Bear- Office Dog
Bear-Dog is a 12 year old Golden that spends his time greeting office visitors in between naps. He spends summers in Kachemak Bay at "summer camp" where he is employed to keep black bears off the beach, and to keep lodge guests company. He enjoys long walks by the ocean, eating beach-pudding and chasing eagles. In the winter, he enjoys resting by the fire, making sure the cat doesn't get his bone, and eating fresh snow when available.