Feb. 10, 2017 – When Sean Wetterberg (’00 B.S. forestry) graduated from Virginia Tech, he never imagined that he could combine his passions for skiing and forestry into a career with the U.S. Forest Service.
Wetterberg moved to Colorado after graduation and took a position with the agency as a wilderness ranger and ski patroller. After two years as a seasonal employee, he accepted a position as a snow ranger and wilderness manager. Wetterberg currently works as the Forest Service’s national winter sports program manager, responsible for coordinating the winter sports program as well as the National Avalanche Center.
“There are 122 ski areas located on public lands managed by the Forest Service, and downhill skiing is the second primary activity on national forest land after hiking,” Wetterberg explained. Downhill skiing brings roughly 23 million visitors to national forests each year, and the private ski industry contributes nearly $33 million annually to the national treasury.
In his current position, Wetterberg provides support to Forest Service regions that have ski areas, acts as a liaison between the agency and the ski industry, and contributes to policy that will help elevate the avalanche information and education program in the United States. An avid skier himself, Wetterberg values the opportunity to be involved in the experience visitors have at the ski sites. “It’s awesome to be in a position to help people have these amazing experiences on their public lands,” he said.
Wetterberg also manages the National Avalanche Center, an organization that provides program guidance and support to 13 regional avalanche centers across the western states and in New Hampshire. According to Wetterberg, the Forest Service is the primary public agency that offers avalanche forecasts in the country. “We’re providing critical safety information for the public, the ski industry, and the transportation departments,” he said. In addition to important public outreach efforts, the National Avalanche Center coordinates the use of military artillery provided by the U.S. Army to trigger controlled slides that reduce avalanche danger.
“I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t gone to Virginia Tech,” Wetterberg said. “The forestry program was hard, but it gave me the background and the confidence to work on a variety of often controversial environmental and social issues at a national level.”