Montgomery Atwater

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Montgomery Atwater
Monty Atwater on skis
ResidenceFlag of the United States.svg USA
NationalityFlag of the United States.svg American
Alma materHarvard College, 1926
Known forAvalanche research and forecasting
Scientific career
FieldsSnow Science, Author
InstitutionsUnited States Forest Service, 1945–

Montgomery Meigs "Monty" Atwater (1904–1976) was an American avalanche researcher, forester, skier, and author. He is considered the founder of the field of avalanche research and forecasting in North America.

He was born in Baker City, Oregon, and graduated from Harvard College in 1926. He worked a number of jobs including football coach, cattle rancher, and trapper. He lived in Montana in the 1930s and wrote short stories and mysteries, some under the pseudonym of Max Montgomery.[1] During World War II, he served in the 10th Mountain Division as a winter warfare instructor, eventually reaching the rank of captain while in active combat duty and being wounded. After being discharged due to his injury, he served as a forest ranger for the Forest Service in Alta, Utah starting in the autumn of 1945. Over the next two decades he established the first avalanche research center in the Western Hemisphere at Alta, inventing many of the techniques and much of the equipment needed for avalanche forecasting and control.

Atwater served as director of avalanche control during the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, successfully preventing any major avalanches during the Games despite a history of huge chairlift-destroying avalanches there. Afterwards he helped develop the Avalauncher, a pneumatic cannon for launching avalanche control explosives, and then retired from the Forest Service in 1964. In 1966, he repeated his masterful job of avalanche control at the alpine skiing World Championships in Portillo, Chile, where the ski area had been almost completely destroyed by massive avalanches only a year earlier but successfully held the Championships unscathed. He also served as a consultant to ski areas, mining companies, and telecommunication companies throughout the mountainous regions of North and South America.

He had three sons, James, Robert and Montgomery. In his later years, he ran a small research lab in Squaw Valley. He died of a heart attack in 1976.


General books
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1968). The Avalanche Hunters. Macrae Smith Company. ISBN 0-8255-1345-6.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1953). Avalanche Handbook. USDA Forest Service.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M.; LaChapelle, Edward R. (1961). The Climax Avalanche: A Study in Case Histories. USDA Forest Service.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1969). The Forest Rangers. Macrae Smith Company. ISBN 0-8255-1346-4.
  • Engen, Sverre; Atwater, Montgomery M. (1947). Ski with Sverre: Deep Snow and Packed Slope Ski Technique. New Directions.
Young Adult/Juvenile Fiction
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1940). Government Hunter. Macmillan.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1941). Flaming Forest. Little, Brown and Company.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1943). Ski Patrol. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1947). Hank Winton: Smokechaser. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1949). Smoke Patrol. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1951). Avalanche Patrol. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1952). Rustlers on the High Range. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1954). Cattle Dog. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1956). The Trouble Hunters. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1959). The Ski Lodge Mystery. Random House.
  • Atwater, Montgomery M. (1967). Snow Rangers of the Andes. Random House. ISBN 0-394-91899-1.


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