Avalanche Center Home Update - September 24, 2001


The First Fall Update from the Avalanche Center (www.csac.org)
September 24, 2001

Translations: http://babelfish.yahoo.com/
Online in html: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/updates/

(To translate this update enter the webpage URL above and then follow the link on the translated page.)

Welcome to the 2001-2002 Season

As autumn continues and winter approaches we are preparing to once again serve the public with the largest source of avalanche safety information available in one place anywhere. This first pre-season update will let you know a bit about what is new, what is planned, and how the project is doing overall. Please check into the website periodically in your preparations for a safe winter.

This update is longer than usual since the last one was so long ago and since we have decided that it is time to share more of our thoughts on the future of the project and the challenges we continue to face.

Quick Contents:

  • Thanks to Sponsors
  • New Things over the past 5 months
  • Upcoming Improvements and Changes
  • The Future of the Center
  • How you can Help

Thanks to our Sponsors

One thing that takes a lot of time in the fall is the effort to find new sponsors to help us continue making so much material available to the public for free. This is very difficult and the outdoor industry as a whole has never shown a lot of interest in supporting our work. Those companies that do sponsor us tend to be ones who can see see beyond the mere advertising value (without ignoring it). They are companies which
support what we do because they see it as an important resource. We urge you to take a moment and send a couple of them an e-mail thanking them for your support. A full list of sponsors is posted at:

http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/sponsors/

The current list is from last year, we would like to thank Backcountry Access and Ortovox for renewing their support for the coming year already. (We are still contacting some of the others.) We would also like to thank Life-Link for supporting us from the start continuously, even through the personnel changes which can dramatically alter the priorities of many companies.

New Things over the past 5 months

Once summer was underway we needed a break since we were burned out from the last season. However, we did manage to implement a number of new things in the spring and early summer.

Last season we began the online publication called the "Avalanche Gazette", and our third issue was completed in the spring.

http://www.avalanche-center.org/Other/gazette/

The "Gazette" is part of our "Other Cool Stuff" (or miscellaneous) section. This is where we have a photo index, first-hand accounts, news articles of interest and things like that. The section has been completely
reviewed and improved - the links were checked and bad ones removed, the page designs were made consistent, and all pages have meta-tags for better indexing.

http://www.avalanche-center.org/Other/

Our "Organizational" section has been partially reviewed and improved in a similar manner. This section contains basic documents related to our non-profit and charity status, archives of these updates, and other such information.

http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/

The section which received the most attention over the past few months is our store. While we never intended for retailing to be a major part of our project it is the only part of our funding to consistently improve each year. Therefore we are finding we need to invest more time in it in order to help pay for the rest of the site. We implemented a shopping cart which has already been in use over the summer, successfully. This is much easier than using the order forms, although those are still available as well. We
have a few new products fully incorporated but many more will be online soon. In the spring we had a few extra items and made a "clearance sale" page which worked out quite well. This year we will continue to try to stock more items in the office, and we will certainly miscalculate on some of them. So we will put items on sale as necessary, often between updates and without notice. Check the page throughout the winter for savings.

http://www.avalanche-center.org/store/

Upcoming Improvements and Changes

Here are the things we will be working on over the next month or so:

Seeking Sponsors and goods for our fall auction: We have already sent out one fax to almost 500 companies in the outdoor industries. We typically do two such faxes and one mailing. The response for sponsors is typically nothing, but we continue to try. The auction has generally sparked a bit more interest and support - not as much as we would like but enough (barely) to make a viable auction which helps us significantly. We realize that we might be more successful if we could make phone calls and follow-ups and print fancy promotional materials, but we simply don't have the resources for that. (There is a saying that "you need to have money to raise money", and we don't.)

While much of our time will need to go into seeking support we will be working as hard as possible on the web site. The next sections which will be overhauled are the Professional Resources and Education sections. Both of these have fallen into neglect more than we had realized, with some of the resources "orphaned" and not accessible through links at all. We will be fixing these problems as well as implementing consistent page designs and metatags and eliminating bad links.

One project we began last season is "The Avalanche Zone", which is a collection of searchable sites related to avalanches. This has been a bit slow to catch on but there are a few more sites ready to join in this season. By pulling together the efforts of numerous people, including small projects, we hope to be able to make more materials readily available to the public. Unfortunately, the Sandy Bay search engine which is used in the Avalanche Zone has been free but will not be any longer. This is the latest in a long string of resources which have gone from being free to having a significant cost. In this case the cost is pretty hard to justify and we may need to hunt down an alternative.

The Avalanche Zone is semi-autonomous and has its own URL:

http://www.avalanche-zone.com/

The last thing worthy of mention is that we plan to have decals or stickers with our "Skiing Skeleton" logo on them this season. We have been asked about this many times and have wanted to have some, but to purchase a quantity of them has not fit into our budget so far. We have now identified a good source of quality decals (one has been on my truck in all kinds of weather for a year now). They should be available later this fall. We would like to give them out but for now we may need to sell them and/or include them in store orders and give them to contributors.

The Future of the Center

For seven or eight years now this project has been a premier source of avalanche information on the web. It has paid it's bills and actual operating costs. It has not been able to compensate the many hours of time
required to run it. The nature of the internet is changing as well. Looking into the future it is not clear whether we can continue in the same manner forever.

At this point we are, tentatively, on a 2-year plan. For the coming year our goal is to maintain the level of service we have developed up to this point. Significant new projects are unlikely unless funding to support
them emerges. Changes in the way we operate will be subtle as far as end users go. Our web resources will remain free with a few enhanced services available to contributors. (Such as e-mail delivery of bulletins and printable copies of the Gazette.) Commercial and government interests wishing to promote themselves (most notably their courses) will probably be expected to support the project in some tangible manner.

Following this season we will re-evaluate our situation and our funding. At that time there are several possibilities. If a better funding situation exists we would like to continue to grow and expand with new services. If our level of funding is the same we may begin to make more of the project available only on a subscription basis. If the store continues to outpace all other sources of funding then we will need, at some time, to consider selling it off as a business.

How you can Help

The project has been intended, from the beginning, to be a grassroots effort. We have not been able to incorporate volunteers to the extent we would like to simply because we lack the resources (i.e. time) to
coordinate efforts and to follow up. Later this fall we hope to be able to focus on that and incorporate more volunteer help than in the past.

Aside from volunteering there are many things that anyone interested in helping us can do, even with just a few minutes. We will try to suggest some things in each update.

Right now we are in the midst of lining up sponsors and you can help. Send an e-mail to one or two of our current sponsors telling them you use this resource and appreciate their support of it. Choose a company that isn't a sponsor and send them an e-mail suggesting they consider it. If everyone on our updates list took 30 min or so over the next week or two it might make a big difference.

We are trying to get our logo shirts and nalgene bottles into retail shops. We have a program for selling them in modest quantities to stores at our cost. While this takes some of our time and produces no direct
financial return it does have the potential to promote our resources. Consider going into your local retailer and asking them if they would buy a dozen shirts or nalgene bottle for resale. They can get the details at:

http://www.avalanche-center.org/store/retailers/index.html

(Note that this program is not limited to retailers, anyone wanting to purchase a quantity is welcome to the same terms. Sell them out of your trunk if you wish to. The shirts have reportedly been traded for lift tickets at a few locations.)

Finally, you can always support our work by contributing to our nonprofit organization, buying your safety equipment from us, telling your friends about us, and just by visiting the site regularly.


Avalanche Center Info

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