An Update from the Avalanche Center
Online in html: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/updates/
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This is a brief update on what is new and upcoming on the internet Avalanche Center, http://www.avalanche-center.org/
This is a spring update from the Avalanche Center. We have updated some things for the spring and summer and still have some store items on sale. This may be the last update for quite a while now, during the summer we typically issue very few updates. None at all some years. So have a safe spring and remember to visit the website for general spring and summer info or for any other avalanche related needs. Our general discussion board and other features are functional year-round.
We receive no government funding or support and rely on user contributions to pay our operating expenses year round, in addition to some industry sponsorships and our store profits. Thanks to everyone who helps keep us going - this was about our seventh season or so of operation.
Some people have made special contributions which are especially helpful, and we'd like to briefly recognize these here.
A few people have made recurring contributions so that some amount is automatically transferred to us each month, typically $10 or so. This is a good way to make a significant contribution to avalanche safety by spreading it out over a year. It also helps us in the off-season when our revenue drops to pretty much zero.
We received a notice from at least one employer that we would receive a payroll pledge from an employee which would be matched by the company. Many companies offer some sort of matching program for charitable contributions and we appreciate the extra amount this brings in.
Finally, we just received a special contribution in the mail from somebody in the US who wanted to share a bit of their tax refund which was larger than usual for them this year. So at least a little bit of the tax cut worth trillions has trickled down to us - and we appreciate that.
General News and Updates
We recently updated to Internet Explorer 6 and found some strange behaviors on a few pages, including the home page. In an effort to fix this we simplified the code greatly and validated it to be html 4.01 compliant. (On the home page and one or two others so far.) While this was a good thing to do and helped reduce the problem it didn't eliminate it, and we've noticed similar problems on other pages now and then. IE 6 has many reported bugs and has some difficulty caching pages. If you use this new version, especially with a version of windows older than XP, you may find some problems now and then until they update it.
Other problems we've encountered have resulted from the newest version of ZoneAlarm Pro, our firewall software. The new version allows you to block pop-up ads and manage cookies but neither one works entirely correctly. The ad blocking will also block scripts and the cookie manager blocks some cookies which are needed to establish log-in sessions such as our Contributor Services section (as well as web-based e-mail sites, paypal, and others). We recommend you not use these features on Zone Alarm, the same things can be accomplished with IE 6 settings.
Avalanche Store - Spring Sale Items
While "avalanche season" is winding down it's not entirely over yet. Likewise, even though our store business has slowed way down we still have a few items on the shelf which we would like to get rid of soon. All of them are now listed on the Clearance Sale page. (Two beacons, a few shovels, a couple probes, a study kit, and a few other things.)
Most items on the public sale page are discounted 25% right now, in the Contributor Services area they are 35% off. We will be reducing prices further over the next 10 days on anything which hasn't sold. But we only have one of most things, so if if you wait for a lower price it may or may not still be available.
The html code for our shopping cart is very touchy and we have sometimes found after updating a page that it hasn't worked properly. We've cleaned up the code and are doing more frequent testing, but if you ever have a problem with the cart or order form in our store please let us know by e-mail (at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Current Conditions Section
Most of the condition advisories which go through our systems have ended for the season. In the Mt Washington (NH) area and the Northwest US they are issuing bulletins on an infrequent as-needed basis. The only regular advisories still being mailed out right now are from Davos, Switzerland.
All of the bulletins posted on our site have been updated with a note at the top indicating that they are finished for the season, and directing people to the appropriate page in our Education center to learn more about spring and summer hazards. Most of the final advisories contained some general information on spring conditions, often with specifically local information. This remains posted below our generic note at the top.
Over the past week we've gotten back to work on the Education Center. Our primary goal was to reorganize our spring information links, but in the course of doing that a number of other things were cleaned up as well. This section had fallen into relatively poor condition, at least by our standards. There are now fewer bad links, although a few areas such as the research page still need work. The section map was seriously out of date and has been updated to reflect the current content of the section. And it functions properly again now too!
Of particular current interest is our collection of spring and summer information. We've created one page with links to about 4-5 articles around the web on this topic, and on the same page there are links to those final avalanche bulletins which offer spring information.
Once you've read everything and brushed up on spring avalanche hazards you can take our new quiz to test your knowledge. Since it is new we would welcome any feedback on questions, options given as answers, or the answers page itself. A few questions have options which may be a bit subtle and we're open to suggestions for improvements if people find them difficult, ambiguous, or confusing. We can also improve the descriptions in the answers section if they don't clarify things well enough.
Incidents Section Summary
There have been a few new incidents added since our last update, although it is nice to report that things in this section have slowed down substantially. The most recent involvements are listed on the main incidents page, all are on the season listing page.
One of the things the new searching feature allows you to do is generate listings by month and by activity (sorted by either as well). While we only have two seasons worth in our database so far a bit of searching shows that spring mountaineering and climbing incidents begin to show up in April and constitute most listings for May and June, although these months do generally have less reports filed. So if you are a climber getting started for the season keep this in mind and go check out the Education Center resources. In the Northwest US there has just been some new snowfall and the coming weekend is forecast to be sunny and warm. These conditions (new snow, rapid warming, and sunshine) are ones to be careful in.
As we wind down we wish everyone a successful spring and summer of climbing and skiing. In some places the best skiing is just beginning, so don't put those boards away quite yet! Just keep in mind the need to get into a spring schedule and to think about things which differ somewhat from what you may consider in mid-winter. We want to see you checking in again in the fall ready to go, not recovering!