An Update from the Avalanche Center
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.)
This is a brief update on what is new and upcoming on the internet Avalanche Center, http://www.avalanche-center.org/
It may still seem early to be thinking about snow for some people, but here at the Avalanche Center things are already getting underway. In fact, since the first rough draft of this update a fe days ago we've had to re-write it to reflect all of the pre-season work that has arisen. Courses are being listed, bulletins are beginning to come out, and the annual fundraising auction takes a lot of preparation. This update will announce some of the changes and updates we have made or are making, some of the changes in how our site and organization are operating, and a couple things we need people to help with.
One thing we do every year to promote the project and help make more people aware of the resources we provide is to distribute paper bookmarks. We try to get these onto shop counters, into mountain huts, out at various ski shows, and distributed through clubs. If you can help us reach out through any of these channels let us know by e-mail and we will send you some bookmarks. In addition to the English version we also have French, German and Spanish. We are also looking for a couple new volunteers with the specific skills or interests to help with a couple things - more on that is at the end of the update.
General News and Updates
As we prepare for another season, our eighth on the web, we seem to have settled into a sustainable collection of funding sources. Our budget has been covering our costs for the past several seasons but is still small enough to limit the improvements we can make each year. We rely on user contributions for the largest part of our revenue, along with store sales, our annual auction, and our valued sponsorships.
We would like to thank Backcountry Access and Forty Below for renewing their sponsorships for the coming year. Other sponsors have not yet given us a firm reply yet, and we have been too busy to follow up as actively as we used to. Hopefully over the next two weeks we will be able to announce some additional renewing and new sponsors.
One thing which has already been "rolled over" for the new season is our contributions spreadsheet. We always appreciate the help from those of you who contribute early in the year since it helps us get things underway and to make realistic plans about how much we can accomplish. Given the current state of the economy we expect this to be a difficult season financially, just as many other non-profits do.
Contributions can be made from this page: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/contribute/
Our annual fall auction is another key source of funding and we've already been busy laying the foundation for this year. The auction will begin in early December and run for two weeks, so more details and promotion will follow over the next month. We have already sent out our first fax to the outdoor industry and contributed items are beginning to come in. Items are being listed on the auction page as they arrive. We are currently making a bulk mailing to our industry list, and that will be followed with a second and final fax. This has been a successful fundraising effort due to the participation of both the outdoor industry and our website guests - our thanks goes out to both groups.
One thing that has taken some time and effort lately has been an upgrade of our home page. Although it may not look too different at a glance we are introducing style sheets, trying to bring the html up to current standards, and making an effort to use scripts that work with the current generation of browsers. Our scroller can now be expanded to show all options rather than waiting for something to come around again. Any feedback on our site in browser versions 5 and higher on any platform is welcome. Older browsers should be able to handle any of our pages but we are no longer actively supporting them in terms of design. The web has matured to a point where we are moving towards designing to one standard rather than half a dozen or more different browsers.
Current Conditions Section
Until yesterday we had nothing to include concerning this section. Then we realized that many of the avalanche centers in the US had issued early season bulletins. All are generic in nature but they allow everyone to make sure their posting and distribution systems are functioning. So we have gone through the scripts and mailing lists for all of the centers that have posted fall info and either made sure they work properly or rewritten scripts to make sure they are going to work better than ever this year.
Once it was clearly time to tear into the Conditions section we also did a first-pass review of most of it. All of the pages should have current, proper and consistent appearances using our latest template, and there are very few bad links or orphaned files. (There are a few bad links which either go bad for summer and return to service later or need to be tracked down yet.)
It usually takes some time to get everything working as smoothly and as automated as we like so the next few bulletins from any given center may take up to a day or two to update properly on our site. By the time they move from being generic to having significant content our versions should be current to within a maximum of one hour.
The database has been brought up to date to include everything through September 30.
Two or three days ago we had written: "We are ready to start a new listing page for this year as soon as the need presents itself. Our goal, of course, is to see the page remain unnecessary as long as possible." Well, since then we have added this seasons page. The first incident reported to us was in the Crested Butte, Colorado area.
Keep in mind that if there is enough snow cover to ski on, even if requires old "rock skis", there are potentially spots with enough snow to avalanche. This is not our busiest time of year for accident reports but we get a few each year, often including one or two with fatalities as November progresses.
Our course listing has been cleared from last season and we are now listing some courses for this season as they are submitted. Currently such major and reputable schools as Alpine Skills International, Aspen Expeditions, Alpine World Ascents, AlpenPro and the Alaska Mountain Safety Center have listed their courses on our site. While there are regional listings available on various sites it looks like we will be the only site continuing to list actual courses on a global basis. Due to the work involved in this we request a modest contribution in return for listing specific courses, so our list is far from complete. But the American Avalanche Association has apparently also found it to be a lot of work and is not offering any listing at all any more. And the Canadian Association never has. Both offer lists of schools and instructors, which is something we have had for years and which remains free for anyone wishing to be listed in it.
Last season we introduced a searchable database for our course listings and we will continue that for this season. This allows site guests to search for and sort courses by date, location and cost. The listing usually expands throughout the fall so keep checking back if you are in the market for a recreational class.
Other plans for our Education Center are primarily to continue the reorganization it is undergoing and to improve the glossary further. We have almost completed the disbanding of the "Download Section" and the few resources remaining there will be moved to the Education section soon where we hope they will be more visible and more widely used.
We are in the process of upgrading our store for the season. We are checking with all of the manufacturers to be sure we have their full selections of avalanche related equipment, and to be sure our pricing is current. There are many new products listed already and we are still working on this. A "new" graphic is posted next to anything which is new to our store, although these products may or may not be entirely new. Some are items we just had not carried previously.
As we continue to add so many products the front store page is becoming too large and it will soon be reduced to a set of links to other pages listing each type of product or the products of certain companies. Our order forms also have become too long and unmanageable and we have eliminated everything other than the shopping cart system now.
This will continue to be one of our priorities in the short term so watch for improvements and new products. If you are ever looking for an avalanche safety related item and can't find it in our store let us know, we can probably get it for you. Remember that when you purchase items from our store you are supporting our project.
We are hoping to return to publishing the "Avalanche Gazette" this year and have some solid leads on interesting material for a first issue. It will come down to whether or not we have time to find enough, collect it from the authors during a time of year when they are as busy as we are, and assemble it. But it is a goal and we are making an effort in hopes of having three issues.
The CSAC has benefited from the help of numerous people from time to time. We have had some changes in our "staff", and we are also looking for people that can help with a few specific tasks. Jeff Clarke has helped tremendously almost since our inception and has served as our store manager, general assistant, and bookkeeper. Jeff has moved on and become busy managing Rocknasium in Davis, CA as well as working with Bouldering Magazine. Picking up the tasks he covered will mean more work at the main office, in the short term at least. We'd like to acknowledge his hard work over a long time period. In future updates we will recognize other current and past "staff". (The term 'staff" is used loosely since we are all volunteers who receive only token pay if anything.)
Help us Out
As mentioned at the beginning, we can use some help with a few specific things. If you've read this far, or scrolled down to see if you can help, we appreciate it greatly!
Every year we distribute paper bookmarks as widely as we can. There are many regional ski or snowmobile shows this time of year. We've also put them on shop counters, in parks info offices, and many other places. If you can get some out through any of these channels in your area let us know. We'll mail you a batch, and probably through in a few of our really cool decals for you as well.
There are also two specific tasks which we need people to take over. Both can be done remotely by anyone interested, wherever they are.
The first is the "book-keeping" which consists of taking our monthly folder of receipts and bank statements and entering into Quicken. Jeff has done this for a long time and claims it is very simple, although it needs to be done accurately. While he claims almost anyone could take this over we would be especially grateful to have somebody who knows something about accounting so that we can more easily generate reports from Quicken once the data in entered.
The second task is to organize and maintain our list of media contacts, to be used for press releases and updates to the media. We have a great many contacts recorded but they are in disarray and need to be organized in Excel or some other application. Then new ones need to be added, bad ones removed, and updates made. We now have a volunteer with some media and PR experience to help us communicate more frequently and effectively with the media but we are lacking the "nuts and bolts" part as far as having a good contact list.