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/
The biggest news right now is our annual Fundraising auction, which will officially begin on December 3. We are posting a few special things early with short bid times, for those who want a good deal and can act quickly. On December 3 (Tuesday) we hope to post most of the items which have been contributed, but this may run on into Wednesday or Thursday. It is also likely that we will receive late contributions to be posted during the first week or so of the auction. So keep checking back for special short-term items and new items. The auction URI is:
The auction is one of several key funding components for our work, and your participation will help the project to continue to exist and improve.
We would like to thank Colorado Mountain College for renewing their sponsorship for the coming year. At this point we have no indication that our remaining previous sponsors will renew, and although we had at least one new company express interest nothing has come of it. Corporate support has diminished in recent years, and especially this year with the economy being slow. This means that user contributions are becoming more important than ever to the future of the website and project. (Contributions can be made from this page: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/contribute/)
The support of our remaining sponsors is especially important. We would like to acknowledge the support of Backcountry Access in particular. Not only are they the sole manufacturer of avalanche safety equipment supporting us at this point, but they are also offering support for avalanche safety and awareness through other means as well, including a new small grant program and the expansion of their own website with lots of educational materials. We hope you will keep their dedication to education and awareness in mind and that you'll check out their website, http://www.bcaccess.com/
Fall Fundraising Auction - Fifth Annual
Every year we run an online auction in early December which helps to raise the funds we need to pay our bills year-round. This is a one-time event lasting a couple weeks and not an ongoing auction. There is a prominent link in red at the top of the home page and all section pages. Or go directly to it: http://www.avalanche-center.org/auction/
The auction will begin this week and will close December 16. Products are on hand in our office and will be shipped immediately upon bid payment. There is no additional shipping cost for the US and Canada, and there is no additional tax. What you bid is what you pay.
We have sent two or three faxes and one bulk mailing to our listing of hundreds of companies in the outdoor industry. The products on auction are the result of this, and the companies recognized on the auction page are those who have supported our work by donating something. At this point we have no avalanche safety equipment donated, but we will be providing various safety equipment and books through our own store.
Current Conditions Section
Most of the avalanche centers in the US have issued at least some bulletins at this point. Utah and Colorado are now daily, as is the Swiss bulletin. The only major center not to have issued anything yet is the Northwest, in Seattle. We have gone through the scripts and mailing lists for all of the centers and either made sure they work properly or rewritten scripts to make sure they are going to work better than ever this year. Right now everything is functioning properly in the same way as the past. Once we get through the auction we will be making improvements to our bulletin handling systems.
On the webpages there are almost no bad links or orphaned files. We have done at least a brief review of the glossing, which links key terms to our glossary. A few minor improvements have been made in this and the glossary terms being linked to from bulletins have been updated. This is another ongoing project which we will be working on soon, and better glossing than ever can be expected this season.
We probably have more incidents posted on December 1st than in any previous year. Including the first two fatalities in North America which occurred on Mt Washington in New Hampshire just the other day. (Which was followed within a couple days by another very close call which involved people that had helped in the first incident - see the website for relevant comments.) There have been a few close calls in Colorado which are posted as well. In Europe there have been two fatalities that we have reports for, one in the Pitztal Glacier area of Austria and one in Germany which we are just now preparing to be posted. We believe there may also have been one or two fatalities in France, but our information for Europe (and France and Italy especially) is incomplete.
In most regions conditions are still early season. The size of the fatal avalanche in New Hampshire was not especially large, but large enough. The hazard rating was "moderate" (or only 2 out of 5). Other incidents have carried people over rocks and down sparsely covered gullies. It's especially important to watch for terrain features right now which may be more hazardous without snow cover on them. And when there is very little snow in general it's important to watch out for those pockets where there is more snow - don't be caught off guard. Avalanche advisories are only general assessments for a wide area, learn to make your own localized field assessments. Take a class if you need to.
Our course listing has had a few additions, including offerings from the Sierra Mountain Center in Bishop CA and a few non-profit sponsored courses in Colorado and Montana. Last season we introduced a searchable database for our course listings and we are continuing that for this season. It has been brought up to date to include all of the courses from our listings.
Other plans for our Education Center are primarily to continue the reorganization it is undergoing and to improve the glossary further. We have completed the disbanding of the "Download Section" and the "Other Cool Stuff" section and some of that content is now in the Education section.
This is now the home for the "Avalanche Gazette". Another issue, the first for this season, is in the works. We have contributions lined up but this will still require a good bit of follow up, and then final editing and assembly. With the auction and other current demands we are aiming for the last week of December.
As we continued to add so many products to the store the front page became too large and it has now been reduced to a set of links to other pages listing each type of product or the products of certain companies. Our order forms also became too long and unmanageable and we have eliminated everything other than the shopping cart system now. Feedback on these changes is welcome - if you have trouble finding a product, have problems with the shopping cart, or miss the old order forms we'll not only help you out but will try to make changes to improve the store for others.
In the last update we asked for some help with a few things, and our team has grown a bit. Tani in California will be helping us get out Quicken records up to date and into better shape. Tony, also in California, is working on organizing our media contact list. Meanwhile, near the main office in Oregon, Dennis is using his background in journalism to develop better long-term approaches to media relations.
We also have a couple people who serve as reliable feeds of incident information. JR of Nelson watches the Canadian news more closely than we can, and Luidger of Munich has been sending us news reports for incidents in Germany and Austria.
Thanks to everyone who is helping out and to those who are contributing financially.
We have other tasks we will look for help with later. For now we need to get our current team together and organized, and with the auction and the gazette it is difficult to work with anyone new right now. But watch future updates if you are interested in getting involved. We are anxious to help keep the project going and to improve it by incorporating as much help as possible, it's just a matter of being able to manage and coordinate everything.
So check out our auction, do a special snow dance, and be careful when you do get out there in the early season conditions most regions still have.