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/
It looks like our last update was way back in early December, just prior to our fundraising auction. This years auction was unusually slow, along with sponsorships and store sales. Much of this, although not all of it, seems to be related to a combination of a poor economy and a lackluster winter in most of the western US. In the case of the auction it went slower than usual partly due to the fact that the director was away on travels prior to it, and a great deal of work on most aspects of the project comes down to the director. Given that the directorship is unpaid due to our small budget it isn't fair to expect the CSAC to be a top priority all of the time. The capability to pay one or more people would go a long way towards improving the project in the future.
This all means that user contributions are becoming more important than ever to the future of the website and project. For several years this has been our primary source of funding, with the store usually on a par with it. User contributions are the only component of funding which is not down this year, and we would like to thank our user/supporter base for continuing to help us provide our comprehensive internet services. Many of these contributions are small, on the order of $15-20, but they do add up in the end. Your support helps, no matter how much it is. (Contributions can be made from this page: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/contribute/)
This section has experienced the most growth this season. We are getting more reports, especially from Europe, than in the past. We are posting European press reports in the original language as well as including a very rough translation first done online then cleaned up manually. More advisories are archived now than in the past which allows us to maintain a copy linked to the incident report for a large percentage of accidents posted. We have also incorporated a directory for posting photos for those incidents we get some for. For the current season we now have approximately 110 incidents posted. Our database which can be searched and sorted is approaching 400 entries.
All this expansion has made the Incidents section the most frequently visited one on the site. In the past it would rival "Current Conditions" only during time periods with high visibility incidents. This year it is getting consistently high traffic.
This section has also required a great deal more work as it grows and we have hired a local student to help keep things up to date. Cameron is an engineering student and has proven to be much more reliable and competent than many students we've tried to work with. Even with a high state minimum wage this expenditure is well worthwhile.
With the flow of information getting to be so fast we often make changes, add information, and update reports and filenames after the fact. Sometimes days or even weeks after the incident happens, at which point it has been entered into the database and disappeared from the main page list. One of the services we offer to people who contribute to the non-profit project is a mailing list which will inform you of these changes when they are made. Contributors can also do full searches on the database, while the public interface will return only up to five results.
Our store has gone through some changes this season. We now have only a shopping cart system and no master order form with everything listed. The form became too long and difficult to manage. Partly in response to misplaced orders a new template has been applied to each product page. This has mostly eliminated ordering problems that we know of, so hopefully the site is now easier to use.
We now have a new shipment of CSAC Nalgene bottles, after several months of trying to get the logo printed right by Nalgene. The cost on the four-color printing has gone way up so we will need to increase the retail pricing, but we haven't made any changes yet so order soon before we do if you want to get the old price.
It's also getting to be the time of year when we think about clearing off our shelves, although it is still a bit early to be aggressive about it. We have added a number of things to our sale page in the contributor services section. We first offer things there then after some time passes items which have not sold are posted on the public sale page and further discounted for contributors. There is now a mailing list which contributors can subscribe to which will notify you every time we add items to the sale page or reduce any prices. Subscribe from within the Contributor Services section. (Click on the small key icon anywhere you find it, including the home page.)
Current Conditions Section
Our avalanche bulletin distribution system is working well this year. The mailing lists have all been running smoothly and all of the web postings and links should be good. Please report any problems to us.
We did make several improvements to our e-mail systems early this season. Some of the more popular bulletins are available in either text or html format (with separate lists for each format). And some of the bulletins issued by the Forest Service which are frequently re-issued with typo corrections no longer have duplicates sent to the lists. Most lists receive one bulletin per day now, with any corrections or updates later in the day reflected on the web. Our web versions are current within less than one hour.
These changes have gone smoothly and been well received.
We had hoped to produce another issue of the "Avalanche Gazette" by now. Unfortunately we have had to accept that we lack the resources to do this. While the Gazette was popular and well received there did not seem to be much interest in contributing to the project as a result of it. Without additional resources we are trying to keep our work more focused and to do our best at what we can offer rather than spread ourselves too thin and do a substandard job at too many things.
Later in the spring we will be working on the Education and Professional Resources sections, in part to add material that we had once considered using in the Gazette.
Thanks to everyone who is sending incident reports, articles and link and otherwise helping out and to those who are contributing financially. It's with your help that we can continue to maintain the most current and dynamic avalanche resource on the internet.