Avalanche Center Home Update - March 28, 2006

An Update from the Avalanche Center
March 28, 2006

Quick Contents -

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A lot of updating has been done on the Avalanche Center website over the past two months. This work has taken so much time, on top of my non-CSAC work, that there hasn't been time to send an update since January. Here is a summary of what's updated, new, and improved. The biggest changes have been in the Incidents and News sections.

Avalanche Store - Spring Sale Approaching, Successful Matching Discount Policy Continues

Every spring we put all the items left on our shelf on sale. We first offer sale pricing to members, on a special page in their section of the website. We've already done that. The next step is to post them on the public sale page, which will happen in the next week or so. There will be more info in the next update, but keep an eye on the sale page if you want to grab up any of the deals before we remind everyone else.

We have been successful in matching discount pricing offered by others, and our policy continues to be to aggressively match any other price from any other retail outlet. In the case of clearance prices on limited stock we may not be willing to, but ask anyway since we might. We've matched an REI price on beacons which was so low we only broke even on those. We matched a sale price from Bent Gate which was offered partly as a mark-down and partly as a club benefit. And we matched a couple "get a free probe" deals by offering a similar cash discount when the customer didn't really need the probe and by offering an equivalent discount on a higher end probe when the customer wanted that.

In addition to getting the best price you find anywhere from us you also get membership for one year if your purchase is $100 or more.

Even though we are unloading the shelves of the limited inventory we keep we can also continue to fill orders for anything else. We'll probably need to order it for you, but we have a pretty quick turn-around time.

Incidents Section Updates

As of today: 145 Reports and 262 fatalities for the season; 875 reports in our database

This is always a big project, and as the news becomes more global and we get more information it keeps getting harder to keep up with. There are now 145 reports reflecting 262 fatalities from around the world. They seem to occur about as fast as I can add them, sometimes faster. The incidents have been cross-checked between the list and the database contents frequently to make sure everything is correctly accounted for.

Contributors can log in and read the actual incident reports. Many (but not all) contain photos, maps, and/or other related information. Wherever possible the advisory in effect at the time of the incident is archived and linked to. Those do not require logging in, they can be read by anyone.

The RSS feed for incidents is not automated and has been kept current much of the time but not always. The entry with the current totals is updated frequently and is usually correct. The email list used to update people daily on new additions (both new incidents and new info on previous ones) has been posted to almost every night. This email list is another extra available to members.

As reports are archived into the database it is only possible to find the most recent additions on the main page. Contributors can use several powerful tools to search and sort the 875 archived reports. A version of this feature is publicly available but return a limited number of results. At the bottom of the table on the main incidents page I keep as accurate a tally as possible on the number of posted reports and the number of fatalities for the season to date. (Currently 145 and 262, with 875 archived reports in the database.)

This seasons reports include: 19 deaths in Russia (not a complete total), 53 deaths in France (complete, a new record), 24 deaths in Switzerland (complete), and 25 deaths (total) for all of North America (19 US and 6 Canada).

News Section Updates

In the course of locating incident information there are sometimes news stories related to avalanches which show up. In the past I haven't archived too many of them, but this year there are quite a few. The entire section has been reviewed, been updated with a consistent appearance, and link checked.

The most recent few stories are on the main section page, the rest are archived by year. You can go to the main page for each calendar year and read summaries, or you can use the Section Map link at the top of the page to see a full index of everything, from all years, in one list. The index is currently up to date to within the most recent additions still on the main page.

The News section has an RSS feed also, which is updated every time there is an addition to the section.

The News section is currently available to everyone, current and archived articles. There are no special benefits for members in this section at this time. Remember that it is contributions that make this possible.

Members Section Updates

Contributors can log in for a number of additional features. Members can use our advisory email lists and can subscribe and unsubscribe using a special form so that the confirmation email is not required. They can search and sort the full incident database with 875 reports since 2000 with no limitations or restrictions, and they can read all incident report pages. They can subscribe to an email list which summarizes updates to the incidents section. Members get an across-the-board discount on all purchases made while they are logged in. Right now it's been reduced to 15% since I want to focus on moving inventory via sale pricing, but at times it has been 30% or more. Sale pricing goes to members first.

There is now a members email list. There are some ins and outs to using some of the contributor features, and sometimes I get email with questions or frustrations. Not very often, and many people have been using the features with no problem. But new benefits are added, improvements are made, and there has been no way to update members on these things. The new list will allow better service to contributors.

The sale page in the members section now has all of our inventory posted at sale pricing. Doing this brought a few other things to my attention so the member pages have been cleaned up and improved a bit. The form for list subscription management hadn't been brought up to date - it now has all lists on it. The feature to see what pages on the site changed since whenever the last login was now works all the time, it used to work only after you first logged in but not if you returned to the welcome/index page later.

Upcoming Improvements

Now that my mid-winter obligations (non-CSAC) are over I am working hard to get caught up on the site and make further improvements. Although I also hope to get out for some skiing and climbing in the spring. In the winter its become limited mostly to days when I'm teaching.

The immediate need is to bring everything up to date, and to close out store items. There are still incidents to be sorted out, especially the many from France this year.

Beyond that there is quite a bit of programming that needs to be done to better manage contributions and store sales. The method we use right now to get information back from PayPal after a transaction isn't the most reliable one, they offer a much more robust method. But it requires some programming on my end. That will help automate memberships, contribution record keeping, etc.

Finally, I am anxious to get back to the online course program I had started in the fall. It got off to a good start but the remaining fine tuning and additional development may have to wait right now.

Every spring I do update the Education section and home page with links to information specific to spring avalanches. By the next update I'll have that done. The information can be found in the Education section, its just not prominent right now. The "Quiz yourself" section has a quiz on spring conditions.

Becoming a Member/Contributor

This project is supported by user contributions. Contrary to the accusations of some, I am not getting rich running this. In fact I get paid for 10 hours a month at minimum wage because that's all there is, even though the amount of work is far greater than that. Our overhead (office, communications, computer equipment, etc) is barely covered by contributions, and that's what they are used for. This is in contrast to many groups who raise funding primarily for salaries for organizations that have their overhead provided by government agencies.No salaries here!

To become a member and get the extra benefits that go with that you can contribute $25 or more. But for people interested in becoming project contributors who have a real problem with donating $25 or more there are a few other options.

One is to purchase gear from our store. Any order with a total check-out value of $100 or more counts as a contribution. And you'll get your best price from us, we are matching just about anyone else's deals.

Another is to use the Forums. A while back I found an interesting "cash" modification to the forum program, and anyone who posts now gets "forum money" for participating. More for new topics, less for replies, but something for anything posted. This can be applied towards membership, in the future it may be useful in the store as well. You can also donate any or all of your forum money to another registered forum user.

I'd like to thank all of those who have become members and help make this project possible, on behalf of all those who use the resources, the board of directors and officers, and myself.

Thanks a lot for using and supporting the site. Use it to stay aware and stay safe, and avoid becoming an entry in the lengthy incidents listing.

Avalanche Center Info