An Update from the Avalanche Center
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This is a short early season update for the CSAC Avalanche Center. There were many things that were never announced last season and there is a lot under way now, as there is at the beginning of every season. I hope to send out more regular shorter updates this season so that the work and progress on the site doesn't continue to outpace the ability to inform people about it via updates. As a new incentive to receive and read updates there will be a discount coupon code included in at least some of them. More on that follows, and the first such code is included somewhere in this update.
Remember that you can support the avalanche center by using Goodsearch as your search engine. Just go to Goodsearch.com and search for "avalanche" under charities then select us. If you do this check in on their home page every now and then to verify you're supporting us. They use a cookie to keep track of who to support and it expires every few weeks. I've been using Mozilla/Firefox and have Goodsearch as my primary engine, with others available in a drop-down menu at the top right. Usually I can find what I want using Goodsearch and it helps the avalanche center every time I search.
Good search has the potential to raise a significant amount of funding, if the success of some other groups is any indication. Especially since a significant amount in our budget is far less than an amount qualifying for that term in a quarter-million dollar government budget. All it takes is for people to select this project and then use Goodsearch whenever they do a web search. But it gets better - they have expanded into Goodshop. Just make sure we're selected from the Goodsearch page, then click on the Goodshop graphic or banner, currently halfway down the right side of their page. You can go to a great many stores from that page, and as long as the Avalanche Center was selected we will get a percentage of your expenditures donated to us. Keep this in mind when you do holiday shopping - many of the shops available are probably ones you might be shopping at anyway.
Usually there would already have been a lot of promotion for our annual fundraising auction, especially for the donation of goods. Every season I wonder if I really want to invest all the time it takes, but I always have. This year I just can't do it right now. For now the plan is to try holding it mid-winter. It won't compete for time with all of the early season efforts, and it may attract more interest and donations (or not, we'll see). We can also keep the auction open for gear from our store and use by the public without seeing a total lapse of interest the way we do during the last week or so of December. In the meantime maybe I can find some new help in the physical office to help make it possible.
Project News - http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/
Over the summer the physical office was moved from Corvallis, OR to Klamath Falls. This is closer to the mountains, sunnier, and higher. It's about half way between Crater Lake and Mt Shasta. There are still things to do related to the move, and it's time to locate some help. In Corvallis the university mountain club had a list that we could usually find help on, although in recent years volunteers became sparse and we paid a single student for work limited mostly to shipping boxes. Last season our student left about this time of year, due to being over extended. The move was already anticipated so rather than try to hire somebody in the midst of the auction and peak season we got by with no help. Hopefully that will change in the coming weeks.
One result of the move is that our office rent expenses are slightly lower. We are the only avalanche information center that has not had an expanding budget at the rate of inflation or better. Since the budget hasn't grown (and actually shrunk last season) the expenses are constantly being pared down wherever possible. The down side of lower rent is a much smaller amount of space.
It would be nice to put a little more effort into active promotion this season. We still have paper bookmarks and if you can distribute these through local shops, clubs, huts, etc, we will be glad to send you some. Just send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org
The store is 95% updated for this season. Last season an improvement in store sales helped offset declining contributions. This increase in store revenues results largely from aggressively matching any other price anywhere on the web. Or off the web. There is rarely any reason to shop anywhere else when you can get the same deal from the avalanche center and have the proceeds put entirely to work for avalanche safety. The store is run like everything else - on volunteer time and labor. Any transaction with a value over $100 automatically includes a one-year membership as well, valued at $35. When people complain about needing a membership for certain resources but have purchased their gear elsewhere it's hard to be sympathetic.
I've spent the last two nights programming in a new discount coupon system. If you enter the coupon code found later in this update you will save 15% automatically on anything and everything other than sale items or price matched items. At the last step of the ordering process there is a place to enter a coupon code if you have one. You need to enter it here and then continue to checkout. If you review the cart or make any changes it forgets the coupon and you just need to enter it again when you're back at the last step. The coupon here will be valid until the next update or December 1, whichever is first. Although we reserve the right to terminate it at any time due to any reason (including abuse or technical problems). There will be different codes with different discounts available throughout the season via updates, various forums, clubs, etc.
The coupon code only works if you are not logged in as a member. Members who log in when they shop get an automatic discount. It varies, but at the moment it is 20%. There may be a short term members sale with an even higher discount, which will only be announced on the store notices list (available to members).
There are a lot of things that have never been announced due to the lack of updates, but only a few generalized comments will be included here for now.
The big project the last two nights was digging into the store shopping cart and implementing the discount coupon code system. As usual this ended up involving some improvements and fixes for obscure problems that came up. You can try this out by using the code u071119 on the last page before checking out. After entering this code and clicking the Update button the prices will be adjusted and a comment will be included showing your total savings. If you enter an invalid code or use this after we expire it then the cart will reload with no changes and no error reports or comments.
The Incidents section was the subject of a lot of work over the summer. Most of the older archived reports are now reformatted on templates consistent with the ones in use for new incidents. There are one or two seasons that are still not converted. Everything since October 1, 1998 is now included in the database and there are now over 1200 reports that can be searched and sorted. It is now possible to search for incidents anywhere in the US in addition to searching by state, and it is also possible to specify minimum and maximum fatalities. So you could look for all reports with more than 3 fatalities in any country or state during any time period since Oct 1, 1998.
The incident reports and the news reports in the news section were current as of November 1, although there are a few international reports that could still be translated and added for last season. Since November 1 there has not been a search or update, but this will be corrected shortly. There has already been one fatality in Canada when two climbers were swept down steep terrain. One died later in the hospital. This and any other recent incidents will be updated soon.
Avalanche advisories are beginning to be issued, at least sporadically. These are being posted and the scripts that do that are being tested, reviewed and improved. This has included some fine tuning of the keywords feature, and for some advisories the keywords will be available via their own RSS feed in addition to the existing feed that includes all advisories.
Budget and Fundraising - http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/finance/2006-2007/
Towards the end of the last season (ended Sept 30) a graphic was added at the top of the home page showing our fundraising and budget goals and progress. It will be removed soon until late this season, if we are behind our goals by enough we will need to post it again for this season. The final graph for last season is still there at the moment for anyone who wants to look over the final figures. If you click on that graphic it takes you to the contribute page with three links at the top to detailed budget information.
Now that the record keeping has been brought up to date these records can be updated online regularly. We also filed a 990 form with the IRS this year, even though our budget is below the threshold that requires this. We've done this as a matter of public disclosure and open records in the past and are happy to report that these public domain filings have now been made again.
If anyone has any questions or comments about our budget (or any other aspect of how things are run) please feel free to post them in the Feedback section on our forums. ( http://www.avalanche-center.org/phpBB2/) You do not need to register, although posting as a guest requires jumping through a few hoops in order to keep out the spammers.
There will be another update before long, after the US Thanksgiving holiday. More upgrades and work will be done over this holiday period, and other resources will be mentioned. Especially some new things in the Education section that were never announced. Some comments and trends concerning early season avalanches will also be included. And perhaps a new discount coupon.