Avalanche Center Home Update - January 30, 2009

An Update from the Avalanche Center
January 30, 2009

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Topics of interest featured in this update:

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(To translate this update enter the URL "http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/updates/" and then follow the link on the translated page to this update. This way the entire page/update is translated.)

Last Day !!! - We are a finalist for the top Non-Profit on the social and business networking site Fastpitch. It's not known what the benefits of winning are, but you may as well help us find out by voting. You can vote once per day here:

http://www.fastpitchnetworking.com/widget.cfm?Cat=6&ID=52337452 (EXPIRED)

Voting ends today or tomorrow, it's not clear which. If even a modest percentage of people receiving this vote we could probably win. (After voting at the above URL you will receive a confirmation email with a link to follow. This confirms your vote and helps them limit votes to one per day by verifying your IP as well as email.)

Thanks to all of the people who offered to help with our graphic and preparing it for bookmarks and decals. We are working with the first person who replied and hope to be able to order those items soon. We had a quick turn-around initially but it was based on an original with too low a resolution for printing. There is a photoshop original with the proper resolution so as soon as we get that updated and transfer the right file I hope we will be on our way. We've had more interest in decals and we hope to have some before too long.

Auction - http://www.avalanche-center.org/auction/
Store - http://www.avalanche-center.org/store/

The auction was restarted after the holidays and is now continuing, with most items currently listed ending Feb 2, Monday evening. After our last update a few bids were placed but we need to get people checking it out and bidding. You can help out the Avalanche Center by letting others know about the auction - on forums, through clubs, by contacting friends on Facebook and other networking sites, etc.

We have a special donation of a guided day trip in Glacier Park (US) for four. This is a great opportunity for somebody, but it will only appeal to people planning on going to that area or interested in going there. Pass the word to anyone who may be interested, and mention it on any lists or forums with the right focus. (National Parks forums/groups, etc.)

There is a prominent link to the auction at the top of the home page and the Avalanche Store page, and there are also text ads on the left side of the home page ( for both the auction and the store).

It is also possible to use our auction to sell your own items. Any outdoor related items can be posted. There is no fee or charge, but we hope that people will make a donation to the Avalanche Center when they succeed in selling something.

We are using the auction and its "Buy it Now" option to offer matching prices on beacons when we are aware of discounts available elsewhere. Most companies have some kind of policy prohibiting us from listing their items below suggested retail on a regular sales page. In the current economy other retailers will report us if we do. However, some retailers do somehow manage to sell at a discount and as long as that's the case we can and will match them. Gladly. Look for a good deal on the PIEPS DSP at the moment, at $349. We will offer this price as long as it is available elsewhere, but if the other retailer changes their listed price we will have to also. So don't delay! Let us know if you find another discount we should be matching, on any beacon.

If you make a winning auction bid (of any amount on any item) or you make a purchase from the store which totals $100 or more a one year membership is included free.

Budget and Fundraising - http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/finance/

The part of our budget coming from contributions is much lower than it used to be. The small membership donations of $35 or so each that we usually count on are dropping off significantly. However, the good news is that many regular supporters are still contributing more than that. If you use the site without donating you owe these supporters some gratitude since they make it possible.

Store revenues were about average prior to and through the holidays, then dropped off dramatically. Lately we are seeing a bit more interest again, and we are cautiously optimistic that we will come out about average for the season. We are matching discounts on most sales, which means processing more orders for the same results.

We cannot make up entirely for lost contributions through store sales, so please donate if you can. We don't need a six digit budget, or even close to it, to continue our services. But we can't do it without some support either, and we need your help.

Remember that you can support the Avalanche Center every time you do a web search or make a purchase from almost any major online store. Make goodsearch your default search engine and we will get just over one cent for every search. Goodshop helps even more, and all you have to do is go to the retailer of your choice from their site. Rather than go directly to Amazon, for example, follow the Goodshop link. (Making sure your choice for the CSAC is reflected on their site.) You pay the same amount you would otherwise but a percentage is donated to us. This is easy to do but also easy to forget.

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.

Facebook and Social Networks

We're up to 118 friends now on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/avalanche.center/. The American Alpine Club listed a Facebook page in a recent email newsletter, and in the last one they were excited to have reached several hundred friends or fans. While that is a few times more than we have they are far larger, so we are glad to see how many friends we have in comparison. (Although there are individuals with several times this number also, so it isn't extremely large.)

Help us keep up the momentum and invite or suggest your friends and contacts to become friends of the avalanche center. If you're not on facebook consider joining it, in addition to showing support for the avalanche center you'll probably find quite a few people you know on there. Maybe even some old friends you've lost touch with. It's surprising how popular it's become.

The Avalanche Center is new to Facebook and we don't have a lot of knowledge of how to use it to reach out to more people. I am so busy it's all I can do to keep the website operating and up to date on the budget available, in addition to a growing number of other projects and endeavors. So if anyone has any ideas on how to do more with Facebook or any of the other networking sites let us know. We could use somebody to co-manage any of these accounts.

We have accounts on a few other sites as well, although Facebook seems to be the most popular. One of the others is Fastpitch, which is the site where we are a finalist in some kind of contest. A more common one is LinkedIn, and if anyone is using an account on there you can add us as a contact.

News and Incidents Updates and Social Bookmarking

The News and Incidents sections are being updated as efficiently as possible, so look for new material in both of them.

We currently have 40 incident reports that include 61 fatalities for this season, worldwide. It has been a challenge to keep up. While the reports have been posted the archived advisories still need to be linked to the reports, and in many cases more information needs to be added. Often the material added later includes more detailed reports and photos.

The two most recent major reports are from Turkey and Afghanistan, with 10 fatalities each. The incident in Afghanistan is from the Salaang Tunnel which connects the north and south of the country. We have several past reports from this pass in the archives that can easily be found with a search. The first one I can recall was before the tunnel re-opened, when people took a bus to one side and walked across to get another bus on the other side. Today it is open to traffic, but the tunnel clearly does not span the entire avalanche area. Additional information on the incident in Turkey was received today from a colleague in Slovenia who has been working on a cooperative project with Turkey. I have not had a chance to read and post that yet, it will become available in the next few days. Along with some info on current avalanche situations in Slovenia.

The News section was updated this evening, with four new stories from the past 5 months or so added. News storied are added 2-4 at a time so that the rss feed will reflect changes over time. There are a few newer stories that will be added on the next update. The section was link checked, and the section map was updated. The map serves as a complete index to all archived news since at least 2003.

You can bookmark many specific pages on sites like Mixx, Del-icio-us, Digg, and others. Including Facebook and MySpace which let you post or share bookmarks. At the top and bottom of most news story pages, and at the top of each incidents page (for members), there is a "share" icon. Hold your mouse over this and an abbreviated list of sites for bookmark sharing will appear. If your favorite one isn't there choose "More..." and it will probably be on the full list. On the home page there is a white + on an orange background on the right side - hold your mouse on this to bookmark the home page on these sites. If many people would add our home page to these social bookmark sites it would be great, and would help promote the site and avalanche safety in general!

The newest news story posted is on the latest study that includes demographics on those involved in avalanche incidents. One finding was that avalanche training doesn't, statistically, reduce ones risk. It has often been asked why a large percentage of avalanche victims had taken an avalanche class, and this study just formalizes the question. The study also reports that avalanche risk is typically overstated, and that going into the backcountry has a risk on a par with that of being a motorist.

Education - http://www.avalanche-center.org/Education/

The primary mission of the CSAC Avalanche Center has always been awareness and education. Our latest endeavor in this regard is online avalanche education, including a complete set of Level 1 classroom material. There will no doubt be plenty of people who question this. To complete a Level 1 course still does require field time, so there is no claim that this online approach can replace that. However, the online approach allows a content based approach rather than one based on hours. Students in the online course cover a complete set of material. They can do this over a time span and in an amount of time suitable to their own schedule and learning style.

It was an interesting coincidence that about the time the news story mentioned above came out I also received a newsletter from the IAHS (International Association of Hydrological Sciences) with a relevant cartoon in it. It's labeled "Two common strategies for dealing with modeling problems .." On the left a paper with "model failures" written on it is being swept under a carpet. On the right is a guy with his head in the sand claiming there must be something wrong with the data. Along these lines some of the articles on the risk study first mentioned the result that training does not reduce risk but then proceeded to devote a couple paragraphs to dismissing the result or marginalizing the data. (This cartoon just begs for an article incorporating it, but for now it is posted in the Gallery under Avalanche Center Photos. Go to the forums and click on Gallery 2 in the links along the top. You do not need to be a member, or even to be logged in, to view it.)

Avalanche education has changed a lot in the last 10 years or so, mostly for the better. Even though there appears to be some evidence it may not be as effective as we would like there is still a good argument to be made that it is worthwhile. But clearly there is also a good argument to be made that we can do a better job than we have been.

The online course has taken several years to develop, and there is still some work to be done. But last season about 20 students from different parts of the US took part in a "beta" offering and the feedback was excellent, without exception. This season things have been too busy to fully roll it out as we had hoped, but it is available. Currently there is a student from the UK taking the online part, who will do some field work in another week or two. His reviews of the modules completed so far have been excellent. There has also been a rather interesting an unanticipated result, which is that developing and managing the course has shed a lot of light on how students learn.

There is a link to this new educational program, the Avalanche Institute, at the top of the Education Center page. A lot of what needs to be done now consists of working out logistics, such as the enrollment process and challenges to modules for those who feel they have a suitable background. (Challenges potentially allow students to jump into complete modules at a more advanced level, or to complete the certification at a lower cost.)

Members - http://www.avalanche-center.org/members/

There are extra features available to members. A members update is still overdue and will cover these benefits. Anyone who is, or has been, a member is on that special list. Every now and then we send something out about benefits, sale prices, and account management.

One current membership benefit is a reduced cost for the online avalanche education. It is possible to enroll in the complete Level 1 course at a reduced cost, or to pay for the first module and take a second one free. The individual cost of the two modules can be deducted from the discounted course cost if a member decides to continue based on their experience with those two modules.

Membership requires a minimum donation of $35 and is good for one year. Posts on all forums earn "forum dollars" and those can be applied towards membership, among other things. There is a rarely used lottery there also, to leverage the dollars from your posts. Membership also comes with any store purchase exceeding $100 (including sale items) and all winning auction bids. The auction always includes some very low price items. With so many options available there is no reason for membership to be out of reach for anyone.

Membership can more than pay for itself with either equipment discounts available to members or course/module enrollments. Plus it allows access to incident reports, special forums, full size gallery photos, and more.

In Conclusion

There are several ways you can help us out and show your support:

  • Contribute and join: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/contribute/
  • Bid in the auction or buy equipment in the store : http://www.avalanche-center.org/auction/
  • Vote on Fastpitch TODAY
  • Become a friend on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/avalanche.center/
  • Bookmark our pages on sites like Mixx, Digg, Del-icio-us and others

Please help us out and join, contribute, bid in the auction, and spread the word. Mention the auction (and the deals!) on forums you participate in.

Some links in parting:

Jim Frankenfield
Executive Director

Avalanche Center Info