An Update from the Avalanche Center
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This is a very brief first update for the 2009-2010 season. There is still a lot of work being done to prepare the website and the project for the coming (northern hemisphere) snow season. While there isn't time to cover all of the work there are a few things we need some simple help with.
We have been posting some single items as they have been updated or added on our Facebook notes and also our new updates blog, which you can follow in a variety of ways including RSS and the Networked Blogs app on Facebook:
Promotion - Bookmarks and Decals
Over the summer we finally had new batches of both of these items printed. Our new bookmarks (called club cards by printers) are like the decals. They have the skeleton logo and the URL avalanche-center.org on both sides on heavy stock with a glossy coating. They're pretty slick. We also have new decals, similar to our previous batch although they are a bit thinner and the csac.org was changed to avalanche-center.org on these as well. The avalanche-center.org domain is a better reflection of what the site is and what is being promoted, for those that see these items and are not familiar with us. Thanks go out to Allison Whibby of Amai Unmei in Portland (OR) for helping with the graphics. We had numerous other offers as well which we also appreciate greatly.
Now that the graphics and printing are done we need to distribute these items to promote the project. There are many early season events that are ideal for this. We get invitations to many on Facebook, and to others via email. Obviously we can't arrange a direct presence at these and there is usually not enough time to contact somebody and send materials. So if there is any relevant event nearby please let us know and we will send some bookmarks to distribute. Ideal events include avalanche fundraisers, films, early season parties, local ski shows and ski swaps, etc. At least a weeks notice is needed to get some into the mail and there in time. We also like to get some out via shops and clubs, as in the past.
We still have a supply of our old bookmarks as well, with the more conservative logo and more text than simply the URL.
New Avalanche Institute Project
For at least three years we have been working behind the scenes on this. We are ready to offer a Level 1 course online, to the public, beginning this season. We have done this with a select group of students for three seasons, from New Hampshire, Oregon, and England. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the method of instruction has proven to be very effective with many advantages. There are still field components, which at this time will be offered as required through partners in support of the online program. The avalanche center will not be directly offering, or involved in offering, anything in the field. The first potential field dates are Dec 12/13 in Oregon. (Anyone who meets the prerequisites may attend at no cost, even if they have already been to a field day. While there are costs for the online course work there is not any cost for the field component.)
There will be a lot more about this before long, but for now we need some volunteers to help with some benchmarking. A request was made through Facebook and our updates blog but the response was very limited and we still have some opportunity for this. We need people who have taken a Level 1 course within the past 2 years. If you have done so and would like to have a chance to review some of the new material let us know. You will end up with credit for 4 or more of the modules, which serve as prerequisites for later modules, for field days, and for certification.
We are developing advanced topics as well, but most will require the Level 1 certification or at least certain modules as prerequisites so this advanced material will follow later.
This has been a very extensive development process with a great deal of hacking necessary on the open source software, a great deal of testing with students, and many improvements as a result of their feedback. This is a fully interactive program which includes various forms of communication with instructors and between students. There is pretty extensive information on the program and on each module available to the public:
The title "Avalanche Institute" was first applied to this when we installed the software in 2005. It seems there is already at least one other "Institute" that has popped up, applying the title to an existing program and paradigm. They say imitation is the best form of flattery and we are honored (as well as a bit amused) to see this, but we want to be clear that there is no affiliation or connection. The title as used on the Avalanche Center website applies to a whole new program and approach, it is not a new title for the same old thing.
Join, Contribute, Big Sale for Members
Finally, we need your help in funding the basic overhead costs of running this non-profit project. Many related websites are appearing with a new look after a facelift over the summer. Most of those sites have spent around ten thousand dollars and up for their new look. There is very little new in terms of content and functionality. We spend nothing directly on our website. The years of work on the new Institute were all donated - the software work, the content development, the beta testing, etc. But we do have some overhead costs we need your help with, related to running the project. (The server we use, utilities, office costs, etc.) Our entire budget is less than quite a few sites spent on their new look for this year.
One current benefit for members is our "Beacon Blast" sale. We can't publicize the prices, you need to be a member and log in to find out. But all models are on sale for the best price you'll find this time of year. And if you do find a better price we'll match it of course, which is our general policy. We also have a few shovels and quite a few probes still on sale for members that were removed from the public sale page. And members get an across-the-board discount on all non-sale items in their cart which is currently 10%. If you plan to purchase safety equipment this season you will easily cover the cost of a years membership. (If you participate in the forums you earn "forum dollars" and these can be redeemed for membership as well as other things. Contact us to use them.)
Some ways you can help us out and show your support:
We will have another update before long, and certainly more on the new Avalanche Institute project. In the meantime please support the project, and have a look around the site to get prepared for the season.