Avalanche Center Home Update - November 24, 2010

An Update from the Avalanche Center

November 24, 2010
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  • (US) Thanksgiving Conditions
  • Current Terrain Quiz
  • Online Course, Upcoming Field Days

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This is the fifth newsletter of the season. The switch to the new format and service continues and about 30-50% of our supporters will get the new html version of this issue. (For the next issue or two some may also receive a text version though out existing internal system, although we are beginning to work on eliminating this duplication now.)

We have a new source for financial support we would like to ask people to use. There is a toolbar you can download for shopping and searching that will not only donate part of your purchase to us but also list all of the coupons and discounts you can use at that shopping site. Most major online shops participate and donate 2-10% of what you spend, with a few being even higher or lower. There are direct links on the bar to Amazon and Ebay, and to Goodshop where you can find extensive links to more sites. (It is not necessary to go through the Goodshop site though, whenever you go to any store the discounts and donated percentage appear if they participate.) You can also do web searches from the toolbar and we receive a penny for each search. This doesn't sound like much and it hasn't added up to much for us in the past, but some small organizations have raised more in a month than our annual budget.

The toolbar is free, installs itself automatically, can be hidden using the View -> Toolbars browser menu, and can be easily uninstalled. Even if you remove it later please install it for your holiday shopping and travel. (Travel sites such as travelocity participate, so you can donate to us when you make travel plans.) If you don't like the search results from the toolbar it is easy to just use the browser search bar for Google or some other preferred engine the way you probably do now.

You can download the toolbar here:


Remember that we need your financial help keeping this project going. Contributions of any amount help, as do store purchases. Please encourage everyone to buy their equipment from us, we match anyone else's price and the proceeds go into avalanche safety rather than personal or stockholder profit. If you have a look at last seasons finances you'll see why your help is so important:


(US) Thanksgiving Conditions

Winter is getting under way, and unfortunately the first US fatality has been reported. The ski patrol director at Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado was performing avalanche hazard reduction work and was caught. In the past 52 years, 22 American ski patrollers have died in the line of duty, according to the National Ski Patrol. Five were patrolling Colorado slopes; before Monday, the most recent patroller death in Colorado was in 1984.

There have been years when our first listed fatality was late December, but it is certainly not unprecedented for one to occur at this time or earlier. Although it is much more likely to be somebody recreating. So if you are planning to be out in the snow over the upcoming holiday make sure you stay safe.

Remember that the biggest reduction of risk, by a wide margin, occurs at home before you set out. A safe plan at that point means less analysis and temptation in the field. The further into a trip you get the harder it generally is to decide to change the plan. Most federally operated avalanche centers in the US are now providing updates, many will be going to daily bulletins by the end of the week.

Most of the western US still has a thin snowpack that has accumulated and transformed under a wide variety of conditions - winds, very cold temperatures, warm temperatures, and who knows what else. It can be hard to make any kind of local assessment under these conditions. Check local advisories, and plan conservatively.

Information on the recent fatality is posted in our Incidents section, any other incidents will also be added there. At the moment there is nothing detailed, just what was reported in the media. Additional information is always added later if or when it becomes available. These later additions are usually announced in a special list available to members.

"Current Quiz" - Avalanche Terrain

You can read more about this quiz in the last newsletter. Forty percent of those who have taken it have gotten 100% so far, the average score is 89%. Test your knowledge of avalanche terrain, and if you do get a 100% we will enter you into a drawing to held later sometime. If you do not get 100% then there is nothing to lose, and you may learn something new or refresh knowledge that has lapsed over time. When you choose an answer there is a pop-up box with a comment explaining or hinting at the reason it is correct or not. (After getting the question right you can still choose the other options in order to see the comment or hint. This will not impact your score after you have submitted the right answer.)

While we get the scores back we do not get results on a per question basis. This means we can't identify questions people have more trouble with and evaluate them. So you feedback is the only way we can assess individual quiz questions. Comments, questions, and criticisms are always welcome. The best place for this is our forums, and we will try to see that anything posted there receives a response.

Avalanche Institute Level 1 Course ; Avalanche Education

The first field days for the course will be held in central Oregon December 18-19. (There may be field days in the Mt Hood area the previous weekend if the inquiries we have had are serious and the students register in advance with enough time for the online work.) Each field session is one day and we anticipate demand only for the first one at this time, so it is a choice of one day or the other and not a full weekend. Field sessions are free to anyone who has passed the prerequisite modules, either by taking the course or by challenging the module quizzes. You are not limited to one, you can attend multiple field days over time for exposure to different conditions and terrain as well as for review as long as your certification is current.

A rather interesting bias was noticed in a recent discussion on forums elsewhere on the web. The topic was related to managing risk. The participants from Canada were overwhelmingly commenting on the importance of planning while the US participants generally placed more emphasis on making decisions at a later point in the field. One person from the US even commented that courses often don't teach planning. This is unfortunate, and such classes do not serve students well. There is a lot of discussion among educators about the importance of planning, and most quality curriculums claim to emphasize it. But it appears that the emphasis varies widely among actual programs. The Canadian curriculum is actually shorter and less comprehensive than most that are used in the US, but it appears that it may be more successful in emphasizing planning.

Most US courses spend at least half the time in the field, which means there is insufficient time to cover the material students require to understand a variety of conditions. What they see in the field is one set of conditions and one set of terrain, and this is generally explained to them by somebody else. Field time is important, but experience comes with time and exposure to a variety of conditions and situations. Attending field days again over time (and in different locations) is a much better approach, especially when there has been sufficient classroom/online work to have some personal insight.

For those considering our online course remember that for some limited but not yet determined length of time a course discount of up to 80% accompanies all beacon and airbag pack purchases.

Other Notes

There are some improvements being made in the Glossary in the Education section. This work is ongoing.

Preparations for the Auction continue, more news on this will be included in the next newsletter.

The name "Avalanche Institute" was adopted 4-5 years ago when we began work on this feature. It reflects the fact that we will be offering more than just the Level 1 course, much more over time. Including unique advanced topics. Others have since decided to ride along on this name and are calling their operations "Something or Other Avalanche Institute". We have no affiliation with any such program - just so you know.


We are up to 598 friends on Facebook - are you one of them? If you are have you suggested us to any of your friends?

Jim Frankenfield
Executive Director

Avalanche Center Info


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