Avalanche Center Home Update - December 23, 2010

A Holiday Update from the Avalanche Center

December 23, 2010
[Previous, Dec 9 ] - [Next, Jan 14] - [Updates Archive Index]


  • Fundraising Auction - Wrap-up, Continuing Items
  • Online Level 1 Course - Upcoming Field Days
  • Avalanche Institute - New Advanced Modules
  • Current Quiz Update

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This is the seventh newsletter of the season. With all of the work of the auction on top of the normal operations there isn't much time to get this out before the holidays, and people will be too busy to read much right now anyway. So this will be short and primarily summarize some of the ongoing features, update things mentioned in previous newsletters this fall, and mention new things to look forward to such as advanced modules in the Avalanche Institute.

We are now using the new email service but are still figuring out some of the features and fine points. Any feedback is appreciated.

Please share some holiday spirit and donate what you can. Contributions are down, store sales continue to sag, and too many people just won't use things like Goodshop even though there is no cost and it supports avalanche safety. Show your support by donating, using our store for your equipment purchases, using our Avalanche Institute, using the Goodsearch toolbar, and helping us out with your ebay activity.

The Goodsearch toolbar can make a huge difference if people will use it. Go directly to the toolbar page or get more information here: http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/contribute/goodshop.php (This toolbar helps support non-profits like us, it is not used to track your web surfing the way Google toolbars, or their Chrome browser , do.)

Our latest way for people to help is via ebay. They now recognize us as a non-profit. Go there via the goodsearch toolbar and we get at least 25% of what you spend. This doesn't come out of your pocket, it comes from ebay. They can afford it. But it's up to you to make it happen. It is also now possible for sellers to designate a percentage of their selling price to us: https://www.charity.ebay.com/charity/Cyberspace-Snow-and-Avalanche-Center/42453

Fundraising Auction

Our annual online fundraising auction is mostly over. Mostly, but not entirely. There are some items left and those are still available, generally with buy-it-now options, in the auction until early January when they'll go on ebay. Most are small low-cost items, but there is a new Vaude pack and one Crazy Creek chair. There are also nine copies of an iTunes game called Hypothermia which looks like its fun and amusing. Those are only 75 cents using buy-it-now.

The auction page is http://www.avalanche-center.org/auction/

After much running around the past few days, and a few late nights, everything else is wrapped up. All winning bidders have been entered as members, all donating companies are listed on the archived auction pages and in the rotation on the top pages, and most items are shipped. The final totals are not yet complete but we probably raised on the order of $1500 or so. This isn't much compared to fundraisers for the forest service, but it's a significant amount for us as a non-profit. Especially with declining contributions. It's about as much as we've made in most successful auctions, only a couple years were better.

Avalanche Education - Avalanche Institute Level 1 Course

Upcoming field days available for the online avalanche course will be in the central Sierra Nevada on Jan 2, Oregon on Jan 8-9, and in Utah anytime they are requested between Jan 18-31.

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.

It is important to register for the online work, or attempt any challenges, well in advance of the field days. It's possible to complete it very quickly but most people prefer to have a minimum of a full week.This isn't some tutorial you blast through online in one sitting, it's a very robust course. It covers a lot, covers it thoroughly and completely, and takes some time.

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.

Avalanche Education - Avalanche Institute Advanced Modules

Later in January we will have the first two advanced modules available. The online approach allows us to take a new approach to post-Level 1 education. Rather than needing to invest a very large amount of time and money in a Level 2 course which covers a lot of material not relevant to recreation students will be able take individual topics of interest.

One of the new modules will cover Persistent Weak Layers (PWL) in detail. This will require, for prerequisites, credit for the Snowpack 1 and 2 modules and the Weather 1 module from the Level 1 course. For those that do not wish to take the complete Level 1, and won't or can't challenge them successfully, there will be some kind of "package deal" including the prerequisites as well as the PWL module.

The other one will be on Stability Tests and will require the Snowpack 1 and 2 modules. This will not address how to execute and record these tests in some precisely correct manner. It will cover the background of each test - what do we really know about each, what are the limitations of each, how much variation has been found in the test, etc. And, perhaps most important for some tests, what we really don't know or have any basis for.

These are both topics which are widely misunderstood with a great deal of mis-information surrounding them. The online course modules will provide a source of information which is complete and technically accurate.

"Current Quiz" - Avalanche Terrain

This terrain quiz is still posted. With so much else to do it has not yet been replaced, but hopefully before another newsletter comes out next week it will be. If you have not yet taken it you still have time. Twenty one percent of those who have taken it so far have gotten 100%, down from 32% as of the last newsletter and 40% as of the previous one. The average score is still 88%, the median score is still 90%.

The questions on this quiz are taken directly or nearly directly from the Terrain Module (#6) in our online avalanche course. We will be offering everyone who has completed the current quiz a chance to enroll in that module for less than half price if they wish. Details will be sent to those who have taken it, and may (or may not) be included in the next newsletter.

When somebody challenges a module, with the belief that they know the material, this is representative of the quizes required. While there is usually a fee for a challenge it is currently possible to do it for free if you're had an approved recreational Level 1 course within the past two years. Just contact us about it.

Other Notes

We have put most of the store inventory we have on sale for members. Prices are more or less 20% off suggested retail. Members never pay any shipping either.

Remember that we now carry ABS packs. This still needs to get set up online but we have some in stock and can order anything we don't have in stock. Inquire if you're looking for one, and spread the word. As with everything we carry we will match anyone elses price, and a pack purchase from us makes you eligible for a large discount on the Level 1 course.

One goal that has been on the back burner for a while is to get more people involved. More on this is being left for an upcoming newsletter in the interest of keeping this holiday isse shorter. However, one way to get involved is to be a local representative or contact point for the avalanche center. It's a grass roots project and this is the kind of thing we should be supporting. Local reps can make more or less what they wish to of the role, but one thing would be to get people together in any of a variety of ways in the interest of promoting avalanche safety. If there are people in the Reno area interested in a get together on Jan 2 or 3rd I will be in the area, and one of our other directors lives in the area. Given the short notice and the fact that this is a new idea any gathering right now would probably be small, social and informal. Ask us about the project, about avalanches and snow science, and give us your feedback.

Have a good and safe holiday. Remember that safety in the backcountry begins with a good plan before you go, with refinement as needed once you're out there.

There will hopefully be another short end of year newsletter next week.


We are up to 688 friends on Facebook (about 34 more than we had as of the last newsletter). Are you one of them? If you are have you suggested us to any of your friends?

Jim Frankenfield
Executive Director

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