Avalanche Center Home Update - December 14, 2011

An Update from the Avalanche Center

December 14, 2011
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Cat Herding Day Edition, Featuring:

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Introduction, From the Director

This fourth newsletter of the season is just in time for National Cat Herders Day on the 15th. A very suitable holiday for anyone trying to provide services to climbers and backcountry skiers, groups which are notorious for individuality and limited organization. Trying to get support for such services is like cat herding in difficult terrain. "It ain't easy" as they say in the video. The 15th is also more or less the start of the halcyon days, and while they may be mythological such a spell will be most welcome after the auction. On the other hand most of the mountainous US will welcome an end to the ongoing spell of calm weather with little snow. (Except perhaps the climbers out there.) In many areas any tranquility to the snowpack may very well come to a quick and tempestuous end with the return of a significant storm cycle.

While there is more in this newsletter than just the auction it is the auction that is our most critical activity right now. It will wind down shortly and we depend on increased activity as items approach their closing time. You can help promote this very easily if you are on Facebook. We're posting specific items as links and reminders and if you like these posts it helps give them visibility. Sharing them is even better. And there is an auction event you can invite friends to. These are all simple one-click actions. There is also a link on each items page to quickly email a notice about it to somebody - so if you see something you think would interest somebody else use this link.

We are also approaching the end of the calendar and, for most, tax year. Keep us in mind if you suddenly find you need to take a bit more in tax deductions for 2011. If you need the deductions this year but don't want to part with the money before the 31st you can donate with a credit card or mail a check before the 31st and ask us to hold off cashing it right away. At least this is possible according to our End of Year Tip page, with additional advice on the Five Tax-Saving Principles page. We are not accountants or tax collectors though so always verify any advice or suggestions like this.

Auction and Store

The auction is currently running and most things are set to close Thursday evening, although a few smaller items close Wednesday evening. The past few days have been the part of the auction that is always most frustrating. Industry has donated items, and given our limited efforts this year many companies were quite generous. We have a wide variety of items including a few high-end items like some MSR snowshoes and a Revolution custom snowboard. But the question in the early part of the auction is inevitable whether supporters will participate. There are great deals to be had and it supports avalanche safety. In the end we've always had bidding pick up the last 24-48 hours and hopefully that will happen this year.

Last season we ran the bidding for a much shorter time and ended up extending items over a few days following the scheduled auction. We may have put some items back up in Jan as well but with the extension things worked out. When we've run it for closer to two weeks this anxious period of little activity lasted longer until bids began near the end. A week seems like the optimal time. Every time something is posted on Facebook we see a burst of visits, and all of the forums we've used in the past have been posted on now. So we can just hope everyone is aware of the auction, has checked it out, and is planning to bid during the last couple days.

Suggestions for how you can help promote this event are above near the top and we can always use all the help we can get with this. Social networking makes it much easier than ever before to help with just a click or two. We have had more exposure and visits than ever before thanks to Facebook, although the level of bidding does not reflect it so far.

In other store news remember that we have gift certificates available, just use the link on the main store page. This is a great gift when you know somebody who needs avalanche safety gear but don't want to decide for them which models they should use. Gift certificates can also be used in the auction, although you may need to contact us so we can work out the logistics for this.

Incidents and Conditions

There are still only two fatalities in North America. We just posted information on the first fatality in Switzerland, which as far as we know is the first in Europe. This occurred in a ski area on-piste and resulted from an avalanche that ran onto the piste which is believed to have occurred naturally.

We received a comment on the Incidents Blog today questioning something about the graphs there. As soon as there is a moment to check into it we will answer that on the blog, as a follow-up comment. Feel free to use the blog to ask questions or make comments. And if you'd like to post an entry let us know and we'll arrange for it.

The number of incidents is likely to spike when significant snowfall returns to the western US. The snowpack right now is generally thin and becoming thinly layered with occasional small storms. Long spells of clear weather with cold nights leave behind weak snow on the surface which does a poor job of supporting new snow that builds up on top of it. The details of the processes are not particularly important, awareness of the problem is. In our online course we leave the details to a second tier more advanced module on snowpack so that it doesn't distract students from the bottom line emphasized in the Snowpack 1 module. There are far too many technical discussions online that are sometimes correct and sometimes not but inevitably draw attention away from the bottom line.

Social Media

Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We have a Facebook Profile with about 1218 friends and a Facebook Page with just over 111 followers. Obviously we need to promote the page more, but we just invited all of our friends to like the page so that 111 is an increase and still growing from the invitation. A page is really the more appropriate presence for an organization and we'll be able to do more with that when time permits. But a profile still has some different advantages so we plan to continue with that as well.

Final Stuff

While herding cats into the auction corral ain't easy the auction is an important component of funding. We used to rely on contributions to a much greater extent but they have diminished over the years. The store provides a large part of our funding but is also a reason we don't have more time for content and services than we do. Last years budget review is complete and you can review where we get funding from and where it goes. We also have a contribution history page that goes back to 1996. The amount we receive in contributions has gone down dramatically and this is due to a smaller number of people donating. The average amount is surprisingly consistent despite reflecting everything from $3 added to store orders to a handful on the order of $100. And finally there is a budget history that shows the components of our funding and how they have changed over the years.

Now that you've read this far you've reached our trivia question(s). Only one person responded from the last newsletter but they did get it correct. Since we haven't had time to come up with a new one we'll leave the existing one open this time again. We'll send a few decals to anyone who gets it correct. And if you have any suggestions for questions let us know.

The worst avalanche disaster in both the US and Canada happened in the same year. What year was it? Where did each one occur? And, for a few bonus decals, how many people died in each of them? Send your answers to snow@csac.org


Jim Frankenfield
Executive Director

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