Avalanche Jam coming up Friday
SUMMIT COUNTY – Even though the Colorado Avalanche Information Center operates under the auspices of the state of Colorado (as part of the Colorado Geological Survey), the center still relies heavily on grassroots support to pay for part of its education efforts, especially those targeted at backcountry skiers, snowboarders, hikers and snowmobilers.This Friday, the center once again will benefit from the annual Avalanche Jam at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden. In past years, the Avalanche Jam has raised as much as $10,000, making it the single most important grassroots fundraising event. “We’re hoping to at least match that amount this year,” said Steve Christie, sales director for Backcountry Access, main sponsor of the event. “And this would be a good year for everyone to come and thank Knox (Williams) for all he’s done during his tenure as director of the avalanche center,” Christie said.Funding for the CAIC has been holding steady in recent years, with a big part of its budget coming from the Colorado Department of Transportation. Working with CDOT, the center’s avalanche experts try to predict and mitigate slide hazards along the state’s many high mountain roads, notably U.S. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass and through Silverton, as well as I-70, which has its own share of slide-prone areas.Other sources of significant funding include the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado ski industry, as well as local governments that benefit from the center’s services, including towns in Summit County.”It’s always a great time,” said Brad Sawtell, a forecaster with the center’s Breckenridge office. “Of course, I usually end up sitting in our booth most of the time, but it’s still fun to see all the backcountry and avalanche folks before the season starts. And from what I understand, this year’s silent auction blows the doors off the previous years, combined,” Sawtell said. Given the immense focus on hurricane relief efforts and charity, Sawtell said raising funds will be tougher than ever for the avalanche center this season, but he encouraged backcountry enthusiasts to dig deep for this event.”I can understand not wanting to go, to make the three-hour round trip, but maybe buy a ticket anyway, and give it to someone who can use it,” he said.Sawtell said a similar event in support of the Utah avalanche center has raised significantly more than the Avalanche Jam – between $30,000 and $40,000 in previous seasons. He said that might be due to the fact that backcountry use is centralized around the Salt Lake City-Wasatch Front Range, while Colorado’s backcountry skiers are spread more evenly around different parts of the state, making it harder for them to attend a centralized event.Funding for the center is finalized for this year, with a three percent overall increase that accounts for inflation, Sawtell said after a CAIC staff meeting last week. And that seems to suggest that funding for the Breckenridge office, offering thrice-weekly local updates on avy conditions, will also remain in place for this season.Sawtell said the Breckenridge office once again plans to issue Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon reports on backcountry avalanche conditions, with updates on weekends if needed, whenever possible.For the long-term, Sawtell said a big goal of his is to keep the Breckenridge center open later in the season, perhaps through the end of May, during the peak backcountry season, he said. A Summit-specific web site, with direct feedback from backcountry users, could also help keep information up to date, he said.Along with the Avalanche Jam fundraiser, the CAIC also relies on the Friends of the Avalanche Center grassroots network for support. It’s not too early to start thinking about joining the Friends group for this season. A $30 membership includes a morning forecast via email as well as a few other goodies, including a newsletter. The premium $45 membership also includes an afternoon forecast via email. More information is at the CAIC website: http://geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche.This year’s Avalanche Jam includes live music by the band Damage Done (all the bandmembers are employees of Neptune Sports, an outdoor shop in Boulder), a dinner from Trappeda’s Italian Cafe, plenty of beer from New Belgium Brewery, another of the CAIC’s big supporters, and a big silent auction. The jam is from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday in the North Parking lot of the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, located at 710 10th St.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 668-3998 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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