Colorado Avalanche Information Center Benefit Bash held in Breckenridge Saturday
IF YOU GO
What: CAIC Benefit Bash
When: Saturday, Nov. 14, 5–10 p.m.
Where: Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge
Tickets: $40 advance, $50 door (if any left); http://www.breckcreate.org/event/caicbenefitbash/
Discount hotel rooms can be found at Beaver Run Resort. Please call 1-800-525-2253 and reference the CAIC Benefit Bash
Described as a “rager of a party” by one of its founders, the annual Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) Benefit Bash is also the biggest fundraiser of the year for its host. The eighth annual event, organized by Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (FoCAIC), will be held Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The benefit draws more than 1,200 people and is considered the kickoff to the winter season, bringing together locals and backcountry enthusiasts in support of the CAIC, which provides statewide weather and avalanche forecasting, as well as public education on backcountry activities and avalanche safety.
The creation of this annual bash happened in 2008 when the CAIC was going through a funding cut. Joe Vandal, a backcountry skier and a FoCAIC volunteer, helped organize the first event with Aaron Carlson, executive director of FoCAIC.
“We were planning a little fundraiser — getting some beer donated, getting some gear,” he said. “At the time, we didn’t really know what we were doing at all; we just wanted to raise awareness for the avalanche center. … We showed up at the Riverwalk Center, and we were so nervous no one was going to show up. We were like, ‘Well, we have this big venue, and there might be 20 people here.’”
Vandal, who works at Rita’s, said they did a radio ad the day before the event, offering up a free ticket to anyone who came in and bought a margarita. No one showed up.
“We were just like, ‘Oh god, this is going to be awful,” he said.
But it wasn’t — around 500-600 people showed up, raising around $26,000 in its first year.
The benefit bash has grown tremendously since then, having sold out the past six years in a row and is expected to sell out this year as well.
“Year three, we thought the fire department was going to show up and kick people out because we were way over capacity,” Vandal said.
The fundraiser brought in just over $100,000 last year, allowing FoCAIC to support avalanche forecasting and education throughout Colorado.
“This fundraiser allows us to do projects like the Know Before You Go education program we just launched …; it allows us to offer it for free throughout the state of Colorado to schools and youth groups and things like that, and it also allows us to continue supporting the avalanche center and their avalanche forecasting operations,” Carlson said.
Ethan Greene, director of CAIC, said the money raised also helps CAIC hire additional forecasters, so they have more people out in the mountains — “Especially locally in mountain communities, so we can provide the very best information for people that are headed into the backcountry for winter recreation.”
While the FoCAIC does other fundraising on a smaller scale throughout the rest of the year, the benefit bash is its biggest event of the year and is widely supported throughout the community.
“It truly is incredible,” Carlson said. “It’s really just a testament to the people (who) come together for this event — the event would be nothing without the people (who) come and spend the money and support the center, and that’s what has ultimately allowed us to raise so much money.”
He said a large part of their success is due to the event’s sponsors that jump on board each year.
“We have 122 different partners, so ski companies, clothing companies, distilleries — the gamut of things coming together and even local restaurants throwing down gift certificates for us to put in as door prizes or in the silent auction; it’s really amazing the amount of support that we get,” he said.
This winter kick-off party features live music from Missed the Boat and beer from New Belgium Brewery, along with dinner and a silent auction. Carlson said more than $80,000 worth of product was donated this year that will be featured in the silent auction and as door prizes. Items include skis, splitboards, a GoPro, ice axes, crampons, an air back pack, a tent and men’s and women’s clothing. A highlight from the live auction will be a private tour of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida, as well as a private tasting with brewers from Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs. For the more adventurous, there will also be a day of backcountry skiing on Monarch Pass.
Carlson said his favorite part about the event is the fact that it brings the community together.
“That really is the best for me,” he said. “I think that being able to talk to people about the avalanche center and showing them where their money is going and why it’s important is fabulous, and I love having that one-on-one conversation.”
Greene said the night brings backcountry enthusiasts together and agrees that the community aspect of the event is one of the best parts about it.
“What I really like about this event is the show of support from the community,” he said. “You get all these people together; it’s a really fun event to kick off the winter season — people are really excited, they are really jazzed about the winter. And to see this many people out together to really think about avalanche safety in this kind of festive community-building event is really wonderful for me because it really brings home the importance of the work that we do. We don’t interact with people face to face all that much, so to see 1,200 people out there interested in what we do and trying to support what we do is a wonderful experience for the whole staff.”
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