Breckenridge event raises money for Colorado Avalanche Information Center
7th annual CAIC Benefit Bash
Date: Saturday, Nov. 8
Time: 5-10 p.m.
Location: Riverwalk Center, Breckenridge
Tickets: $40 in advance, $50 at the door
More info: Buy tickets online at www.FriendsofCAIC.org
Those who are disappointed with the slow start to this year’s snowy season have reason to assign their hopes to the weather this weekend. According to local lore, each year a big snowstorm accompanies the CAIC Benefit Bash. It’s only fitting, since the event is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), which provides statewide weather and avalanche forecasting, as well as public education on backcountry activities and avalanche safety.
This year marks the seventh for the benefit bash, organized by the Friends of the CAIC, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the avalanche information center. The event includes drinks, dinner, live music and both silent and live auctions and takes place at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Last year, tickets sold out and the venue was filled to capacity.
A GROWING EVENT
The benefit bash is doing very well, considering it wasn’t planned to continue after the first five years.
Friends and avid backcountry skiers Aaron Carlson and Joe Vandal organized the first event in 2008.
“Joe and I had a goal of putting this event on five years,” Carlson said. “That five year mark has come and gone and we’re still doing it. “
The first benefit bash raised around $25,000. It has grown every year since then. Last year, the event hit a fundraising landmark, when it pulled in a total of $100,089. Carlson, who is the executive director of the Friends of CAIC, said he’d be thrilled to keep raising that kind of money.
“We are totally stoked on that $100,000 number. It’s our biggest fundraising event, so if we can maintain funding annually at that level, that would be fantastic.”
Overall, the benefit bash has raised a grand total of $368,144.49, Carlson said.
The event has sold out in the past, and this year promises more in the way of auction items and musical entertainment, so Carlson is sure it will again.
“It will sell out, so we encourage people to get their tickets in advance,” he said.
FUNDRAISING FOR FORECASTING
The money raised by the benefit bash goes to the CAIC, which then uses it to pay for its forecasters, and ways to keep them engaged in current trends, like sending them to a snow science workshop in Canada, like they did last year.
“About half of the backcountry program is paid for through grants and donations, and a big part of that comes from the Friends of the CIAC and this event itself. For us that means three backcountry forecasters,” said Ethan Greene, director of the CAIC. “It really allows us to get people out into the snow to collect data, (look at) conditions, get more forecasts written locally through the state and to present more local avalanche education programs. … Having that local connection is great for collecting relevant information and really being able to connect with people personally rather than just kind of broadcasting over the internet or over the airwaves, or something like that. It allows us to be inside these communities rather than just peripheral.”
Though CAIC statistics report that avalanches in Colorado kill an average of six people per year, the numbers have been above average lately.
“We’ve had no less than eight each over the last few years,” Greene said.
“We don’t really know exactly how many people get involved in avalanches,” he continued. “The only firm number we know is how many people die, but we’ve had some very difficult winters with some very tragic accidents.”
In addition to forecasting, the CAIC uses its budget to provide educational outreach to the public. It’s also developing a mobile app, which it plans to launch this winter.
“Our goal is to absolutely reduce the number of deaths and reduce the impact of avalanches on the number of people living and recreating in Colorado,” Greene said.
The atmosphere at the benefit bash, according to those who have gone, can only be described one way — a party.
“People look at it as the winter kickoff party for the year, and we really want to keep it that way,” Carlson said.
One of the biggest draws of the event is the auction (both silent and live). This year, $50,000 worth of gear will be available for bidding, from winter apparel to food, season passes and even a guided adventure in Kyrgyzstan.
“The industry has been incredibly supportive,” said Carlson, pointing out that the bash has 138 supporters this year. “I have to give them a huge shout out because we couldn’t put this party on without them and the donations they send.”
The excitement of the eventgoers is contagious, according to Greene, who plans on attending again this year.
“It’s a pretty amazing event,” he said. “It’s a very festive environment. People are really excited about the winter. … It’s really impressive what the Friends (of the CAIC) have done. They’ve put out a great event and it’s one that you really don’t want to miss.”
Carlson also loves the energetic vibe.
“We love having it in Summit because the support has just been tremendous over the past six years,” he said. “My favorite part of the event is standing up on stage and just seeing the crowd be so amped to be there, and be amongst their friends and mountain enthusiasts.”
Also a big draw this year is the music. Shakedown Street is a Grateful Dead cover band that performs throughout the Rocky Mountain region. The band is one way in which the Friends of the CAIC are making up for a $10 hike in ticket prices this year.
“Our costs went up a little bit, so we did raise the ticket price, but because we did that, we (said) ok, we’re going to pay for a band,” Carlson said. “We want to make sure people get enough bang for their buck.”
There are also a few other cool things planned for the night of the event, but Carlson didn’t want to give too much away.
“We have a few surprises in store,” he said, “so this is not the year to miss.”
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