Colorado Avalanche Information Center to expand services |

Colorado Avalanche Information Center to expand services

DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center this year is expanding its services that warn of avalanche dangers by relying on donations, a critical funding source for the forecasting organization.

The Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said it wants forecasters to focus on monitoring and providing avalanche education for backcountry users instead of trying to raise enough money to cover their costs.

The center is setting up a new website offering new safety explanations and providing information for a variety of users, including third-party app makers such as Backcountry Access that can incorporate and distribute the center’s avalanche safety forecasts.

The center is one of the country’s oldest public avalanche forecasting programs, and it relies heavily on donations and fundraising programs, the Denver Post reported Thursday.

About half of the center’s $850,000 annual budget comes from the Colorado Department of Transportation, which depends on the center to keep track of avalanche danger on about 280 of more than 500 known avalanche paths that threaten the state’s roads in winter.

Another quarter of the center’s budget comes from the state’s severance-tax fund, which helps support the Boulder-based center’s 10 regional offices and 15 seasonal forecasters. The rest comes from contributions.

Donations gathered by the nonprofit friends group support most public work of backcountry forecasting, which involves charting an average of nearly 2,500 avalanches around the state every year and issuing daily reports on avalanche conditions.

The first fundraiser was organized after the center faced a $25,000 budget shortfall in 2008, and it raised $26,000. Last year, the benefit drew 1,250 people, who bid on public and silent auction items, and brought in more than $80,000 for the center.

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