Social Summit: CAIC Benefit Bash raises more than $100,000 |

Social Summit: CAIC Benefit Bash raises more than $100,000

Meredith Metz /

You can still help

Missed the CAIC Benefit Bash but still want to support the Colorado Avalanche Information Center? You can donate online directly through the Friends of the CAIC website,

On Saturday, Nov. 8, more than 1,200 people gathered at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge for the seventh-annual CAIC Benefit Bash, a fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

When the kegs ran dry, after the silent and live auction items had been sold and the donations and ticket sales had been tallied, the event raised about $101,000 for CAIC forecasting programs, education, website support and a new mobile app that the organization is developing.

“I’m so excited to see the continued support,” said Aaron Carlson, executive director of Friends of the CAIC, adding that the event has been sold out for the past six years. “Once we announced it was sold out, people who had gone every year were like, oh, we missed our chance, but we’ll let someone else enjoy it this year.”

The silent auction alone made more than $27,000, Carlson said, and the crowd drank its way through 28 kegs of beer donated by New Belgium Brewing Co.


Carlson said you didn’t have to be a backcountry skier, snowboarder or snowmobiler to enjoy the party.

“It’s awesome because Saturday night I was talking to somebody who doesn’t backcountry ski,” Carlson said. “The only reason they were there was to support the Avalanche Center because they appreciate the weather forecasts. That’s what she told me: ‘I love their weather forecasts; I’m here to support that.’”

Joe Vandal, a volunteer who has helped organize the Benefit Bash since its inception, said many people don’t realize how much the CAIC actually does, whether you ski, ride, snowshoe or even travel through Colorado in the winter. Organizations like the Colorado Department of Transportation rely on the information the CAIC provides to clear highways in avalanche-prone areas.

“If you want to travel anywhere in the state during the winter, you’re affected by avalanches and snow conditions,” Vandal said.

The event is also a great way for people who are new arrivals to the county to meet new people and make friends in the community, Vandal said, and it’s become so big that it’s like an “unofficial town party.”

“I heard that about 10 times, which is pretty cool,” he said. “I thought it was super busy this year. It always feels that way, but it stayed full for longer this year; people stuck around, they got there a little earlier. We were at capacity for the majority of the event — you couldn’t walk 10 or 15 steps without seeing someone you knew and having a conversation with them.”


Among all the bright points, there was one dark cloud that surfaced at the evening’s end: Several donated items, valued at more than $1,000, were stolen from backstage at the Riverwalk Center. Among the missing items are an Ortovox beacon, pack, shovel and probe, some Polar Bottle water bottles, a Black Diamond AvaLung pack and two Camelbak packs, plus an unknown number of gift certificates and other small items.

“They made a bad decision,” Carlson said. “They took some gear from the Riverwalk that did not belong to them. Fortunately, I think they caught a conscience and they decided to return the majority of the gear.”

Friends of the CAIC posted the theft on its Facebook page, and most of the hard goods were anonymously returned to the Riverwalk Center on Sunday evening, no questions asked. Carlson said he’s relieved that things were returned and hopes the rest of the items will find their way home in the coming days. In the meantime, a report has been filed and the Breckenridge Police Department is investigating the theft.

“They returned most of it, and that’s fantastic,” Carlson said. “If they have stuff leftover they want to return, we’ll give them a mailing address or a place where they can drop it off anonymously. … Ultimately, I just think it’s awesome the positive feedback that we’ve received about the Benefit Bash. It’s unfortunate what happened at the end of the night, but I’m not going to let that put a dark cloud over the success of the event.”

Both Carlson and Vandal stressed that the theft in no way overshadows the overwhelming positives of the evening, bringing the backcountry community together for a worthy cause.

“It’s a good way to see everybody and it’s a good kickoff to winter,” Vandal said. “It obviously worked because it snowed a lot after the benefit this year. Ullr was listening.”

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