Avalanche info center is a state agency but relies on donations for 25% of annual budget | SteamboatToday.com

Avalanche info center is a state agency but relies on donations for 25% of annual budget

— A visit to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s robust website is a must for skiers, snowmobilers, snowboarders and snowshoers across Colorado headed for a day of recreation in the high country. However, many people who rely on the CAIC to help them stay safe may not realize how much the state program relies on contributions from individuals and privately held companies to augment funding from the state legislature.

Northwest Colorado residents will have an opportunity to learn what makes the Avalanche Information Center run while kicking up their heels to the music of Missed the Boat Jan. 10 at the Ghost Ranch Saloon.

Attendees will learn about new ways the CAIC is using to share information with the public.

"In the spring of last year, we did a fundraising drive to do some special projects, including a mobile app that launches this week," Friends of the CAIC Executive Director Aaron Carlson said Tuesday.

If you go…

What: 'A Night in the Boat' to benefit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

When: 7 p.m to midnight, Jan. 10

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Where: Ghost Ranch Saloon, 56 Seventh St., Steamboat Springs

Cost: $10 with many backcountry-related raffle items including skis

Carlson is bringing tempting raffle prizes to the Ghost Ranch this weekend, including merchandise from Steamboat's own Big Agnes, , K2 skis, DPS Skis, Mammut and Giro. And oh yeah, a powder skiing expedition with Steamboat Powdercats.

The CAIC's insightful independent weather reports, and avalanche condition forecasts for nine different zones in the Colorado Rockies tell backcountry recreationists what they are up against before they leave the cabin. But just as important are the citizen observations of existing conditions in the snowpack and the staff's full-blown reports on avalanches that have recently taken place, complete with photographs of fracture lines and run-outs.

The CAIC is a program within the office of the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. It's also a partnership among the Department of Natural Resources, Colorado Department of Transportation and the not-for-profit Friends of the CAIC.

Carlson said the CAIC gets roughly half of its annual operating budget of about $1.1 million through a contract with CDOT that calls for it to provide avalanche forecasting for a handful of mountain passes in the state where the highways are affected by avalanches. They include Red Mountain Pass, Loveland, Slumgullion (between Lake City and Creede) and Monarch Pass.

The other half of the CAIC's budget is devoted to monitoring backcountry conditions and half of that, or a quarter of the total budget, comes from the state of Colorado. The other quarter comes from donations collected at events like the upcoming event at the Ghost Ranch, Carlson said.

And there's also corporate assistance from Black Diamond, Big Agnes, Vail Resorts, Copper Mountain, A-Basin and Back Country Access among other companies with a stake in winter recreation.

"We have more than 130 corporate sponsors in different tiers," Carlson said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

If you go…

What: ‘A Night in the Boat’ to benefit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

When: 7 p.m to midnight, Jan. 10

Where: Ghost Ranch Saloon, 56 Seventh St., Steamboat Springs

Cost: $10 with many backcountry-related raffle items including skis

Avalanche classes at CMC

Avid backcountry adventurers in Northwest Colorado have ample opportunity over the balance of this winter to take certified Level I and Level II courses in avalanche awareness and safety at the Alpine Campus of Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs.

Students who successfully complete the course receive a certificate from the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. There will be three Level 1 courses offered in late January and February. Students who have completed a Level I course may sign up for a Level II course planned for the end of February.