Last week I was on a skin track, talking with a donor who is also a friend of mine. After breaking trail for a while our conversation moved from the avalanche hazards of the day, to how good the skiing was going to be, to how the Friends of CAIC spends the money we raise. This is an important topic for us and the many people that support the Friends of the CAIC. I spent some time explaining it to my friend, but thought this would be good information for everyone that contributes to the Friends of CAIC and the CAIC’s avalanche safety program.
Before we dive into the numbers, I want to explain the partnership between the Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (FoCAIC) and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). Although not very complicated, the details can be a little confusing. The relationship between the two groups is an important public-private partnership that provides backcountry avalanche forecasts for everyone in Colorado, avalanche education for as many people as we can reach, allows FoCAIC staff to go to events, write grants, and build partnerships on behalf of the mission. And it keeps the CAIC staff in the snow so they can provide the best avalanche forecasts possible for you, the user.
The FoCAIC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was created to financially support avalanche forecasting and education throughout Colorado. We accomplish this through fundraising that includes grant writing, events, individual fundraising, corporate partnerships, and our annual spring fundraising campaign. The FoCAIC has 1 full time staff member that works out of a home office and on the road throughout the winter. We also have a small Board of Directors that guides the mission of the organization and oversees the ED. The FoCAIC is the private side of the partnership.
The CAIC is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, a state government agency. They have 20 staff that work out of 10 offices that cover the mountainous areas of Colorado. The CAIC is the public side of the partnership. The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property and the enhancement of the state’s economy. These are the folks that produce the weather and backcountry avalanche forecasts. They teach avalanche classes to school kids, university students, and avalanche workers. The CAIC also works with CDOT to reduce the threat of avalanches to the State Transportation System.
The CAIC’s highway operations are funded and conducted through an intergovernmental agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to provide training and forecasting for highway maintenance operations. The CAIC’s backcountry forecasting operations are funded through several different avenues including; The Severance Tax Fund, fees for providing avalanche training to professional groups, and from the fundraising efforts of the Friends of CAIC. The FoCAIC support allows for a more robust backcountry forecasting and education program here in Colorado. The current program could not have been built with tax dollars alone. We need a strong public-private partnership to sustain it and hopefully improve it in the future.
So, how are we supporting our mission with your donations? Below you will find a graph showing our year to date (YTD) expenses for our current fiscal year (FY16). For reference our fiscal year runs July to June.
Now, let’s look at each of these categories and how they impact avalanche forecasting and education throughout Colorado.
CAIC Backcountry Forecasting Operations
The FoCAIC makes a donation each year directly to the CAIC. This money pays for part of the CAIC’s backcountry forecasting operation. Seasonal backcountry forecaster positions cost the CAIC about $50,000 per position, per season. This cost includes salary, office space, travel, equipment, and training.
KBYG Educational Program
Know Before You Go is our avalanche awareness program. We offer free avalanche education throughout the state of Colorado. The program is designed for 8th graders, but since November we’ve presented it to over 7,800 school kids of all ages. The cost of this program includes the initial production and development of the education materials and money to pay instructors. We are now investing money in further development of new educational materials to ensure the program stays accurate, stays relevant, and can reach any group that needs more information on avalanche safety.
The Friends of CAIC have one full time employee. The Executive Director spends his time raising money for the FoCAIC through events, grant writing, partnerships and outreach. The ED also manages the KBYG education program and works on collaborative efforts with the staff of the CAIC.
Website and App Services
The Friends of CAIC help support the CAIC website and mobile app. This includes hosting, maintenance and further development for both platforms. The CAIC website backend and database are over 10 years old. The system needs to be updated and we’ll be working on that over the summer. This sort of development is expensive but necessary to produce a quality product for you. We expect to spend more money on better technology so you can get avalanche forecasts and share snow, weather, and avalanche information in the future.
Colorado Snow and Avalanche Workshop (CSAW)
CSAW is a one-day professional development seminar for people working in avalanche safety. It provides a venue for avalanche workers – ski patrollers, avalanche forecasters, road maintenance personnel, ski guides, avalanche education instructors, undergraduate and graduate students, and applied researchers – to listen to presentations and discuss new ideas, techniques and technologies with their colleagues. The meeting is open to anyone. Last year 700 people attended the workshop!
CAIC Staff Education and Training
This category covers any expense we incur for supporting CAIC staff training. Training and education includes such things as paying for some staff to attend the International Snow Science Workshop, European Warning Service meeting, and other education or training opportunities.
A cornerstone of our mission is helping the CAIC to operate. This provides the current level of service we, as users, want and are used to. This is also why we are currently hosting the Support the Forecasts fundraising campaign.
Yet as you can see from the above graph and descriptions, the money we spend on our mission is spread across several different avenues to support avalanche forecasting and education throughout Colorado in a comprehensive, effective way. We want to expand that pie as a whole, meaning we can spend more money across the board on our mission. The only way we can continue to grow our programs is with your help and continued support.
So, how can you help?
1. Donate today. Even $5 will help.
2. Spread the word about our fundraising campaign. Talk to your friends, families, and backcountry partners about supporting a cause important to you.
3. Join us on Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
4. Thank a forecaster for their hard work. The work they get done is a testament to their professionalism and dedication to public safety.
Thank you for all of your support and getting us to where we are today! We have made a tremendous impact on avalanche forecasting and education here in Colorado and we are looking forward to making an even bigger impact over the next 5 years!