‘Project Zero’ Aims to Cut Backcountry Avalanche Deaths

March 30, 2014

wet snow avalanche ColoradoWith 25 backcountry avalanche deaths in the U.S. this winter, and eight in Colorado, mountain enthusiasts are launching a major crowdfunding push to boost the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The Colorado effort is part of an ambitious national push to reduce avalanche fatalities to zero by 2025. Project Zero is a collaboration between AIARE, Snowsports Industries America, Friends of the CAIC, the Utah Avalanche Center, Northwest Avalanche Center, Canadian Avalanche Centre, National Ski Areas Association and the National Ski Patrol.

The first phase of the project will begin this winter and will focus on a social marketing strategy that will research, test, and design a communications and behavior change project for the side country target audience in the 2013/2014 winter season, with the intention of expanding to additional audiences, aligning with the Project Zero timeline and other Avalanche Center communications project goals.

The CAIC already administers an expansive avalanche program, including working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to keep highways open and safe. But the increased popularity of backcountry skiing and snowshoeing means there's more need than ever for localized forecasts and more need to increase awareness about avalanche hazards.

State funds and grants are the basis of the CAIC's funding, but the grassroots partnership with the nonprofit Friends of the CAIC could help fill some gaps. There are just six forecasters operating in 10 zones, so there's still have a long way to go to provide the service needed by the backcountry community.

The Friends group is aiming to raise $150,000 during the next few weeks, and is almost a third of the way to its goal. More forecasters mean more local field data, which in turn will create more accurate and timely avalanche forecasts for backcountry users. The expanded resources also means more education opportunities in schools throughout Colorado as well as for community groups and businesses with avalanche safety concerns. 

Several generous donors have put up funds to be matched during this campaign, so there's the potential to double every individual donation, and, donors are entered into a drawing for some great schwag that's become of the hallmarks of avalanche education fundraising efforts.

With a donation of $35 you'll have a chance to win a pair of Scarpa boots, a backcountry avalanche rescue gear package from BCA, K2 skis, a Voile splitboard and a cat skiing trip for two in the April 30 grand prize drawing.

On another front, the nonprofit Know the Snow group is also ramping up avalanche awareness efforts with a video contest, inviting backcountry skiers and riders to show how they prep and carry out a backcountry trip. Details here. You can also see some of the videos that have already been submitted here.


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