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Cash-strapped avalanche association needs funds for upcoming season

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The Canadian Avalanche Association may have weathered their financial crisis last year but the organization is still facing a deficit of almost $30,000 to run its 2002/03 operations.

The board of directors set a Nov. 15 target to raise $87,500 for the upcoming winter season. That money would allow the CAA to put out an avalanche bulletin three times each week.

To date they have only raised $58,500.

"(The board) might decide to take some financial risk," said Evan Manners, operations manager for the CAA.

"They might decide to cut the program back. They might decide to abandon it altogether due to lack of support. There’s a number of options that they’re going to review if they’re not at the funding target."

Although he is worried, Manners is staying optimistic for the next three weeks.

"We feel good about the point we’re at right now but we know we have just a few days left to raise an awful lot of money in," he said.

With $87,500 the CAA would put out three avalanche bulletins each week for four different regions: the south coast, the north and south B.C. Interior and the Rocky Mountains.

Manners says those four regions are quite broad areas to give specific avalanche data but budget constraints leave them no other choice.

A best case scenario would be a bulletin that would include nine different regions in western Canada, seven days a week.

Nine bulletins would improve accuracy and make the information more useful for backcountry users.

But that would probably cost a quarter of a million dollars he said.

The association almost folded last year when the provincial government withdrew $37,500 in funding. The service was kept alive through fundraising efforts and private donations.

This year they received $12,500 from the government and the rest of the money was raised in the private sector.

It was due in part to this financial crisis that the board designed an avalanche bulletin program based on funding as of Nov. 15.

"It’s a large task. We know that," said Manners.

"We’re still optimistic that we can do this service for the public."

More than 1,000 people use the site every day during the winter months. Another 1,500 have the information e-mailed to them. Sixty receive the information by fax every time it is updated and 1,800 phone the Revelstoke-based avalanche centre to get updated every season.

Seventy-five per cent of avalanches in Canada occur in B.C., 95 per cent of them are triggered by people, resulting in an average of 11 or 12 deaths per year.

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