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Colorado: CAIC Benefit Bash a key fundraiser for backcountry avalanche forecasting and education

Get your CAIC grrove on at the annual Benefit Bash, Nov. 10 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge.

Grassroots support critical for state avy programs

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Friends of the CAIC sure knows how to time their events, with this year’s CAIC Benefit Bash scheduled to be held Saturday evening, just as the season’s first significant winter storm is forecast to drop the first good batch of powder on the Colorado high country.

This year’s Benefit Bash will once again be held at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center and features live music, tasty food, beer from New Belgium Brewery, and great people all enjoying the massive silent auction and a seemingly endless stream of door prizes.

The goodies include a Monarch season pass, snowcat skiing trips, all sorts of backcountry gear and even a spot on an Alaska heli guide school trip.

The bash has grown to be one of the most important grassroots fundraisers for the CAIC, which relies in part on donations to maintain a robust backcountry forecasting and avalanche awareness program. Last year the event raised about $72,000 and organizer Joe Vandal said the goal this year is $90,000.

Even at the sizable Riverwalk Center venue, the bash has filled up completely the last few years, so the best option is to get there early. The fun starts at 5 p.m. and ends around 10 p.m. Tickets are priced the same as last year; $30 in advance and $35 at the door.

Colorado has one of the most dangerous snowpacks in North America and typically accounts for one third of all avalanche fatalities in the United States. The purpose of the CAIC is to minimize the economic and human impact of snow avalanches on the recreation, tourism, and commerce industries.

Last year’s snowpack was especially treacherous, resulting in an above-average season in terms of avalanche accidents, according to CAIC director Ethan Greene. There were seven deaths and a total of 2,200 reported slides, with 50 people reported caught, 17 partial burials and 11 full burials.

There were also two inbounds avalanche deaths at Colorado ski areas (Vail and Winter Park) last season, both on the same day. Greene said last season saw a continuation in the trend of people getting killed by slides in the sidecountry, after leaving controlled ski area terrain, and a number of people died in “fairly small” avalanches, he added.

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