My Echo Story: Sierra Avalanche Center
In 2001, the Forest Service recognized the need to improve its Avalanche Advisory Program for the Sierras to better meet the growing needs of back country user groups. They requested that interested community members come together and develop an avalanche advisory center. A group of avalanche professionals and passionate community members responded.
In 2003, the Sierra Avalanche Center was created with one part-time volunteer professional forecaster. In the last decade, the Sierra Avalanche Center has grown into a nonprofit directed by an active Board of Directors that has raised funds and implemented an operating agreement with the Forest Service to employ two full-time Forest Service forecasters, who produce a daily avalanche advisory for the Central Sierra from Yuba to Ebetts Pass. In addition, the SAC nonprofit arm employs two avalanche observers and a program manager to develop programs and fundraise.
The Sierra Avalanche Center provides a vital tool to all backcountry skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, ski resort patrollers, and highway operators. So far during the 2012-13 winter season 74,104 individuals have visited the SAC website, which averages 555 users per day. The free SAC daily avalanche advisory helps educate the public about snowpack stability and avalanche danger ratings throughout the winter season.
The Sierra Avalanche Center is a model of private-government partnership. The Forest Service contributes annual in-kind and funding support toward program operations. The non-profit arm of the organization matches Forest Service operating contributions with private donations, sponsorships, and grants. Both the Forest Service and Sierra Avalanche Center take pride in the success of this unique partnership. The Sierra Avalanche Center raises approximately 30 percent of its annual operating funds from in-kind donations of lift tickets from local Tahoe ski resorts, including Vail Resorts.
“As a backcountry skier and mountain rescue volunteer, the Sierra Avalanche Center is absolutely invaluable to my life,” Kyle Barbour said. “Few organizations are capable of the integrity, professionalism, and courtesy that the Sierra Avalanche Center provides, even less so while carrying out a lifesaving mission.”
Corporate sustainability has always been fundamental for Kirkwood and Heavenly Mountain Resort and their parent company, Vail Resorts. Through Vail Resorts Echo, our sustainability program, we hope to connect our communities to our efforts – from on the ground conservation programs to grants for local schools. Aimed at both protecting the natural resources that surround the resorts and helping build stronger communities where our employees live and work, Vail Resorts Echo encompasses three core efforts: environmental stewardship, charitable giving and community engagement. Want to learn more about VR Echo? Go to http://www.vailresortsecho.com.