Issue 39.3 was Dan Kaveney’s last column as the A3 Executive Director. In May 2021 he stepped down and was replaced by Jayne Thompson Nolan. Jayne’s first column will appear here when Issue 40.1 hits mailboxes.
One of the things I like best about my job is working with all the terrific people who make up A3—the members, the board, the sponsors, and the staff. We’ve done a good job publicly appreciating the efforts and accomplishments put forward by TAR Editor Lynne Wolfe, former and current Pro Training Managers Kate Koons and Erica Engle (respectively), and our hard-working Board of Directors, and here I’ll renew my thanks to them for all their good work. Today I’d like to highlight the efforts of a few other staff members whose dedication has been instrumental to our success in recent months and years: Social Media Manager Will Flynn, A3 Administrator and TAR Special Projects Editor Emma Walker, and TAR Designer and Compositor McKenzie Long. These folks have been doing fantastic work for us, mostly behind the scenes, so I thought it was time to pay attention to the people behind the curtain in order to offer thanks and appreciation for jobs very well done.
Will Flynn has been serving as our Social Media Manager since the fall of 2018, and during that time our social media outreach programs have grown exponentially. When Will assumed his position our social media channels were almost entirely inactive, and under his hand they have grown to the point where our best posts get as many as 70,000 interactions. Now that we have that kind of reach, our social channels serve as an effective means to promote the American Avalanche Association and to disseminate information about avalanches and avalanche safety. Will recently earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Montana State University. He’s also an avid backcountry skier, so he gets to practice what he preaches about avalanche safety and education.
Emma Walker’s name will be familiar to many of you, because she has authored articles for The Avalanche Review, most recently her profiles of female avalanche professionals. What you may not know is that she also plays a critical role as A3’s Administrator and as Special Projects Editor of The Avalanche Review. As A3 Administrator Emma helps keep the trains running on time and plays a critical role in a lot of the important back-office aspects of keeping an organization like A3 running. If you’ve had a problem with your membership profile, or an order that didn’t arrive, a payment failing to go through or anything along those lines you’ve probably had help from Emma. If you’ve gotten a thank you gift for a donation, you’ve had help from Emma. Her administrative efforts have been indispensable to the organization, particularly as we’ve navigated the whole Covid crisis, which has produced a lot of extra work for us all. Aside from her articles, Emma’s most obvious contribution to The Avalanche Review has been The Avalanche Review Online. Emma was instrumental in the design and planning of TAR Online and now manages the day-to-day aspects of maintaining the site, adding new material, rotating advertisements, and continually freshening the articles presented. When not working for A3 Emma has a diverse professional career as a writer and essayist. She has many articles and one book to her credit. Look for her next book, Dead Reckoning: Learning from Accidents in the Outdoors, forthcoming from Falcon Guides in June of 2021.
If you’ve ever appreciated the presentation and layout of The Avalanche Review or the look and feel of The Avalanche Review Online, then you’ve appreciated McKenzie Long’s fine work. McKenzie, based in the Sierra Nevada, is TAR’s designer and compositor. She has been instrumental in TAR’s success for many years, helping to update our format from the newsprint days. She was also an important member of the development team for The Avalanche Review Online. When she’s not working on The Avalanche Review, McKenzie is an accomplished designer and writer. Through her design company, Cardinal Innovative, McKenzie has designed many books and other kinds of publications. As a writer she has authored two guidebooks and many articles, was named the Terry Tempest Williams Fellow for Land and Justice at Mesa Refuge, and was accepted into the Association of Writers and Writing Program’s 2020 Writer to Writer mentorship program. Look for her upcoming (non-guidebook) book, provisionally entitled, This Land: A Personal Exploration of our Country’s Most Controversial National Monuments, scheduled to be published by the University of Minnesota Press in spring of 2022.
Please join me in thanking these consummate professionals for all their work on our behalf. It’s a privilege to be working with them, and to have them as a part of A3. —Dan Kaveney
When writing this column I make it a practice to look back at the last column I wrote—in this case From the Executive Director in TAR 38.4—in an effort to see how things have changed in the intervening months. It now seems to me that column was written in a different world; and in some ways it was. When I wrote it, the Covid-19 situation was just transitioning from a distant echo impacting “somewhere else” to a real threat here in North America. Since then it has seeped into the pores of our society and impacted almost all of our activities: from the most mundane to the most fundamental. A3 is no exception, and the board and staff were forced to adapt quickly to the emerging realities of a Covid-infected world.
As the practical ramifications of the Covid pandemic came in to focus neither the board nor I thought we should attempt a “business as usual” approach to the 2020–21 season. It was clear we needed to plan for a lower level of income than we enjoyed in 2019–20, while also maintaining as high a level of our traditional activities as possible. I’ve never been a supporter of making uniform cuts across the board in order to achieve budget objectives, so I asked the board to direct me toward those services and activities they thought would be most important to the avalanche community during the 2020–21 season. The board and I agree that all of the things we do are important to the avalanche world, but since that world has been shifted by the Covid pandemic, it seemed likely that shifts in our near term priorities should be undertaken. What should we do differently to make ourselves as useful as possible to our members given the new realities we’re all facing in the coming year?
After much deliberation, the board has instructed me to prioritize activities and programs that “build and maintain community” for the avalanche professionals and committed recreationists who make up our membership. They have further instructed me to focus on activities and programs that most directly benefit the most members. In the service of these objectives I’ll be increasing investment and activity in some of our programs, and, until the world stabilizes into some new, more predictable equilibrium, temporarily stepping back from investment and activity in other areas. We’ll be focusing on the following specific activities this coming season:
- Snow and Avalanche Workshop Grants. We’re moving full steam ahead with SAW support. As of this writing all of the SAW organizers have at least provisionally decided to move 100% online this fall. A3 has maintained or increased SAW support relative to last year for every SAW that applied for a grant.
- The Avalanche Review will move ahead as normal in printed format. In addition to the printed version of The Avalanche Review we’ve just launched a new online version of the journal. The online version will be based on, but different from, the printed version, and will feature articles that are well supported by rich media, timeless articles that are good to have at one’s fingertips, and articles that are particularly timely. Check out TAR’s online cousin at theavalanchereview.org.
- The annual member meeting will be held 100% online this year, at 6 PM MST on Thursday, November 5. The fully online format will allow us to be much more inclusive of our widely-dispersed membership because it will be easy to attend from anywhere. Log-in details will be forthcoming via email. Remember—this is an election year and the annual meeting is where we’ll finalize your new slate of board members.
- We’ll be introducing a new monthly online seminar series immediately following the annual membership meeting on November 5. This series will run monthly from November through March. We plan on featuring topics of particular interest to practicing professionals, aspiring professionals, and committed recreationists. The series will be free to A3 members. Please stay tuned to your email for further details.
- The inclusivity project will remain a strong focus for the coming season as A3 continues to promote the participation of women and BIPOC people in the field and as A3 members.
- We can’t maintain community if people can’t stay on as members so, until further notice, we’ll be continuing our free membership extensions and discounted annual membership for those whose livings have been impacted by the Covid situation and for whom paying continued membership dues would pose a financial hardship. Members interested in taking advantage of this offer should email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
- Our support of the Pro Training Program will continue during the 2020–21 season.
The board has decided, at least for the moment, to put our research grants, scholarship, and publishing programs on hold. We remain strongly committed to all of these ventures, but believe the wise course will be to remain conservative about our commitments to these activities and programs until the impacts of the Covid reveal themselves a little more clearly. We will be re-starting all of these programs at the earliest feasible juncture.
Despite all the challenges facing us at the moment, I am very bullish on both our near term
and long term futures. We have a great organization supported by a lot of dedicated, passionate
people. Membership numbers are up year on year, and renewals are holding steady. Our corporate sponsors have stuck with us even through their own periods of great uncertainty. This kind of loyalty is really meaningful to your organization, and I hope you will talk up and patronize those companies who have invested in you, your industry, and your organization whenever you can. While it’s impossible to predict the future, I think we’re about as well prepared for whatever it throws at us as we can be, and I’m confident in our ability to adapt.
As always, I’m very interested in learning your ideas about how to move the organization forward. I’ll miss the opportunity to visit with many of you at the SAWs this year, but I’m still available at email@example.com or 307.264.5924. —Dan Kaveney
Writing the season’s last column for The Avalanche Review has begun to feel like another sign of spring, similar to the lengthening days and stronger strike of the sun. The due date for this column corresponds to another transition for me, as I now turn most of my attention from the current winter season to the next. This year the situation is complicated by the COVID-19 emergency, as we hunker down in an effort to preserve humanity’s collective health. We don’t know what the coming days will bring, or what the situation will be like when you eventually read this column, but I have confidence in A3, our members, and in the burgeoning strength of the organization. As of now, that confidence has me expecting continued growth to our services, scholarships, grants, and membership during the 2020–21 season.
The 2019–20 season has been a good one for A3. Our membership has increased by hundreds of new members, our publishing program is thriving, we’ve added new sponsors, increased grants to Snow and Avalanche Workshops, expanded our research grant program, continued to support the International Snow Science Workshop(ISSW), witnessed another successful season of Pro Training, enjoyed increased traffic and success with avalanche.org, and further empowered our burgeoning social media programs. We accomplished all this while substantially improving our financial footing.
I love the fact that it was such a team effort! It was terrific to see the member engagement, the generosity of our donors, the thoughtful guidance from the board, the staff’s hard work and dedication, the success and devotion of the Pro Training Course Providers, and the sponsors’ commitment and generosity. Thanks to you all for doing your part to make this a great season for A3.
Looking ahead, the 2020–21 season is going to be terrific, and I’m thrilled to be able to kick it off by announcing that, thanks to a generous seed grant from Black Diamond Equipment, A3 is offering TEN $700 scholarships to defray the costs of attending the International Snow Science Workshop this coming October 4–9 (issw2020.com). These scholarships will be open to all affiliate, affiliate applicant, professional, and professional applicant members. At least one will be reserved for a motorized applicant, at least one for an applicant the A3 board believes will increase diversity in the avalanche field, and at least one for a full time student. Some details:
- Interested parties should submit a 250–500 word essay explaining how they would put the scholarship to good use. If the candidate believes they should be considered as a motorized user, a diversity candidate, or a student they should so indicate in their essay.
- A3 President Halsted Morris will select the winners in consultation with a small board committee he will assemble.
- Scholarship recipients will be required to either write a short article for The Avalanche Review or another snow sports industry publication, or make a presentation at an A3 supported Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Recipients will be required to provide at least two social media posts during the conference.
10 scholarships to ISSW 2020 dates and details:
- Interested parties should submit their essays to Dan Kaveney at firstname.lastname@example.org by JUNE 1, 2020.
- Recipients will be notified by June 15, 2020.
- Money will be disbursed in August of 2020. Proof of registration must be provided prior to disbursement.
Please see aaa19.wildapricot.org/ISSW for full details and frequently asked questions. We’re working on some other exciting initiatives for the 2020–21 season, and I’m looking forward to announcing them when the time comes. In the meantime, I’ll remind you that we rely on our major sponsors very heavily for our grants, pro training, and scholarship programs.
Please join me in welcoming Black Diamond Equipment to the pantheon of major A3 supporters, and in supporting our existing major supporters—Backcountry Access, TAS, CIL Explosives, and Wyssen Avalanche Control. Together, and along with our members, donors, and other sponsors, these companies make our SAW Grants, research grants, scholarships, and many other things possible. —Dan Kaveney
I love the dedication and enthusiasm our members have for the American Avalanche Association. The A3 Board and staff work hard to serve those members, and the community responds with a remarkable generosity of spirit: volunteering their time, enthusiasm, and money to help the organization. I’ve listed our donors over the past year or so below—by name as opposed to the size of the donation, as we’ve traditionally done. We’re grateful for every contribution— no matter how large or small—and have always chosen to acknowledge everyone regardless of the size of his or her gift.
We know the money doesn’t come easily, so the A3 Board and staff work hard to make sure we use the money you donate as effectively and directly as possible to promote avalanche safety through professional development, education, publishing, outreach, and research.
With your help we’ve accomplished quite a bit over the past year: membership is up, sponsorships, scholarships, and grants have increased, outreach has expanded dramatically, and we continue to build on the successes of the Pro Training Program. We’ve been able to accomplish all these things while moving the organization toward a firmer financial footing. It has been a good year for us, and we couldn’t have accomplished these things without the help of our donors and members.
Our corporate sponsors provide essential support that allows us to leverage your personal contributions to greater effect. We have four Diamond and Platinum sponsors: TAS, Backcountry Access, Wyssen Avalanche Control, and CIL Explosives. These very generous companies provide the support that forms the foundation for our Professional Development Grant, Research Grant, and Scholarship programs. We also benefit greatly from the generosity of our Gold and Silver supporters and TAR advertisers, who help sustain the organization through cash contributions, in-kind support, and merchandise. These organizations give back to the avalanche community, so I encourage you to support them in turn with your recommendations and business.
This year we’ve worked with our corporate sponsors to offer some tangible incentives for our donors. Please see the accompanying graphic for an outline of our donation incentives. These gifts will rotate throughout the season, so if you see something you really like act now! We’ve also upgraded some of our back-office software so you can now make recurring contributions on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Donors who initiate a recurring gift of any kind will get a stainless steel A3 beer mug (with a built-in bottle-opener!!) while supplies last. Please go to https://aaa19.wildapricot.org/donate/ to make your contribution to avalanche safety and professional development.
I’ll close with another big thank you to all our donors, sponsors, and members. Together we are A3, and we’re making a difference —Dan Kaveney
Time flies when you’re hard at it, especially if you’re having fun. That rings true for me as I sit down to write my second column for The Avalanche Review. How could it possibly have been almost exactly one year since I sat down to write my first? I don’t know, but I’m glad to be able to report that it was a good year for the American Avalanche Association. A year ago this column put forward the board’s view that our organization needed to spend the next 12 months working toward expanding our reach while simultaneously grounding ourselves on a firmer financial footing. We had hoped to begin by recruiting new members, improving the volume and productivity of our relationships with corporate sponsors, continuing our focus on strong publishing, staying focused on the Pro Training Program, and expanding our outreach and professional development activities.
We did our best to follow through on these goals, and, thanks to your help and engagement, these initiatives yielded significant gains for A3. We doubled our corporate support, more than doubled our donations, and enjoyed a 35% increase in membership dues that resulted from increased membership. We diminished expenses by 6% while simultaneously increasing support for professional development activities, scholarships, research, and outreach initiatives, and, for the first time in a number of years, we finished the season with a small surplus. These successes have allowed us to begin 2019/20 with ambitions to further expand our activities in support of the avalanche community.
The purpose of building a strong foundation for the organization is to better serve the avalanche community, and during the 2018/19 season we made progress improving our support for quite a few important avalanche-related things. Some highlights include:
- Offering financial support to 12 Snow and Avalanche Workshops across the country.
- Sponsoring the ISSW 2018 in Innsbruck, Austria.
- Awarding two members scholarships and travel stipends to attend ISSW.
- Awarding two research grants to promising young avalanche researchers.
- Coordinating the second—and the beginning of the third—season of the pro training program.
- Helping increase avalanche.org traffic by about 40% to almost 1.5 million unique visitations last winter, and increasing our social media outreach dramatically. Some of our best social media posts now garner as many as 30,000 interactions.
- Adding hundreds of new members.
- Distributing 4 terrific issues of The Avalanche Review, and selling and shipping hundreds of copies of The Snowy Torrents, Snow Weather and Avalanche Guidelines, and quick reference stickers.
We plan to continue to increase our service to the avalanche community this coming year. Key initiatives for the 2020/21 season include:
- A revised research grant program that will increase A3 support for research while simultaneously giving both A3 and applicants more discretion in applying for and awarding research grants.
- Increasing A3 support for Snow and Avalanche Workshops by 35%.
- Putting out a call for interested parties to apply to join the Pro Training Program as Pro Providers, beginning during the 2020/21 season.
- Introducing new membership and giving initiatives that we hope will allow us to continue to increase A3 membership and charitable giving.
- Building on our partnership with the US Forest Service to expand avalanche.org as both an outreach platform and as a tool for avalanche forecasters.
- Increasing our various outreach efforts via publishing, avalanche.org, and social media.
- Continuing our sponsorship of the ISSW by promoting and supporting ISSW 2020 to be held in Fernie, BC, and by offering scholarships to A3 members for attendance.
I’ll close by saying thank you. It has been a whirlwind year, and I can’t thank all of you enough for your engagement, your daily efforts, and the welcome you’ve rolled out for me. I owe the board of directors a profound debt of gratitude for their hard work and support – and for giving me a kick every now and again when I needed it to stay on course. The A3 in general, and I in particular, owe some appreciation to the staff and contractors who give their all to this organization: Kate Koons, Pro Training Coordinator; Lynne Wolfe, Editor of The Avalanche Review; McKenzie Long, Graphic Designer; Dawn Smith, Bookkeeper; and Will Flynn, Social Media Intern and Coordinator. Thank you.
I’m always very interested in learning your ideas about how to move the organization forward. I’ll be attending as many SAWs as I can this fall, and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible while doing this. In the meantime I can best be reached at email@example.com, or at 307.264.5924. —Dan Kaveney