Avalanche of Info: Learn about avalanche safety and the dangers of outdoor Instagramming this weekend

By on October 25, 2017

There are three tenets to Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation’s Backcountry Zero initiative to reduce injuries and deaths in the area’s wild places, said Amy Golightly, associate director of the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation.

The first is “prepared:” Do you have the tools you need, like an avalanche beacon when backcountry skiing?

The second is “practiced:” Do you know how to use the gear you’re carrying?

And the last is “present,” which addresses the lesser-discussed topics regarding the psychological aspects of backcountry recreation and decision-making.

Speakers will tackle the mental piece of backcountry winter safety Saturday at the third annual Wyoming Snow and Avalanche Workshop. This not an event that will teach technical skills like how to use a beacon, but will instead look at how people make decisions and discuss other important influences on backcountry safety.

The daylong event is open to the public and meant to appeal to outdoor educators and professionals, as well as weekend warriors and recreation enthusiasts, Golightly said.

Kids under 18 years of age can attend for free. The speakers are set to cover technical topics, as well as those with broader appeal. The goal is to have topics of interest to anyone who will spend time in the backcountry this winter, Golightly said.

Panels will tackle topics like youth and the media and discuss how platforms like Instagram impact decision-making. Let’s face it: A slew of likes may seem like a great reward, but those death-defying selfies aren’t worth the risk in a lot of situations.

Lindsay Mann and Keely Kelleher will also be on hand to discuss the perspective of girls in the backcountry. Another session featuring Mark Newcomb and Lisa Van Sciver will focus on how perspectives change in the backcountry through the years.

Kevin Grove will talk on risk tolerance and decision-making. Don Sharaf and Dave Weber will debate the value of checklists and whether they offer a false sense of security and diminish critical thinking, or instead ensure people are prepared before going into the backcountry, Golightly said.

The workshop attracts about 350 people from around the region, Golightly said. The goal is to spread information and foster conversations that will keep people safe in areas like Jackson, where the mind-blowing scenery comes at a much higher risk.

The workshop fits into the foundation’s Backcountry Zero initiative, which was launched in 2015.

Reducing backcountry deaths will take a cultural shift, and the topics the workshop covers is an important step, Golightly said.

People don’t talk about the mental aspects of backcountry recreation enough, she said, and often focus on blame or shaming people for dangerous mistakes, instead of looking critically at how those mistakes can be prevented in the future.

The $40 fee includes access to the all-day workshop, as well as lunch and an after party at Snake River Brewing.

Snake River Brewing will also host a public fundraiser from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, and will donate $1 from each beer to Teton County Search and Rescue, Golightly said.

For more information on the event, visit http://www.tetoncountysar.org/wysaw/. PJH

Wyoming Snow and Avalanche Workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Center for the Arts. Cost for the workshop is $40.

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