The ladies of Jackson Hole came together on February 12, 2014 to delve into the factors that surround the process of decision-making while traveling in avalanche terrain. As the snow flew outside, we sat down for an incredibly comfortable and empowering roundtable discussion at the office location of our event partner, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. Led by their rocking female guide Erica Engle, the discussion focused on the value of the female perspective and the challenges associated with maintaining a presence in male-dominated spaces, both within our outdoor endeavors and our every-day lives. We delved into the specifics of traveling in avalanche terrain and discussed the group components involved in safe backcountry trips. The necessity of choosing appropriate backcountry partners and forming a strong plan and shared mental model were emphasized, as were some effective tactics for communicating with others in the backcountry. We covered what might contribute to hazards in the backcountry as well as how to utilize the avalanche bulletin in our decisions, specifically, how to evaluate the danger ratings and how particular ratings should tie into our decision-making process. Overall, Erica did an excellent job leading us through not the technical aspects of backcountry travel, but the equally important aspects of how to make decisions and choose partners in a manner that would assure that we continued our adventures for many years to come. She made it clear that it is okay to say “no” if you are uncomfortable, that it is okay to turn around and that our opinions and suggestions as females are valid and valuable.
Taking advantage of an entirely female-space, the conversation was open, comfortable and honest, giving the ladies present the opportunity to bring forth questions and situations that were personal to them. All in all, as the vast majority of incidents in avalanche terrain are a result of human factors, this material covered in this clinic is vital to successfully and safely sharing backcountry adventures with others. SheJumps would like to thank Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and Erica Engle for donating their time and providing a location for this invaluable clinic! We encourage all you lady adventures out there to always seek further education and experience and hope to see you at a future SheJumps clinic!