Let me just say that I am ecstatic this particular event even happened this year. Backcountry safety is a growing personal passion of mine and attending several SAFE AS Clinics (1 day avalanche awareness classes taught by professional skiers) is what inspired me to become an Ambassador for SheJumps in the first place. Six months into this new volunteer position and I’ve already been fortunate enough to host 5 events in the eastern Washington/western Montana area; 2 of which were directly associated with avalanche education. I’m over the moon happy about that.
Sometimes I feel like Spokane gets overlooked when it comes to women’s outdoor education and events. Don’t get me wrong, the women of the outdoors are here, they’re ready to climb mountains and conquer the wilderness and the wild. What’s getting overlooked are the many opportunities to unite them, to educate them, and to inspire the next generation of young girls. When Gonzaga University, IPAC and Panhandle Backcountry helped SheJumps host an all-women’s avalanche awareness course back in early November (the first of its kind and size) we were all blown away by the local support and the high attendance we received for the event. Over 80 women (and one awesome dad who brought his daughter!) signed up for the course and major sponsors stepped up to the plate and donated box after box of items for our fundraising raffle. They weren’t going to overlook this area any more.
Fast-forward three months, it’s a new year and the end of January and we just successfully completed an all-women’s AIARE 1 Course in partnership with SOLE (Selkirk Outdoor Leadership), also the first of its kind in this area. The majority of attendees were from Spokane and northern Idaho and we had a beautiful backcountry location just outside of Libby, MT to explore and hone our avalanche safety skills at Flat Iron Mountain. We originally had 10 women signed up for the course but once everything shook out with unplanned conflicts and unforeseen road blocks, we had 5 women signed up for the course, plus myself and one of our instructors, Robin.
SOLE is a 501©3 nonprofit (just like SheJumps) located in Sandpoint, Idaho that creates and hosts outdoor education programs throughout the Inland Northwest for individuals, families, groups, schools, school districts, government agencies, and corporations (AIARE, ski resorts, the US Forest Service, etc.). SNOW SCHOOL FOR YOUTH SheJumps was excited to partner with an organization that shares many of its own core values promoting outdoor education opportunities for both women and local youth and I was also SOLE excited to finally host an all-women AIARE 1 course. Our instructors were Kip Rand and Robin Davenport of the Wallowa Avalanche Center.
On the first morning in the class room, attendees received their SheJumps goodie bags full of swag like Girafficorn stickers, Gondom® goggle covers from Tailgate Industries, chapstick from Eco Lips, Stash Bars® from Kate’s Real Food, and gourmet single-serve pour-over GEO coffee packs from Little Red Wagon Coffee! Our 3-day course in the Montana backcountry was packed full of information, allowing us to do more fieldwork than classroom work and making it a more hands-on experience. Among other things we learned about the anatomy of the different kinds of avalanches, we got to analyze the snowpack firsthand by digging pits, and we learned about and practiced good route-finding and travel techniques. We formed friendships among our newfound backcounty buddies and rekindled a new or newly renewed relationship with the great outdoors. The long weekend may have been full of serious avalanche education but there were also team meals, after-hours adventures, hot tub dance parties, and late night chats in our shared hotel rooms – all the makings of life-long memories.
Two of the attendees were in their late teens which to me is remarkable. Not only were they taking the initiative and making the time and monetary investment, they were also cramming in their homework at night after a 10 hour day in the backcountry classroom. They are also part of the next generation of women that will take our world by storm and being a part of their first ever ascent, watching them earn their turns (which just happened to be in sweet sweet powder) is to me the most rewarding thing of all. All the mental and physical challenges of the 3 days culminating in huge smiles, high fives, and life-long connections just makes it all worth it.
Anna Twohig, Spokane Ambassador
Thanks to our sponsors!