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Women of the Tetons Knocking Down the Door for Avy Education

When we came together with Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute (JHOLI) to offer an all-women’s fully certified AIARE Avalanche 1 Course in the Tetons, we knew women would be interested, but we had no idea how positive the response would be! Indeed, we were blown away by the interest in the Teton community, with our original class filling so quickly that we added a second course, which immediately filled as well!

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And filled for good reason. JHOLI guide and mountaineering badass Nancy Bockino lead both courses, each of which started with 8 hours of classroom time in which participants were provided with a multitude of knowledge including, but not limited to, snow science, terrain and features of avalanche terrain, properly reading the avalanche bulletin and ever-present roll of the “human factor.”

Then, to really solidify information presented in the classroom, Nancy brought ladies out for two field days, the first of which was in the Snow King Resort area. On this first day, ladies got to practice the art of skinning—many for the first time—and spent some serious time with their beacons and practicing rescue scenarios. Day two in the field saw the ladies trekking up to the Togowotee Pass area, where Nancy led ladies through the backcountry while illustrating simple avalanche tests that ladies could conduct on their route up, as well as the basics of the kick-turn, ever so sexy when properly executed! Finally, upon reaching the peak of the tour, ladies learned how to dig a pit and perform shovel shear and compression tests. And then of course, skins were ripped and skiing commenced!

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Overall, both of these courses were incredibly successful with participants especially grateful for and responsive to the fact that they were able to obtain this education in an all female space. While we love all the male supporters in our lives, there is a tangible difference in these all female spaces, in which women are comfortable, open and unafraid to ask the questions they need answers to. The awkwardness of growth is shared by all and the support for each other is unrivaled. Perhaps most importantly, this class allowed for women to talk about what it was like to be a woman in the backcountry and how gender plays into our decisions in avalanche terrain.

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I was honored to join these women for a day in the field and cannot overstate my gratitude for the ongoing support for females and SheJumps provided by JHOLI. Nancy was an amazing instructor and I’m sure she can attest to the amazing environment created in these two courses. We can’t wait to do it again next year (hopefully along with an Avy 2). Thank you!!

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