I just took a DNA test and turns out, I am 100% that babe capable of entering the backcountry conversation.
We're talking women inspiring women and AIARE Level 1 with recent Backcountry Babe alum Elisabeth Meinig
Follow @elisabethmeinig for more pow slayin greatness.
I just turned 31 and am recently divorced. Sometimes our lives don’t play out as we imagine them to and for the most part, that’s okay. Amongst the chaotic life stage that I am currently in, here are some frequent questions that roll around in my head on the daily: Who can I depend on? What do I not know? What do I need to know? Now that the seemingly impossible has happened, what is a priority in my life? The answers to these questions are constantly changing. Fun fact: Change is the only constant, afterall! While most of the answers aren’t totally clear to me, here’s what I do know: (1) I can depend on my dog and myself, and (2) a priority in my life is being safe and doing what I love.
Thus, this is why I took the class: I love skiing and I love being safe.
My former partner and/or my dad and/or my dude friends have always been my ski buddies who were responsible for trip planning, evaluating routes, and making judgement calls out in the field. While I’ve always respected the men I travel with, I really felt like the time had come for me to FULLY enter the conversation. As me: just a standard lover of skiing, listener of Lizzo, educator of middle schoolers, relier on coffee, and drinker of quality micro-beer. The only thing that has ever held me back as a contributor to safety and planning conversations has been a lack of education on my part and a little bit of a lack of self-confidence. I knew I wanted to learn how to be safe and I knew I needed an emotionally safe place to learn in.
Within minutes of entering the Breckenridge classroom, I could instantly feel my anxiety lighten and I got that undeniable feeling of Oh, I am amongst my people here. This is about to be real rad. After talking with a few women, it became clear that we were all like-minded chicks with pretty much the exact same goals. We all wanted to learn the skills needed to enter the conversation and we all wanted to feel empowered to talk about backcountry risk.
We spent the first day learning about different snow types (um, hi...I want to go back to college and study snow science--immediately), trigger types, terrain traps, conditions, snowpack, snowflakes, avalanche problems, how to read CAIC’s avalanche report. This was all before 2:00pm. We then took it out to the field and practiced using our beacons. While one group of women worked on locating a beacon, the other group served as mindful observers: you can learn SO much while watching other people figure things out. Especially if the group of women you’re with are all confident, accepting, and open.
The second day, we spent the morning talking about uncertainty and group decision making. Then we headed out into the field (this time up a slope!) to dig some snow pits. (Sidenote: I didn’t know this about myself prior to this course, but I LOVE making snow pits. I think I could dig snow pits all day and be pretty content.) I also learned that compression tests are fascinating and I have so many more questions about snowpack.
The third day was spent entirely in the field. We spent the early morning, sipping coffee in the Loveland lounge and working with our groups to prepare, plan, and evaluate. Topographical maps are something I previously would glance at and half-knowingly nodat in approval. Not anymore! CalTopo, Avenza, and Compass are all apps that have just made my trip planning infinitely more effective and informed.
We split up into three groups and took turns leading the group up our initial route selection, constantly re-evaluating and discussing our choices. Honorary babe Todd did a lovely job of letting us work and lead, while he confidently listened to us and chimed in as necessary. We dug some more snow pits, used the SNOW SAW (what power!), and looked at snow facets under a tiny microscope. My group lovingly named our pit “The Parlor”. And yes, we did enjoy some prosciutto-wrapped dates while talking in fancy accents during our break. Zero regrets.
The final hours of our trip were capped by an unexpected injury and an evacuation of a member of our group. Our learning environment’s authenticity, as if it already weren’t real enough, got amped up. I was impressed and inspired by our leaders and watching a group of 18 women come together to work as a team to get the team down safely. Leaders were designated, people stepped up, guidance was given, and communication was open. I have never seen a group of newly acquainted women bond together in the pursuit of a common goal. Bottom line: I was inspired, but not surprised, by the amount of bad-assery that was exhibited.
Our debriefing of the day was profound, informative, and reflective. Numbers were exchanged. Future trip ideas were bounced around. Swag was purchased. After such an amazing weekend of learning amongst such inspiring crusher chicks, I wear my Backcountry Babes hat daily with utmost pride. Massive shout out to the participants and the instructors. Thank you for creating such a productive learning environment.
As much as I want to end this with a witty twist on some Lizzo lyrics, I will default to the one and only Mary Oliver: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Working beside like-minded women has surely piqued my attention and inspired me to continue working through this lovely adventure we call life. Namaste, babes!