Jacob Urban, founder of Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute, has a few things to show you, like how to do a kick turn or make an impromptu backcountry Band-Aid.
Here’s the thing: You can’t learn everything you need to know about backcountry travel and safety from the internet. Many of the skills and knowledge related to things like route finding, avalanche safety, and efficient movement in the mountains come from years of experience in the field and good mentors. (So, step away from the screen and head into the mountains!) But as it turns out, you can learn some valuable tips from YouTube before you go.
Jacob Urban, founder of Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute, is relying on online videos to help his students freshen up some skills. In his series of backcountry winter preparedness videos, he gives quick and insightful tips on a wide array of subjects. Like how to improvise a backcountry Band-Aid, what to do before you take an avalanche course, and how to poop in the woods. He’ll give you insight on how to communicate your backcountry location to 911 dispatch in the case of an emergency, how to do a kickturn properly, how to take better care of your beacon, and to how to ski cut a couloir. The videos are short and sweet (think two minutes or less) and can be watched while you’re waiting for your pasta water to boil.
Of course, if you really want to learn how to responsibly recreate in the mountains, you’ll need a lifetime of practice, some savvy partners, and if you’re lucky, in-person classes at Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute. The organization offers a holistic health approach to avalanche education and emergency medicine and wilderness first aid. That means learning to take care of yourself as a whole being, in addition to learning how to care for others.
“We have a very unique approach,” Urban says. “I’m a firm believer that if we’re not taking care of ourselves at a high standard then it’s ultimately impossible to provide care for anyone at any level.”
Urban says his online tutorials are not meant to replace in-person learning, but rather add to it. “We wanted to capture the newer user who’s looking to develop skill sets in regards to travel techniques and wilderness medicine,” says Urban. “But it’s also a teaser for what people can see in our classrooms. We’re looking to engage people before they walk into our classroom and give them a better understanding of the skills with tips and tricks around wilderness medicine that can be developed further.”
Ask Urban what his main message is for backcountry skiers, a note of wisdom he’d pass onto them before they head into the mountains, and he’ll take a long pause and a few deep breaths.
“Have care, compassion, and love when you go into the backcountry with your partners,” he says. “Remember that the most important thing is the people you surround yourself with. We’re privileged to be able to walk around in the valleys of the Gods and feel their might and their greatness, all the while remembering that it comes with great responsibility. That responsibility can’t be learned in a classroom. I don’t know how many lifetimes it takes to become a master, but it’s definitely not one.”
[For more, check out the Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute, a partner of Flylow’s and a leading provider of avalanche education and wilderness medicine training.]