#sendandreturn: Snowboarding Evolves at Risk Maturity Course

By BCA Pro Athlete Robin Van Gyn.  Photos by Dustin Lalik.

Snowboarding has evolved hugely over its lifetime not only in progression, equipment, community, and culture but also as riders we are starting to take the title “Pro Snowboarder” a bit more literally. “Professionals” take steps to be just that in whatever they line they choose. And we always want to #sendandreturn, which is why avalanche safety is being taught at advanced levels at the The Risk Maturity Course at Baldface Lodge.

The Risk Maturity Course at Baldface Lodge is a place where we can all learn and move forward a little more pro than last year. It’s not just point-and-shoot, but a more complex aligning of the moons to get the media we are after in the backcountry facet of the spot. We are continuously putting ourselves in risky situations, deep in the high country in avalanche terrain is where we always end up, and where we progress with our big mountain conquests.

For the last three years, the Risk Maturity Course has invited the world’s top backcountry snowboarding pros and the newer generation of pow shredders to spend four days learning, sharing, and practicing to be fully prepared as professionals for the season(s). The Risk Maturity Course at Baldface Lodge is not your average AST or AIARE course; this is a backcountry safety course designed with all the basics and the more advanced issues on how we can mitigate risk in the backcountry as riders, photographers, and filmers, and team managers.

The Risk Maturity Course is led by Jon Buffery, Demian Whitley, Silas Patterson and Joaquin Klein, who are all teeming with experience and leadership in avalanche education, backcountry safety, and risk management. Backing them up are Kevin Sansalone, myself, Andrew Hill and Jessa Gilbert, who brought the pro rider/guide aspect to the table.  Not only is it the team that makes this course unique, but also the long list of pros we have attending and participating – including legends like Pat Moore, Jeremy Jones, and Hana Beaman mixed in with the new squad like Sam Taxwood, Sage Kotsenburg, and Mary Rand. To all be together and have the opportunity to share our collective first-hand experiences, and to learn and practice together at our different levels of experience is empowering and confidence building for everyone.

Jeremy Jones presented his avalanche experience in the last year in the Uintas in Utah, which was a highlight of the course. The story of the avalanche incident alone was gripping. And to have an icon like Jeremy pull that accident apart and examine it piece-by-piece created a culture where all were communicating honestly about what we see and what is happening when we are out there in the midst of it all.

Risk Maturity Course invitees were subjected to scenario after scenario alongside first aid, tree well extraction, terrain, and human factor discussions in the field – long days with a lot of information. All of the attendees made a conscious decision to be there and to use the resources the course offered to be better at what we do. If we are going to get after it in the backcountry, we need to know the risk factors that exist and to be able to navigate the unknown with avalanche avoidance knowledge to back up our decision making.

The Risk Maturity Course at Baldface Lodge is the perfect way for snowboarding pros to treat their jobs professionally with the right training and skill set for a successful, safe winter each season. #sendandreturn