AIARE 1 w/ Mackenzie

Mackenzie was a recipient of the 2020 scholarship for outdoor education. She completed her AIARE 1 certification through Acadia Mountain Guides in Orono, Maine!

My name is Mackenzie Connor (She/Her) I am a senior at the University of Maine studying Environmental Science and Outdoor Leadership. I have spent most of my undergraduate career working at the outdoor education/recreation center on campus leading trips and managing gear and rentals. After exploring a handful of winter sports, and enjoying playing in the northeast snow, I decided that in order to keep myself and those I recreate with, safely doing what brings me joy, while also leading organized trips, I needed to broaden my winter backcountry rescue skills. In order to do so, Backcountry Squatters kindly granted me a scholarship to fully fund my Level 1 avalanche training (AIARE1), that I have taken this past weekend (January 21-23, 2022) with Acadia Mountain Guides.

As a woman in the outdoor industry I am hyper-aware of gender representation, and had a preconceived idea that there would be limited females on my course. However, I was pleasantly surprised when on Friday afternoon I found that 6 out of the 12 people on my course self identified as female. With this even split, it was obvious that the women brought a different perspective than the male instructors of our course were normally used to. It felt empowering to be skiing with a bunch of ladies in a previously male dominated sport, and reminded me how more than capable we are as a whole demographic to overcome traditional conceptions of how women are supposed to be.

In terms of content, the course was mostly an introduction to utilizing backcountry safety gear such as avalanche transceivers, probes, and shovels, basic snow science, how to interpret avalanche forecasts, and quite a bit about risk management in consequential terrain. Reflecting back on this weekend, the most interesting part to me was learning about snow science and various instability tests, this is something I have had limited experience beforehand and one part of the backcountry skiing sport that I need to improve upon. The best way to increase my knowledge with such is to keep practicing the information that I have learned, which can be done in the form of following forecasts, digging snow pits, performing instability tests, talking with professionals, etc

As an instructor I am hoping to implement this education into my own trips, where traveling on avalanche terrain is very minor but still present, and having this knowledge in my tool box will ultimately help me with decision making and group management. Personally I am excited to start safely breaking into skiing in steeper terrain with my friends who also have a background in avalanche education. I also am hoping to take my Avalanche Safety Course as well as my AIARE 2 Course within the next couple years. I have recently been hired to work as an instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School, and hope to implement some of this education into my risk management and decision making in the backcountry. For those looking to gain access to steeper terrain in the winter, learn more about basic snow science, and practice the art of avalanche rescue, the AIARE 1 Course is a great place to start

–Mackenzie Connor
2020 Scholarship Recipient

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