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IPRW 2019: TGR’s Athletes and Production Brush Up on Mountain Safety

Practicing avalanche rescue shoveling techniques. Max Ritter photo.

Every December, TGR athletes and production crews gather to work on backcountry and mountain safety skills during the International Pro Rider Workshop (IPRW). This year, after a multi-year hiatus, we were lucky enough to have Jim ‘Sarge’ Conway leading the charge on safety again. Sarge originally conceived the idea of IPRW with TGR nearly a decade ago when he saw the opportunity to bring together some of the best minds in the industry to share and develop new skills and techniques. Pushing the limits of skiing and filmmaking in mountains all over the world can bring us very close to some very real danger, but using the skills we learn and practice during IPRW helps us to mitigate and manage these risks.

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This year, we were hosted at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and the three-day course covered everything from medical and trauma management skills, avalanche rescue, and snow science. Our production teams were joined by athletes Todd Ligare, Tim Durtschi, Colter Hinchliffe, Kai Jones, Elyse Saugstad, Amie Engerbretson, Caite Zeliff, Thayne Rich, Karl Fostvedt, and Blaine Gallivan.

Day 1 covered everything from medical emergencies in the backcountry to patient transport and packaging. Our teams got to practice basic patient assessment skills relevant to the backcountry environment we work in. That evening, the annual IPRW tradition of Defend My Line was continued, where we heard firsthand stories from athletes’ close calls in the filming environment. This tradition promotes open discussion about how we handle mistakes or accidents in the mountains.

The team practicing patient packaging and transport techniques. Max Ritter photo.

Day 2 was all about avalanche rescue skills. Thanks to our friends at Mammut, we practiced our beacon search skills with the new Mammut Barryvox S beacon. All athletes and productions were required to complete a beacon search test and recover a single burial in under 3 minutes. Four teams then faced off to get the best time in a multiple-burial scenario.

Elyse Saugstad coaching her team for the beacon search race. Max Ritter photo.

After returning to the classroom for a debrief hour, we went back out into the field to put all the skills we had learned so far to the test in three night-time rescue scenarios. In an accident were to happen in the field, it’s very likely that a crew would have to spend a night out in the cold with an injured patient, so the goal of this exercise was to simulate the pressure of working in the cold and dark.

Production team member Olin Wimberg checks vitals on Ben Dann during the night-time scenario. Max Ritter photo.

On Day 3, we returned to the top of JHMR to dig snow pits. Our teams practiced digging study pits and analyzing the structure of the snowpack. We saw that our current Teton snowpack is very unstable and discussed how we would mitigate risk and adapt our backcountry travel techniques.

Cinematographer Austin Hopkins analyzing snow crystals. Max Ritter photo.

Finally, on the evening of Day 3 we stepped into the brand-new TGR Continuum Hotel at the JHMR base for the annual IPRW awards. Congratulations to Elyse Saugstad for winning the IPRW leadership award, Tim Durtschi for the Winterland Full Send Award and production team member Jonathan Desabris for the IPRW Medal of Honor for taking the charge in getting Sam Smoothy to safety after his huge crash while filming Winterland. 

A stoked crew of athletes in the TGR Continuum Hotel. Max Ritter photo.

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