Stay Wild is the Golden ticket to avalanche safety in B.C.

Ladies Sled Shred Camps turn snowmobiling from a challenging and frustrating sport into an enjoyable one

by Kyle Born

Brittney Dickson (on left) takes some women out for a ride during one of Stay Wild Backcountry Skills’ Ladies Sled Shred Camps.
Brittney Dickson (on left) takes some women out for a ride during one of Stay Wild Backcountry Skills’ Ladies Sled Shred Camps. Photo courtesy Brittney Dickson

It’s a well-known fact that there are more male than female snowmobilers. Whatever the reason may be (testosterone + horsepower + snow = happy men?), a few more women in the fold of the snowmobiling community are always welcome. In order to make that happen, one Golden business owner is doing her part to grow the sport for her sledding sisters.

“Men and women both think and learn very differently,” said Brittney Dickson, owner, lead instructor and coach for sled and touring camps at Stay Wild Backcountry Skills. “It can be extremely intimidating for a female to walk into a classroom full of males and vice versa. We want to break down all barriers that are keeping women out of the backcountry and help them to build confidence in themselves and their skills. We support and provide women with the tools necessary to make informed decisions.”

Skills for snowmobile sisters

Stay Wild Backcountry Skills offers Backcountry Skill Development Camps, Avalanche Skills Training and courses designed specifically for women.

Brittney Dickson is the owner, lead instructor and coach for sled and touring camps at Stay Wild Backcountry Skills.
Brittney Dickson is the owner, lead instructor and coach for sled and touring camps at Stay Wild Backcountry Skills. Photo courtesy Tom De Bie

“The biggest difference with our women’s-specific camps and courses is the environment,” said Dickson. “Women show up and you can immediately see them relax. It is a comfortable and supportive learning environment in an otherwise male-dominated sport.

“We can talk about the unique challenges that women face in the backcountry and work together to find solutions to overcome some of the barriers that women face. It’s amazing to see how a group of beginner women can progress so quickly by encouraging and supporting each other and how much they open up when it’s an all-female group.”

A Golden business idea

Stay Wild is now in its second season. As for why Dickson decided to start up her business in Golden, the reasons are plentiful. 

“The need for women’s camps and courses combined with the amazing terrain options around Golden made the decision easy,” said Brittney Dickson. “I love Golden—it is my home.”
“The need for women’s camps and courses combined with the amazing terrain options around Golden made the decision easy,” said Brittney Dickson. “I love Golden—it is my home.” Photo courtesy Brittney Dickson

“The year before startup, I was asked multiple times by women in the community if I had ever thought of running a ladies’ sled or splitboard camp—that’s when it all clicked,” she said. “The need for women’s camps and courses combined with the amazing terrain options around Golden made the decision easy. I love Golden—it is my home. It is full of backcountry enthusiasts that are stoked to get out every chance they get. I am fortunate to have a rad crew of friends and ladies that I get out with often.”

From the (snowy) ground up

Dickson has always been passionate about the backcountry. When the opportunity presented itself to share her passion with others, it made all the challenges of starting a business worth it. To get her organization off on the right track, Dickson and her team became AST providers for Avalanche Canada, started planning backcountry skills camps and listened to the needs of their clients.

“I have always really enjoyed learning about avalanches and snow,” she said. “The more courses I take, the more I want to learn. Avalanche safety is continuously evolving. It’s exciting to be a part of the industry and to teach this knowledge with other mountain lovers. I absolutely love being able to share my passion for the backcountry with clients and show them the magic the mountains can offer us.”

Brittney Dickson demonstrates how to evaluate snowpack safety by digging a snow pit.
Brittney Dickson demonstrates how to evaluate snowpack safety by digging a snow pit. Photo courtesy Lois Soper

The education and training provided by organizations like Stay Wild are progressing avalanche safety onto a promising path. That being said, there’s still more work to be done.

“The number of sledders who have taken the AST 1 has been on the rise,” Dickson said. “There is still a long way to go, though. Spending a day at our local riding area, Quartz Creek, can be a real eye opener. We see everything from no backpacks to groups parked in avalanche paths. We are headed in the right direction, but we need to continue to educate and spread the word to our fellow riders.

“Whether you are new to the backcountry or have been out there for years, make sure you and your crew have the proper training to come home safe at the end of the day.”

Stay Wild services:

Stay Wild Backcountry Skills offers a variety of Avalanche Skills Training (AST) sessions for men and women alike. Here are the options available for safety-minded snowmobilers:

  1. The starting point for everyone is the AST 1. This is a two-day course where you learn the theory of avalanches, route finding and companion rescue in the classroom. This is followed by a day in the backcountry to practise your newly learned skills.
  2. After completing the AST 1, Stay Wild offers a one-day Managing Avalanche Terrain course and a one-day Companion Rescue course. Both of these courses take place in the backcountry and use the skills learned in AST 1 to advance both your knowledge and skill set.
  3. AST 2 is a four-day course that is ideal for the person who has taken AST 1, has spent a season or two in the backcountry and is ready to take their training to the next level. The course goes in-depth into route finding, terrain management, companion rescue and much more.
  4. New on the roster this year is the Backcountry Refresher course. This is an evening course aimed at dusting off those cobwebs and getting you ready for the upcoming season.

In addition to avalanche safety courses, Stay Wild also has Backcountry Skill Camps. These courses are varied and appeal to certain demographics. Read on to find out which one would be best suited for your needs:

  1. Ladies Sled Shred Camp teaches women the techniques and skills required to turn snowmobiling from a challenging and frustrating sport into an enjoyable one. “Small changes to your rider position, throttle control and weight shifting make a world of difference when you don’t have the strength to manhandle a sled,” said Dickson.
  2. Beginner splitboarding and ski touring camps cover skills such as setting a skin track, kick turns and equipment change-over. Learning these skills makes the transition from the ski hill to the backcountry much smoother than battling with the steep learning curve on your own.
  3. Youth Avy Savy Camp is a one-day camp for kids aged eight to 13. It gets kids talking about avalanches, resort safety and practising companion rescue skills.

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