S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics were started by Elyse Saugstad, Jackie Paaso, Lel Tone, Michelle Parker, Ingrid Backstrom, and Sherry McConkey. With the goals of heightening community snow safety and avalanche awareness we have created a women’s intro to avalanche safety clinic. For 2014 we have two full days at Squaw Valley, two full days in the Pacific Northwest and two full days at Copper Mtn in CO. We hope to foster an open, welcoming environment by which to encourage participation and communication.

Lel Tone showing us how it’s done during our on hill portion of the clinic.

About Us:

Lead Instructor Lel Tone has been a member of the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol since 1994 and the Assistant Avalanche Forecaster since 2004. Lel has been a helicopter ski guide in Alaska for Chugach Powder Guides and Tordrillo Mountain Lodge for the last 14 years. She is a licensed Avalanche Blaster in the state of California and an Avalanche control route leader at Squaw. She is an AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Level 1 and 2 Avalanche Instructor. Lel has been teaching avalanche courses in our local community and around the West for the last 10 plus years.

Ingrid Backstrom is considered to be one of the most influential professional big mountain skiers in the world. She has appeared in 9 Matchstick Productions movies, three Warren Miller Entertainment Films, ‘All.I.Can.’ by the Rocky Mountain Sherpas, the documentary Steep, and has won Powder Magazine’s ‘Best Female Performance’ five times. She considers herself extremely fortunate that skiing has taken her all around the globe, including Pakistan, Antarctica, Greenland, and first descents in Baffin Island and on 20,000ft. Reddomaine Peak in China.  She has completed an AIARE L1 course.

Elyse Saugstad was raised in Girdwood, Alaska and since that time became passionately involved with freeride and backcountry skiing as a professional skier. Between 2007 and 2009 Elyse won many International Freeride competitions and was crowned Freeride World Tour Champion in 2008. Since then Elyse has turned her focus towards filming wherein she won Powder Magazine’s 14th Annual Video Award’s “Best Female Performance” for her segment in Teton Gravity Research’s Co-Lab edit.  Elyse was the only female to be voted into the finals of Teton Gravity’s Co-Lab Edit contest in a field of over 40 men, and ended up in the top 5 of the contest. Through her unique experiences as a professional athlete Elyse had the opportunity to give a TEDx Talk in San Francisco in 2013. Elyse has worked with Chugach Powder Guides and Big Mountain Trips as a guest athlete. She has completed an AIARE L1 course.

Jackie Paaso has been a professional skier and a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride Team since 2009. She spends the majority of her winters competing on the Freeride World Tour and has many notable results like winning the 2010 Squaw Tram Face event and the 2012, 2014 Chamonix event. She filmed with Warren Miller Entertainment for their 2012 movie “Flow State” exploring the Norwegian Arctic. Jackie has been expanding her knowledge of big mountains and avalanche terrain all over the world. Recently she was named one of ESPN’s top 50 Females in Action Sports along with Ingrid, Michelle and Elyse. She has completed an AIARE L1 and L2 course.

Michelle Parker  is a 27 year old professional skier who was born and raised in Squaw Valley and has been a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride Team since 2006. After competing in X Games events for Slopestyle and Halfpipe Michelle turned her focus on filming with Matchstick Productions and is featured in the latest film ‘Superheroes of Stoke’, whereupon she was awarded IF3’s and Powder Awards ‘Best Female Performance’. Michelle is addicted to chasing winter in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and has spent the past 8 summers guiding in Argentina. Michelle spends most of her time in the mountains skiing, climbing, and mountain biking. She is on the board for High Fives Non-profit, is an ambassador for both Alpine Initiatives and Climate Reality, and has raised over $18,000 for the Sarah Burke Foundation. Philanthropy is equally as important to her as she see’s skiing as an outlet to inspire and create a positive change. She has completed an AIARE L1 course.

Sherry McConkey is an outdoor enthusiast who has been teaching yoga for seven years. She is a certified Anusara teacher, a form of yoga that focuses on alignment. Anusara is great for athletes to help with restorative stretching/yoga whereupon your body can heal, gain strength, clear the mind, and ultimately enhance your athletic performance. Sherry is also the founder of the Shane McConkey Foundation, a Tahoe non-profit organization. Sherry is in the process of completing her AIARE L1 course.

Robin Van Gyn is the SAFE AS token snowboarder and token Canadian! This 15 year Whistler veteran has long been considered one of the top backcountry females in snowboarding and continues to hold on tight to her spot. Robin has filmed over 7 video parts in films like “Intervals”, “Winter Wars”, “See What I See”, and “9-5”. Currently, Robin is mid way through filming for “Full Moon” documenting the past, present and future of women’s snowboarding alongside snowboardings’ most iconic females. Her passion for the backcountry grew from 12 seasons with SASS Argentina and 15 years in the Whistler and Rocky Mountain backcountry. This avid splitboarder has recently been committed to becoming a guide and furthering her education in snow science. Robin has completed CAA 1 professional certification and is working towards application for CAA 2 this season.

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