Teton County Search and Rescue Launches Backcountry Zero

Cross-sport initiative aimed at reducing fatalities

Nov 18, 2015
Outside Magazine
Teton County Search and Rescue Launches Backcountry Zero

Teton County has 40 search and rescue volunteers, including Don Watkins (pictured), who receive around 80 calls annually.    Courtesy of Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation

Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR) Foundation launched a community-led cross-sport initiative earlier this month to reduce fatalities in the backcountry, Adventure Journal reported on Tuesday. The program, Backcountry Zero, will build on already existing safety resources and call upon local guides and outdoor experts to craft a curriculum aimed at increasing preparedness in the wilderness. 

“We need to create a conversation that speaks to the whole community,” Stephanie Thomas, executive director for TCSAR, told Outside on Wednesday. “Focusing on a specific sport seemed shortsighted when we have dedicated community members that do everything from ski mountaineering to fishing to mountain biking.”

The initiative was born out of a planning work group meeting that was held three years ago, from which Thomas found a list of goals put together by attendees. One of the goals called for eliminating fatalities in the Tetons. “This is a small community, and we’re all affected by not only what we do, but by things that are happening all around us,” said Thomas. 

Backcountry Zero was also influenced by Sweden’s landmark Vision Zero program for reducing vehicular fatalities. TCSAR Foundation will help fund the initiative for at least the next five years, but partnerships with other rescue teams like Moose, Wyoming’s Jenny Lake Rangers and industry partners like Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Black Diamond will also lend support.

Upcoming Backcountry Zero events include a winter speakers series centered around technology in the backcountry and expanded “What’s in Your Pack” classes that bring together professionals from outdoor groups, including fishing, climbing, skiing, hunting, and paragliding.

“I’ve already had a dozen people come up to me and say they’ve had conversations [about Backcountry Zero] with their ski partners and friends,” said Thomas. “That means we’ve already made an impact.”