Erik Leidecker is an IFMGA certified mountain guide, First Ascent Ski Guide, Operations Manager for Sun Valley Heli Ski, and co-owner of Sawtooth Mountain Guides (SMG). In this Q&A with Remote Medical International (RMI), he talks about his experience and why continuous training is critical for guiding. RMI and SMG hosted Wilderness First Responder training back in November 2009, and the two organizations are working together again to offer the Wilderness First Responder training in Ketchum November 12-21, 2010.
Why was it important for you to host the WFR training in Ketchum?
For mountain guides and outdoor professionals, Wilderness First Responder (WFR)-level training and current certification is an absolute prerequisite. As a guide service owner, I wouldn’t even consider hiring someone who didn’t have this baseline skill set. On the recreational side, however, it’s great to see that in a mountain town of hardcore athletes people are realizing that this level of training is vital for non-professionals as well. One local skier has found himself involved in two avalanche incidents, and his WFR training has proved invaluable.
What other professional certifications do you currently hold?
I’m a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide, of which there are still less than 100 in the United States. I also have completed avalanche education programs through Level 3 and am an AIARE Level 1 Course Instructor.
How did you become involved with SMG?
SMG was founded in 1985 by Kirk Bachman, a native Idahoan who cut his teeth guiding in the Tetons. Kirk hired me in 1993, and I bought half the business from him in 2002. Together we manage the business to provide top-notch rock, alpine, and ski guiding, instructional courses, and avalanche education in the spirit of wilderness and adventure.
SMG runs its programs throughout the mountains of central Idaho including the Sawtooth, Pioneer, Boulder, Smoky and Lost River Ranges, and at the City of Rocks. In the summer we specialize in rock and alpine climbing programs for beginners and experts alike. We also run non-technical backpacking and trekking trips, high lake fishing trips, and custom corporate retreats. In the winter we specialize in avalanche education programs, guided backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering, and we rent the popular Williams Peak Yurt to both guided and non-guided parties.
How was your experience hosting the WFR with RMI?
RMI runs a solid program. The front office and administrative/web side of the course was simple and easy as was the Pre-course paperwork. Lead instructor Melissa Arnot is enthusiastic and can hold the attention of the class, and she strikes a perfect mix of practical experience in both back and front country emergency care. Backcountry emergency care is not what it was 15 years ago. Modern equipment and the increasing use of helicopters make it critical to understand how to interface with front country ems, which is something that RMI understands. Of course, if you need to stabilize and/or evacuate in a truly remote environment, these skills and techniques are still covered.
Was this your second time taking a full WFR?
Yes. As a mountain guide (as opposed to a ski patroller or volunteer for EMS services) I (fortunately) don’t often put my WFR training to use. I found that after many years of recertification, my skills were getting rusty. I decided that it was time to start from scratch, again! Not surprisingly, there were several other longstanding mountain guides and outdoor professionals who came to the same realization. Many of these people had been working in the industry for 20 plus years, and had taken several different types of first aid training, including several with expired EMT’s. You just can’t get too much training in emergency response.
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