ski & snowboard adventures at winterlake lodge
attend mandatory safety briefing
get issued top-rated personal safety gear
check gear and practice how to use it
follow guide instructions
When we go out in the mountains, we go out as a team. Each guest needs safety equipment to help increase not only his or her own safety, but that of the other group members and guide. We don't expect you have the same mountain skills as the guide staff, but with a little training and orientation you can become a strong and confident team member in the field. We try to simplify and streamline the learning process so you get out quickly after your arrival and we build on your skills throughout the week.
Interested in learning more? Ask us. Operations Manager Jim Conway and many of the staff are avalanche and rescue educators and offer periodic training programs.
We know our clientele at Tordrillo North are discriminating, not only in the level of service you expect, but also in your own safety. We want to explain our methods so you can evaluate our safety program the same as you would other services. Safety is our number one priority at Tordrillo North. Fortunately, we have the experience to find something for everyone in the mountains in all but the most high to extreme hazard periods. And, you can feel confident that when we do enter bigger or more difficult terrain that it is based on sound decisions based on years of experience.
Safety is not taken lightly at Tordrillo North. As travel in our mountains always entails some risk, risk management may be a better term for what we do. Owner and Operations Manager Jim Conway has made a career of risk management. Jim has nearly 40 years of backcountry experience, and over 20 years of guiding in Alaska. Jim has also performed risk management consulting and risk management talks with the Marine Corp, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, the Risk and Insurance Management Society, and the State Risk and Insurance Management Society over the last 10 years. By combining time proven industrial risk management methodologies, with a lifetime of mountain sense and guiding skills, we offer you a risk management program that is both progressive and consistent.
As in business or industry, we start from the probability versus consequence perspective to define risk. Consequence is the one thing we have control over in the mountains as it is based on consistent factors such as slope size or secondary exposure (i.e. cliffs and crevasses).
The probability factor (avalanche stability) can be more difficult to assess. At Tordrillo North, we will always take the time to do a proper assessment of not only avalanche stability, but also skier/rider ability when determining the type of terrain we will enter. So, each day your team will be constantly evaluating the above factors to determine the appropriate level of terrain consequence. The good news is that Alaska and the Tordrillos typically provide great windows of stability (low probability conditions) and a large variety of terrain (everything from low to high consequence).
Does this approach sound conservative? Ask Teton Gravity Research. Over twelve years Jim developed a risk management program for the best big mountain ski and snowboard athletes in the world. This program while conservative in it's methods allows for a clear headed assessment of information collected, and allows a logical progression into higher consequence terrain as conditions allow. This approach also helps to minimize human factors and yield consistent results.
How does this approach affect your experience? After a storm cycle or weather changes that could affect snowpack stability, our team will prioritize snowpack assessment. Typically this will mean slowing things down a little while your guide does his work. After any events that could change the snowpack, we will typically start in lower risk terrain; low angle or smaller low consequence slopes and work our way up to the terrain you want as conditions dictate. This "Terrain Progression" method allows the guide teams to assess the probability of avalanches while minimizing risk to themselves and the group.
Remember, it's you and the guides out there as a team. We put a priority on guide safety as well. An advantage of the small number of groups we host is that there is plenty of time in the day to perform these assessments and still pound your legs to rubber if that's what you want.
Many of our guests have built a relationship and level of trust with their guides over the years. We respect that and want to invite guests to bring their guides to work with us. We do have qualification standards for this, so have your guide contact us for more information. Don't have your own guide? No problem. We have a large inventory of experienced big mountain guides to draw upon.
So how does it work? We expect guest guides to have a strong background in snowpack assessment, helicopter safety, logistics, and moving people around in the mountains. Our permanent staff under Jim Conway's supervision will coordinate with your guides to develop a plan to get you into the type of terrain you are looking for based on our assessment methods discussed at left. Of course we will have the usual morning and evening briefings, but expect to see more collaboration out in the mountains. There will ALWAYS be at least one experienced Alaska heli ski lead guide with every pod of ski groups.
We have divided up our terrain into a series of zones that have similar characteristics such as climate and elevation. Our team and/or your guide will enter these zones and our lead guide for the day will get them started with some appropriate warm-up or assessment runs. Once the Team has finished assessment they will be able to coordinate what slopes will work for the groups both in terms of safety and client needs. This is another advantage of our small operation: It is easy to collaborate on the hill.
The strength of our program is the strong cooperation between guides in the field. Occasionally this means we need to slow things down or take a pause. But this is HOW we put safety first. This method will deliver not only a safer experience, but give you and your guide more confidence in their run choices.
While every effort is made to prevent accidents or injuries, no risk management program is complete without a strong emergency response. We have a lengthy and detailed Operations Manual with emergency response procedures. We will review the highlights of that here.
All our guides and guests guides are certified or equivalent in industry standard wilderness first aid, avalanche forecasting, and mountain rescue.
Our helicopter is equipped with emergency rescue, first aid and survival gear allowing us to quickly respond to emergencies.
Emergency evacuations will be transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. This is about a 60-minute flight in good weather.
emergency rescue gear
in helicopter or on the guides
We believe in having the ability to respond immediately to emergencies in the field. The following gear is carried in the helicopter. Guest guides will be specially briefed on the inventory and it's use.
High Angle Rescue Kit
personal rescue gear
on each guest
The following is mandatory rescue equipment required by each guest. If you have your own equipment that is current and in good working order you can use that. Otherwise we will supply you with what you need.
personal protective gear
used by many pros
Below is optional personal protective gear. The helmet is HIGHLY recommended. Knee braces for sure if you have bad knees. Body armor is worn by many pros for aggressive riding. If you are an aggressive rider it is an option worth considering. We are happy to make recommendations, but we do not supply this PPE.
call us 907-274-2710