S.A.F.E. A.S. – Raising Snow Safety Awareness

Developed by Jackie Paaso, Lel Tone, Elyse Saugstad, Michelle Parker, Sherry McConkey and Ingrid Backstrom, S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics aim to raise snow safety and avalanche risk awareness among snow sport enthusiasts, particularly female snow sport enthusiasts. The name of the organization – Skiers Advocating and Fostering Education for Avalanche and Snow Safety (S.A.F.E. A.S.) – says it all, and with loads of experience between the six founders, they provide a welcoming environment where communication and participation are encouraged.

Swiss-born Lel Tone is the lead instructor of S.A.F.E. A.S. and has been involved in the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol since 1994, as well as being the Assistanct Avalanche Forecaster for the area since 2004. Her qualifications and experience include being a heli ski guide, a California-licensed Avalanche Blaster and an Avalanche control route leader at Squaw, as well as being a qualified Level 1 and Level 2 Avalanche Instructor through AIARE – American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. Lel’s advice to skiers is to listen to and respect Mother Nature, remembering that she calls all the shots.

As a professional skier, Jackie Paaso has been a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride Team since 2009. She competes on the Freeride World Tour, with her wins including the 2010 Squaw Tram Face event and the 2012 Chamonix event. She has completed the AIARE Level 1 course and explored the Norwegian Arctic as part of Warren Miller Entertainment’s crew for the movie Flow State.

Raised in Girdwood, Alaska, Elyse Saugstad is a professional skier specializing in freeride and backcountry skiing. She earned the Freeride World Tour Champion title in 2008 and has notched up a number of International Freeride Competition victories during her successful career, as well as working with ski film companies and Chugach Powder Guides.

Ingrid Backstrom is a professional big mountain skier, appearing in Matchstick Productions movies, Warren Miller Entertainment Films, and Rocky Mountain Sherpas. The ski destinations Ingrid has been fortunate to visit include Antarctica, Pakistan, Greenland, Baffin Island and China. She has completed the AIARE Level 1 course.

Born and raised in Squaw Valley, Michelle Parker has been a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride team since 2006 and features in a number of productions by Matchstick Productions, including the film Superheroes of Stoke. Michelle has completed an AIARE L1 course and spends most of her time outdoors, following the snow between the northern and southern hemispheres.

Outdoor enthusiast Sherry McConkey uses her knowledge and experience as a teacher of Anusara yoga to help athletes with therapeutic stretching and yoga movements that focus on realignment, healing the body, gaining strength and clearing the mind. Sherry is the founder of the Tahoe-based non-profit organization, the Shane McConkey Foundation. She is currently completing the AIARE L1 course.

Visit the S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics Website for information on current events and classes.