The 2015 mountain bike season will be remembered not only as one of new industry standards and budding athletes, but also one of incredible heartache.
Will Olson, an expert rider favored to win his class (Vet Men 30+), died on August 1, 2015, when he suffered a fatal injury to the chest in a race hosted jointly by Big Mountain Enduro and Enduro World Series in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Although the only fatality occurring on a global stage, Olson was only one of several deaths that rocked the mountain bike community last summer. Other fatalities, including Leo Nill on Brundage Mountain, Allen Chan on Snow Summit, Yeny Vergara at Crystal Cove State Park, and Scott Ellis in the Leadville 100, occurred within weeks of Olson’s crash.
In the wake of the tragedy at Crested Butte, as online forums were choked with posts from a grieving cycling community, four riders aligned to form an organization aimed at promoting mountain bike safety. Specifically, Enduro racer Heidi Dohse, pro-rider Flynn George, and EMT Matt Hightower--all of whom were on-course at the Crested Butte race--joined forces with Olson’s fiancée, Bonnie McDonald, to form the organization.
The mission of the company, called Backcountry Lifeline (BCLL), is to provide racers, riders, and event organizers with the training, tools, and technology necessary to respond to emergency situations effectively.
“One thing that we heard repeatedly following Will’s crash, was how important riders thought it was for everyone [who rides] to be CPR certified,” commented Hightower, an EMT out of Steamboat Springs, who was on-course that day. “Knowing it’s not always easy to find the time, money, or resources to get this done, especially in our mountain communities, we designed a program that brings the training to the riders.”
For the 2016 season, Backcountry Lifeline will be partnering with Big Mountain Enduro (BME) to launch three introductory products and services.
First, CPR and Basic First Aid trainings will be offered at three Big Mountain Enduro events--in Santa Fe, NM on Friday, May 20th; in Aspen, CO on Thursday, July 28th; and in Crested Butte, CO on Wednesday, August 31st.
“The trainings will be held at the end of a ‘practice day’ prior to the events, so that riders can complete the course before turning their attention to race preparations,” says Flynn George, a pro-rider who works in cycling industry distribution.
Participants who successfully complete the training will receive Adult First Aid/CPR certification through the American Red Cross, valid for two years.
As a second product offering, BCLL will be hosting a four-day advanced training course May 5th-8th at the Buffalo Creek trails in Pine, Colorado. Presented in conjunction with the SOLO School of Wilderness Medicine, the course will provide extensive Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training and official CPR instruction. The camp will offer mock ride scenarios, recreational group rides, meals, as well as lodging.
As incentivization for its racer athletes, BCLL partner, Big Mountain Enduro, is offering 30% off one 2016 BME race entry to any registered racer who successfully completes the course.
“What happened in the Stage 3 race at Crested Butte was unprecedented, and rocked the whole community,” commented BME owner, Brandon Ontiveros. “It is in everyone’s best interest to have as many CPR and First Aid-trained riders as possible on the trails and on the courses. We’re willing to do whatever we can to help make this happen.”
The third component of BCLL’s offerings for its inaugural year are a compilation of Incident Command System (ICS) tools and technology for racers and event organizers. The organization’s ICS offering includes Incident Action Plans and training for race directors, as well as on-course satellite communication and tracking devices for athletes.
“Although there were highly trained and competent medics on-course at the Crested Butte race, communication and location-tracking proved to be very difficult in the remote area,” commented Heidi Dohse, a Google Sr. Program Manager with previous experience implementing emergency response systems. “Part of the goal of BCLL is to provide racers, event directors, and emergency responders with the technology and tracking devices they need to call for help, contact Flight for Life, and locate injured riders as quickly as possible. In some of these situations, every second counts.”
Future plans for the organization include trainings and camps on a national scale, in conjunction with other events and organizations, as well as the development of BCLL-branded technology, products and services for retail sale.
Additional information and course registration is available at www.backcountrylifeline.com.
“Nothing will bring Will back,” commented Olson fiancée, McDonald. “But if we can make a difference in even one other rider’s life, or improve the outcome of just one emergency response, this [effort] will all be worth it.”
Those wishing to support Backcountry Lifeline can make a tax-deductible donation to The 139 Fund, a 501c3 organization founded in memory of Will Olson, which supports BCLL. Visit www.backcountrylifeline.com/139-fund.html
for more information.