Are You Suffering From Frequency Drift?

beaconOver the last several years, the number of backcountry users has increased drastically.  There are many reasons why we have seen this increase, but that’s what we will be discussing today, because I don’t think I need to explain the bliss of an un-tracked slope with just you and your friends!

Hopefully by now, most of you know the importance of proper avalanche gear including the (3) essential items — an avalanche transceiver (or beacon), shovel and probe.  That said, your equipment is only as good as proper education.  Here at SOLE, we offer avalanche education courses that allow you to develop outdoor technical skills, including how to use rescue equipment coupled with the opportunity to develop outdoor leadership skills like judgment and decision-making.  Still the reality is we should all “plan ahead and prepare” and be ready to respond appropriately. Besides organizations like SOLE, ski resorts, land managers, guiding companies, avalanche centers, and backcountry forums are becoming increasingly better at educating backcountry users the risks associated with backcountry travel and the necessary gear and education to manage those risks.  So for now let’s say you have a working understanding of how to use your avalanche beacon.

One thing we should ask ourselves is this; does your beacon still work?  Beacons talk to each other by transmitting at the same frequency.  As long as both beacon frequencies are within a specific range, they will continue to talk.  There have been numerous studies, however, indicating what’s known as “frequency drift”. Frequency drift can happen when your beacon gets extremely hot or cold, if there is physical damage to your beacon and age.  Older beacons were made from fairly inexpensive parts that age just like us.  When this happens, they can “drift” out of their programmed frequency making it impossible for other beacons to find their signal.


Luckily, there is a very quick and efficient trick to make sure your and your partner’s beacons still works, practice.

So your Tuesday’s Tech Tip for the Trail is to get your beacons out and practice with those you will likely go out with.  This not only gives you practice before the snow flies, but allows you to see if your beacons function the way they were designed and ensures that you or your buddies beacon hasn’t “drifted” out of range.  Put some fresh batteries in before your practice day and you’ll be prepared for the first snow of the season!

Don’t hesitate to ask any questions about frequency drift, beacons, avalanche gear or anything else you might have questions with!

Get Stoked for Winter While Doing Some Good!

Grab your skis and a buddy and get ready for some serious fun!  SOLE’s Annual Fundraiser – the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival celebrates its 11th Anniversary!  This community event is aimed to inspire winter adventurers to seek the snow less traveled, while bringing critical awareness of the work we, and others, are doing during the winter months throughout the Inland Northwest. Produced by the Boise-based nonprofit, Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Backcountry Film Festival makes its world premiere in Boise, Idaho and will then tour to more than 100 showings around the world, including a stop in good ‘ole Sandpoint, Idaho!



Location: Panida Theater | Sandpoint, Idaho
Date: December 4th, 2015
Time: Doors: 6:00 PM | Show: 7:00 PM
Tickets: $10 General Admission ADV; $12 DOS | $20 Donation Ticket (includes 3 raffle tickets)

This annual event is a community favorite!   With a series of award-winning and juried films, all which celebrate the human-powered experience, a great silent auction with great holiday gifts from local vendors and gear vendors like Big Agnes and G3, fun raffle prizes, and great local brews this is a family-fun experience tailored to showcase our great community!

What makes this showing unique?  Well, it’s really simple we earmark ALL event proceeds directly towards supporting SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM Program at Schweitzer Mountain and beyond.  Your support allows us to get local area youth out on the snow to explore > achieve > lead through this transformational experiential education program.  Event proceeds will continue to provide essential gear, logistical support, and teaching supplies.

This showing of the Backcountry Film Festival will be of special importance. Centered on our mission to provide transformational experiences outdoors for local area youth, SOLE will continue to host this event to raise critical funds for our SnowSchool Experience SM Field Campus at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, as well as pilot programs at other site locations.  Currently, SnowSchool Experiences SM are offered for all 5th graders in Lake Pend Oreille School District, and will be expanded to include programming services for Lake Pend Oreille High School and Clark Fork Junior High School / High School Outdoor Track which will be highlighted during this year’s event as an effort to bring awareness to this program and our communities educational needs.  In addition, SOLE works with other private, public, and homeschool groups throughout the winter at various other field campus sites in the Inland Northwest.

During the 2015-16 school year SOLE aims to work with 300 + local area youth in SnowSchool Experience SM program.  With an average poverty rate of 60 – 97 % at most area schools our financial needs are noteworthy.

BCFFThe Backcountry Film Festival is renowned for its mix of professional and grassroots films – from well-known filmmakers who search backcountry corners across the globe to submit their best work to first-timers who take a video camera out on their weekend excursions.  The festival was created in 2004 to highlight Winter Wildlands Alliance’s efforts to preserve and promote winter landscapes for human-powered users. From a single showing in Boise that first year, the festival has grown to include showings in locations throughout the United States and Canada and now in Antarctica, Europe, Australia and Asia. Funds raised stay in local communities to support like-minded, human-powered recreation and conservation efforts and to raise awareness of winter management issues, avalanche training/safety and winter education programs.  Come take the ride and support a great cause while doing so!

The Line-Up

12108848_1033868520010442_7734080898357595900_nFilm Descriptions:

  • Japan by Van immerses us in the head-deep powder of the Shirakawa backcountry. A Sweetgrass Productions film.
  • Shared Lines features the story of Vermont Backcountry Alliance and their community in a short film by T-Bar Films.
  • Shifting Ice, from filmmaker Kt Miller, is an all-women team on a journey at the intersection of scientific exploration and, of course, grueling fun.
  • The Weight of Winter, filmmaker Ben Sturgulewski brings us a ride to tune in, sit back, and enjoy.
  • I Love Splitboarding, a fresh way to play in the backcountry along with a fresh way of living. A film by Right on Brother opens up the world of splitboarding.
  • 55 Hours in Mexico, in true tribute to weekend warriors, Joey, Karl, Thomas, and filmmaker Max Lowe take us on an adventure of 55 Hours in Mexico.
  • Always Above Us, gives us a glimpse of the tremendous amount of sacrifice and hardship involved in the life of a climber. Sherpas Cinema follows Kris Erickson and Conrad Anker in a memoir for David Bridges and Alex Lowe.
  • Connections, the Dynafit team shares the story of the simple “low tech” design that changed the face of backcountry skiing.
  • The Forecaster, expert Avalanche Forecaster Drew Hardesty leads by example, paying respect to the responsibility that comes with our backcountry freedom. From Spindle Productions.


Advance ticket purchase is recommended.  SOLE offers 2 ticket levels for this event:

  • $10 Advance General Admission Ticket (includes 1 raffle ticket); $12 DOS
  • $20 Donation Ticket (includes 3 raffle tickets – and puts a local area youth on the snow for a day!)

Tickets will be available at the following local businesses:  Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters, Alpine Shop, Eichardt’s, and the Panida Theater and online SOON!

Can’t go?  Make a donation today!



Let’s face it – there is no better way to showcase your business or organization than to become a Backcountry Film Festival or SnowSchool Experience SM Program Sponsor!  Intentional programming of this magnitude is downright expensive, as is hosting fundraising events like the Backcountry Film Festival.  As such, SOLE offers several sponsorship options to ensure that we are able to funnel event proceeds directly towards program expenses to provide these transformational experiential programs for our local area youth.  As a result of your support, we are able to unplug and reconnect more local area youth to the outdoors to explore > achieve > lead!

Corporations, businesses, and individuals can also sponsor a specific student, class, school, youth program or entire SnowSchool Experience SM Field Campus by providing in-kind and/or financial support!  This allows you to have the benefit of doing some good for our youth while getting some exposure for your business!   If you are interested in any of these options or to learn more please contact us or view our Backcountry Film Festival Sponsorship Packet to showcase your business while doing some good!



SOLE Ramps Up for Another Winter Season!

It’ll be here before you know it, that little white stuff will fall from the sky and begin to shape our landscape into a winter wonderland!  As such, we are already in high-gear ramping up for another great winter season.  So check out what we have in store for our 2015-2016 winter season thus far.




For starters, we will continue and expand our SnowSchool Experience SM programIMG_6562 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort where we will offer a novel K-12 place-based experiential education curriculum which will focuses on the (5) cornerstones of snow science, winter ecology, avalanche awareness, outdoor living, and outdoor leadership.  During the 2015-2016 winter season our Schweitzer SnowSchool Experience SM site is positioned to serve over 300 + youth this winter – resulting in over 2,400 hours of transformational experiential education programming outdoors for North Idaho youth!   It should be noted, as part of this effort SOLE will be working with the brand-spanking new Clark Fork Junior High School / High School Outdoor Track, which we are really excited about! In addition, SOLE personnel are in the process of developing several pilot programs at our new field campuses at Lookout Pass, and Mt. Spokane.  More information will be shared as development continues, so please check back often.

Learn more about our SnowSchool Experience SM program by going here.  

DSCN0357In addition, SOLE is looking forward to continue to offer avalanche education program offerings for our local and regional stakeholders.  These courses will include our AIARE Level 1, and AIARE Level 2 Courses, as well as, several new course offerings.  During our Level 1 weekends, SOLE will also offer a AIARE Level 1 Refresher for those looking to freshen up their winter backcountry skills.  In addition, for the average outdoor enthusiasts (i.e., snowmobilers, snowshoers, etc.) looking to just become more ‘backcountry aware’ in the winter we will be offering Avalanche Awareness Courses.

Learn more about our Avalanche Education Experience SM program by going here.  

To help us design, coordinate, and facilitate these high quality transformational experiences we are very excited to announce that will be partnering with various organizations, business and have even extended the SOLE family to include some exceptional Field Instructors, including AIARE Course Leader and Director of the Wallowa Avalanche Center, Kip Rand.  To learn more about him and the rest of our Field Instructors please go here, and be sure to check back frequently as we continue to deepen our winter faculty pool.  

And Away We GO!

IMG_6871As we wind down our 2015 summer programming season, and head into the Labor Day weekend and celebrate the final days of summer, SOLE is excited to share that we will be ramping up our efforts to provide transformational experiences that foster opportunities for students and educators to truly explore > achieve > lead during the 2015 – 2016 school year!

During the 2015-16 school year, SOLE will be providing local area schools throughout North Idaho access to the transformational experiential programs that we offer.

It’s the start of a new school year, and once again we are excited to announce that we will be expanding our collaboration with the Lake Pend Oreille School District (LPOSD).  This will include the continuation of the custom-tailored experiential program for science students at Lake Pend Oreille High School, the continuation of our SnowSchool Experience SM program for all 5th graders in LPOSD, and a new expansion to develop and facilitate an experiential program for the outdoor track at Clark Fork Junior High School / High School.

These (and other) schools will receive curriculum related to our SnowSchool Experience SM, Project LEAD Experience SM and Stewardship Experience SM experiential education programs during the 2015 – 2016 school year. Because programs are grounded on an evidence-based curriculum which is aligned to Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards educators (and those they serve) can rest assured that we will continue to strive to meet the rigors and demands of a traditional academic setting, while simultaneously immersing students in a fun and engaging learning experience for all ! With this foundation in place, students of LPOSD will be able to explore our local watershed on land, snow, and water to learn about our local environs and make sound academic connections while developing personal and group leadership skills.

SOLE SnowSchool

In addition, SOLE is also excited to also announce that we will be working with Forrest Bird Charter School and Selle Valley Carden School.  As part of this effort, we will be developing and facilitating an interdisciplinary, multi-day experiential education program design that will expose to students to leadership, environmental awareness and stewardship, and personal and social development opportunities.

The transformational experiential programs listed below is just a snapshot of what is coming up this school year! Click on each date for more information, and as always, stay up to date with current and future SOLE Experiences SM | Events by visiting our calendar here.  Please make sure to refresh often.  

Register your home-school group or class for a SOLE Experience SM by clicking here or simply contact us.  

We hope to see you ‘OUT THERE’!

may, 2019

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SOLE Announces Fall and Winter Positions for the 2015-2016 School Year!

Yup, it’s that time again!  SOLE is gearing up for another school year.  As such, we are offering several seasonal positions for those that are looking to hone their craft as an experiential educator or share their personal passion to help support those that we serve.  These positions include (2) Intern Field Instructor Positions and (1) Program Director Position. Learn more about these positions by clicking on the link provided.  When you are ready to take the leap to do some good apply for the position of your choice by clicking here.  Positions will remain open until they are filled.  We are currently conducting interviews for all positions, so don’t hesitate!


2015 Summer Programming Update!

campfireWe don’t normally send out seasonal programming updates, however, our summer 2015 season has been met with a tremendous drought sparking wildfires across our local and regional course areas. While SOLE continues to work diligently to run all courses on schedule in specific locales, modifications and even cancellations have been made to mitigate this backcountry risk.  We have made these hard decisions based on the hard evidence which exists ‘out there’, which were recently supported by recommendations presented by local United States Forest Service (USFS) districts.  These decisions will ensure that our clientele’s safety needs continue to be paramount, as well as, support local and regional land management agencies which active fire suppression efforts.   If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.13.18 PM

More specifically, as shown in the image above we have several wildfires in our course area(s) including the 6,147 acre Parker Ridge fire (in the Selkirk Mountains due North of Sandpoint, Idaho) and the Clark Fork Complex which includes the 2,143 acre Scotchman Peak fire (in the Cabinet Mountains due East of Sandpoint, Idaho), and the 576 acre Whitetail Peak fire. Also, we have numerous “hotspots” which are being currently tracked.  Many of these wildfires were sparked by lightning as summer thunderstorms rubbled through over the last few weeks and months.  For the most up to date information on local wildfires, including evacuations, road closures, and community meetings go to InciWeb.

The SOLE family extends our sincere gratitude to those on the front lines and those affected.  

There is no doubt about it our current fire danger is extreme, so if you are planning to venture into the backcountry please exercise caution.  Also, please contact you local Forest Service or other land management agency to get the most up to date information prior to heading out. These agencies can give you all pertinent information including current and active wildfires, and specific closures.  

Lastly, when recreating please minimize your impact by using outdoor skills and ethics supported by SOLE and our partners at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Skills and Ethics.  If you are interested in learning more please consider signing up for a Leave No Trace course.  SOLE is currently offering a course on September 25th for National Public Lands Day.   All proceeds collected will go to support SOLE’s Youth Scholarship Fund.  Go to the SOLE Calendar to view a complete listing of all upcoming course offerings.

Stay safe and happy trails,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

SOLE Project LEAD Experience Program Receives $18,000 Grant!


On Thursday June 19th, 2015 we received notice from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation that SOLE was awarded an $18,000 Equinox Foundation Grant for our Project LEAD in the Delta — Exploring the Clark Fork River Delta, and the greater Lake Pend Oreille Watershed proposal.

With these funds students of Lake Pend Oreille School District will have the opportunity to participate in a transformational experience where they will be able to explore our local watershed – from the source to the lake.  In these local environs, students will be able to make sound academic connections as they focus on leadership, environmental awareness and stewardship, and personal and social development.  This program will be supported by a unique blend of curriculum from SOLE’s Fieldwork Experience SM (place-based experiential education) and Project LEAD Experience SM (outdoor leadership) programs.  In addition, coursework will also include a project-learning framework to increase ownership and learning comprehension.

With a purposeful design in hand, the youth of LPOSD (and beyond) will truly have an opportunity to explore > achieve > lead in their own backyard.  As a result, they will have a sincere opportunity to develop a sense of belonging towards their community and its environment.  We are very humbled by this opportunity to work with our communities’  youth in this capacity and are sincerely grateful to have the continued support to continue our goal to ‘Reach And Teach’ 1,000 More!

Don’t Spark That Wildfire!

Caveman-CampfireThere’s something about that ubiquitous campfire.  It just draws us in, and there is nothing like sharing tall tales, kinship and laughter around a campfire.  That said, campfires also have their drawbacks, especially when they are misused.  In fact, campfires can scar and sterilize the ground, and their remnants can be left behind for thousands of years.  Not to mention – wildfires.  The reality – as many as 90 percent of wildfires are caused by humans.

This summer is of special importance as we enter a significant drought for much of the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the country.  In fact, our fire season is definitely going to be one worth noting as the current conditions are showing us (see the USGS figure below to see how dry it is).  So what can we do about it?  Simple.  Follow Leave No Trace Principle #5 from our partners at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

11167851_823146357782356_1712455768355791733_nPrinciple 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts

Fires vs. Stoves: The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of light weight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire. Stoves have be come essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible, and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition, and they Leave No Trace.

Should I build a fire?

  • The most important consideration to be made when deciding to use a fire is the potential damage to the backcountry.
  • What is the fire danger for the time of year and the location you have selected? n Are there administrative restrictions from the agency that administers the area?
  • Is there sufficient wood so its removal will not be noticeable?
  • Does the harshness of alpine and desert growing conditions for trees and shrubs mean that the regeneration of wood sources cannot keep pace with the demand for firewood?
  • Do group members possess the skill to build a campfire that will Leave No Trace?

Lessing the impact when campfires are used.

Camp in areas where wood is abundant if building a fire. Choose not to have a fire in areas where there is little wood at higher elevations, in heavily used areas, or in desert settings. A true Leave No Trace fire shows no evidence of having been constructed.

What about existing fire rings?

The best place to build a fire is within an existing fire ring in a well-placed campsite. Keep the fire small and burning only for the time you are using it. Allow wood to burn completely to ash. Put out fires with water, not dirt. Dirt may not completely extinguish the fire. Avoid building fires next to rock out crops where the black scars will remain for many years.

What exactly is a mound fire?

Construction of a mound fire can be accomplished by using simple tools: a garden trowel, large stuff sack and a ground cloth or plastic garbage bag.

Follow the simple steps below:

  1. Collect some mineral soil, sand, or gravel from an already disturbed source. The root hole of a toppled tree is one such source.
  2. Lay a ground cloth on the fire site and then spread the soil into a circular, flat-topped mound at least 3 to 5 inches thick. The thickness of the mound is critical to insulate the ground below from the heat of the fire. The ground cloth or garbage bag is important only in that it makes cleaning up the fire much easier. The circumference of the mound should be larger than the size of the fire to allow for the spreading of coals. The advantage of the mound fire is that it can be built on flat exposed rock or on an organic surface such as litter, duff or grass.

What about a fire pan?
Use of a fire pan is a good alternative for fire building. Metal oil drain pans and some backyard barbecue grills make effective and inexpensive fire pans. The pan should have at least three-inch-high sides. It should be elevated on rocks or lined with mineral soil so the heat does not scorch the ground.

What about firewood and clean-up?

Standing trees, dead or alive, are home to birds and insects, so leave them intact. Fallen trees also provide bird and animal shelter, increase water holding capacity of the soil, and recycle nutrients back into the environment through decomposition. Stripping branches from standing or fallen trees also detracts from an area’s natural appearance.

  • Avoid using hatchets, saws, or breaking branches off standing or downed trees. Dead and down wood burns easily, is easy to collect and leaves less impact.
  • Use small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of an adult wrist that can be broken with your hands.
  • Gather wood over a wide area away from camp. Use dry drift wood on rivers and sea shores.
  • Don’t bring firewood from home. Either buy it from a local source or gather it responsibly where allowed.
  • Burn all wood to white ash, grind small coals to ash between your gloved hands, thoroughly soak with water, and scatter the remains over a large area away from camp. Ashes may have to be packed out in river corridors.
  • Replace soil where you found it when cleaning up a mound or pan fire.
  • Scatter unused wood to keep the area as natural looking as possible.
  • Pack out any campfire litter. Plastic items and foil-lined wrappers should never be burned in a camp fire.

Fire Safety

  • Provide adequate supervision for young people when using stoves or fires.
  • Follow all product and safety labels for stoves.
  • Use approved containers for fuel.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Keep wood and other fuel sources away from fire.
  • Thoroughly extinguish all fires.

Taken from  See more at:

Join me on Saturday June 13th for a Leave No Trace Awareness Workshop or later this summer for a Leave No Trace Trainer Workshop!

DennisonTeachingStay safe and happy trails,

Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

SOLE Offers Summer Scholarships Again for 2015!

Thanks to very generous Idaho Gives donors SOLE is able to offer families the opportunity to apply for scholarships again during the 2015 summer season!  All scholarships will be granted through the SOLE Youth Scholarship Fund (SYSF), and eligibility is based on specific program-type, defined need, and available funds. To apply for a scholarship today please visit our SYSF application page by clicking here!