The annual Saint Alphonsus Ski & Mountain Trauma Conference, to be held this year in Sun Valley from Nov. 7-9, has long been a favorite training opportunity for the Fremont County Ambulance and EMS. The skills and topics discussed fall perfectly in line with the skills and knowledge that are needed for a rural ambulance service. It is also a great way to get to know other providers that have helped our program. 

People live in, and visit, Fremont County for our many outdoor recreational opportunities. We enjoy the outdoors year-round, and so our department must be ready to respond to emergencies in good weather and bad, in snow and rough terrain. Whether snowmobiling in winter or hiking and camping in the Targhee Forest or riding an ATV on the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, folks flock to our corner of the state to enjoy nature. And sometimes, they need our help.

That’s why our agency has been sending people to the conference for more than 10 years, and each time people come back saying it was one of the best conferences that they have been to. There aren’t many other conferences where the main focus is on wilderness medicine. We enjoy being able to practice and learn skills needed to treat patients that you can’t just drive your ambulance up to. This conference gives us the chance to learn and practice skills necessary for a rural EMS service like ours.

Often, we find ourselves on foot, snowmobile or side-by-side trying to get to a person that has been hurt in one way or another. Often, we can only carry a limited amount of equipment to reach the scene. At that point, you have to do the best with what you have and rely on the training you have received to make the most of the situation. That might mean using a pack or ski pole as a splint or improvising with a climbing rope to make a stretcher.

The time to learn a skill is not in the heat of the moment but in a controlled environment like the Ski & Mountain Trauma Conference. We use the skills that we have been taught at this conference on a regular basis and it has been of great benefit to the people we serve.

This conference is also a great time to network with other providers and share ideas that can enhance our program. Like many smaller, rural departments, we don’t have the budget to bring every one of our personnel to the conference. But what we can do is bring back the lessons that we have learned and conduct trainings locally to make our agency better. We have also been able to have some of the presenters come to our agency and train our whole group.

The chance to learn new skills, specialized for outdoor and wilderness environments, sets the Saint Alphonsus Ski & Mountain Trauma Conference apart from most other trainings we can take part in. I know that our entire EMS department appreciates having this opportunity, and I’m sure that the thousands of people who live in or visit Fremont County to enjoy our beautiful outdoors are glad that our agency participates in this conference.


Bert Mecham is the director of the Fremont County EMS, based in St. Anthony.

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