Lindsey Clark

How do I keep track of conditions and choose the best place to go?

Substantial parts of what software designers, financial managers, firefighters, police officers, lawyers, and most certainly clinicians do are now too complex for them to carry out reliably from memory alone. Multiple fields, in other words, have become too much airplane for one person to fly. Yet it is far from obvious that something as simple as a checklist could be of substantial help.

― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

A trip into the backcountry does not run itself, and so much can change between checking the forecast and arriving at the trailhead or even between snack breaks. How can we ensure that our risk management decisions continue to align with the conditions, the terrain, and the group in such a complex, dynamic environment? The RIDE SAFELY checklist helps us to transition our preparation and planning into a real-time risk management process. After conducting the departure check, the RIDE SAFELY checklist outlines a four-part cycle that we can repeat throughout the trip to maintain situational awareness, confirm appropriate terrain selection, and facilitate effective communication.

The four parts of the checklist are designed to be easy to remember so that it becomes a routine you use at every critical juncture – either those that are pre-planned or those warranted by a change in the conditions or the terrain.

The RIDE SAFELY checklist provides us with a repeatable process for adapting plans to changing conditions. These conditions include not only weather and snowpack but also how the group interacts and travels through the backcountry. Consistent with the PLAN and DEBRIEF steps of The AIARE Framework, TEAMWORK is the key element to making this checklist an effective risk management tool. Every team member is responsible for ensuring that this process is executed throughout the day. The ultimate objective is to make the most out of the trip while maintaining a consensus-based margin of safety.

The AIARE Fieldbook includes a detailed overview of the RIDE SAFELY checklist for reference. It also includes a checklist of questions to ask at each step with every blank trip page.