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New company aims to help mountain bike events respond to emergencies

Published March 9, 2016

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. (BRAIN) — The mountain bike community was stunned last summer when Will Olson, a well-known Expert class racer, died after a crash in an enduro race in Crested Butte. 

Now a new company has been founded by three enduro racers — all of whom were racing in Crested Butte the day of Olson's death — and Olson's fiancee, Bonnie McDonald. Backcountry Lifeline plans to provide racers, riders, and event organizers with the training, tools, and technology necessary to respond to emergency situations effectively. That includes event-specific first responder training, emergency GPS/satellite location and event Incident Command systems.   

"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," said Matt Hightower, one of the company's founders. Hightower is an EMT based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

"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 event promotor Big Mountain Enduro to launch three introductory products and services.

CPR and Basic First Aid training will be offered at three Big Mountain Enduro events: in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Friday, May 20; in Aspen, Colorado, on Thursday, July 28; and in Crested Butte on Wednesday, August 31.

The classes will be held at the end of a practice day prior to the races.

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 5-8 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 training and CPR instruction. The camp will offer mock ride scenarios, recreational group rides, meals, and lodging.

As incentivization for its racer athletes, BCLL's partner, Big Mountain Enduro, is offering 30 percent 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 Big Mountain Enduro's 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 program manager with experience implementing emergency response systems. Dohse, another of the company co-founders, also is an enduro racer.

"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," Dohse said.

Plans for the organization include training sessions 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

"Nothing will bring Will back," said 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 for more information.

Topics associated with this article: Racing & Sponsorship, Events

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