New company promotes mountain bike safety |

New company promotes mountain bike safety

Daily Staff Report
Vail local Will Olson's death in an enduro race last summer prompted his fiancee Bonnie McDonald and three other racers to launch Backcountry Lifeline, to provide training and technolgy for racers and race organizers.
Nick Ontiveros|Special to the Daily |

To help

Additional information and course registration is available at

To support Backcountry Lifeline, make tax-deductible donations to The 139 Fund, a 501c3 organization founded in memory of Will Olson.

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VAIL — The 2015 mountain bike season was one of triumph and tragedy, and some of those who dealt with it firsthand are joining together to create a lifeline — more triumph, less tragedy.

Will Olson, an expert rider favored in his class (vet men 30 and older), died on Aug. 1, when he suffered a fatal chest injury during a Crested Butte Enduro.

Olson’s was the only fatality on a global stage, and the first known death in an enduro race. However, Olson was only one of several deaths that rocked the mountain bike community last summer. Leo Nill died on Brundage Mountain, Allen Chan on Snow Summit, Yeny Vergara at Crystal Cove State Park and Scott Ellis in the Leadville 100 — all occurred within weeks of Olson’s fatal crash.

Online forums were choked with posts from a grieving cycling community.

Meanwhile, four riders formed an organization to promote mountain-bike safety.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Enduro racer Heidi Dohse, pro-rider Flynn George and EMT Matt Hightower, all of whom were on-course during Olson’s fatal Crested Butte crash, joined forces with Olson’s fiancee, Bonnie McDonald, to form Backcountry Lifeline.

“Nothing will bring Will back,” McDonald said. “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.”

Training, technology

The goal is to provide racers, riders and event organizers with training, tools and technology necessary to respond to emergency situations more 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,” said Hightower, an emergency medical technician out of Steamboat Springs. “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 this season, Backcountry Lifeline will be partnering with Big Mountain Enduro to launch three introductory products and services.

Initially, CPR and basic first aid trainings will be offered at three Big Mountain Enduro events: May 20 in Santa Fe, New Mexico; July 28 in Aspen; and August 31 in Crested Butte. The trainings will be held at the end of practice days, and these riders will earn their American Red Cross certifications.

A four-day advanced training course is scheduled for May 5-8 at the Buffalo Creek trails in Pine. Presented in conjunction with the SOLO School of Wilderness Medicine, the course will provide extensive Wilderness First Aid training and official CPR instruction. The camp will offer mock riding scenarios, recreational group rides, meals and lodging.

Big Mountain Enduro is offering 30 percent off one of this season’s race entry fees to any registered racer who successfully completes the course.

Backcountry Lifeline is also compiling Incident Command System tools and technology for racers and event organizers, including Incident Action Plans and training for race directors, as well as on-course satellite communication and tracking devices for athletes.

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