Nancy Bockino keeps really busy. Her work takes her between Teton County Search and Rescue, teaching avalanche courses, guiding for Exum Mountain Guides and researching high-elevation pines in Grand Teton National Park. How does she balance it all? Patience, she says, plus a passion for the mountains.
Bockino, who’s our resident avalanche instructor at the Jackson Backcountry BASECAMP stop, took a break from her busy schedule to tell us more about how she makes it all work. Here’s her story in her own words.It’s been a slow evolution of following my passions. I spent my whole childhood in the mountains, with a backpack and camping, so it was just a natural progression. And then, every time I have a juncture in my life, I decide, “Mountains, yes.”
I’m an ecologist in [Grand Teton National Park] in the summer. I think because I’m out there 365 days a year, I see things in all the seasons ,so I know the terrain super well and, in the winter, know what’s underneath and know how to move through the terrain because I do it all summer long. We take care of the high-elevation pines. We research them, collect the cones, collect the seeds, plant them. I spend a lot of time climbing trees in the summer.
It’s exciting to give people the freedom to feel like they can go into the mountains and to nudge them toward taking responsibility. For me, those are the gifts I’ve been given—freedom to go and to know I’m being responsible.
I teach the whole spectrum from the person who’s like, “I’m never going out there until I take a class,” to people who’ve been skiing here for 20 years and want to learn more. In general, I see people who are super engaged in learning and want to come home every night and ski until they’re old. And that’s cool.
A lot of people [in the Tetons] are getting in a little slide here or there, and they’re not reporting it because they feel like there’s a lot of judgment and guilt. So we’re really trying to promote not shaming people, not judging, just being open to free lessons. We’re going out in this wicked learning environment where the only way to learn is from other people or from our own mistakes, and we can’t learn if we judge. We all make mistakes.
I teach all of my students that I believe that you should be really patient, that you should have a huge bucket list of terrain that you’re in love with that includes 25-degree runs and big lines and simply exploring. That way, every day when you encounter the avalanche hazard, your team and how you’re feeling, you have a choice.
I really encourage that and being patient for those big lines and a passion for lots of terrain. When you combine your passion for something with responsibility, you can achieve a flow state and a peak experience.
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