We had the good fortune of connecting with Billy Rankin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Billy, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I make a living around Risk and it is an essential part of my personal and professional life! Risk is very interesting to me as everyone deals with some kind of risk in their lives whether it’s physical risk, emotional risk, financial risk, or spiritual risk. When we love another person, invest our money in the stock market, believe in a religion or ethical code, and/or ski in the backcountry we put ourselves at risk! Risk has a few components to it; the possibility of loss or gain, exposure, and vulnerability. These are all very important aspects in the human experience! Dealing with any kind of loss is hard, but a real part of the human experience. To be vulnerable is to be human. As a guide and educator it is my job to be strong and confident but at the end of the day I am vulnerable and this is an important thing to remember for all of us. Vulnerability makes us breakdown any barriers we have and helps us be honest with ourselves our friends, co-workers, and families. Exposure is the gas pedal of risk and we must experience some kind of exposure to have risk. This is also a big part of being human is to feel exposed at times, get out of our “comfort zone”, and push ourselves to try something new, challenging, or different. This is how we grow, learn, and become stronger, smarter, wiser people. Of course the part of risk I enjoy most is the Gain. I have gained so much in my life from risk! The experiences of skiing deep untouched powder, being in the white room with snow flying in my face.  Kayaking class 5 rapids in deep remote canyons, not thinking but reacting, flowing, instinctual response feeling one with the water and the world. Standing on the summit of Denali at 20,300′ the highest point in North America with a few of my best friends after of living on glaciers and camping for weeks on snow. Being a husband of an amazing wife, and father of two incredible kids, took risk and these are the experiences in my life that made me who I am and they all started with Risk. When I first started guiding in the early 90’s it felt like we were kind of hiding the risks and it was something we wanted to get rid of or eliminate. I feel the outdoor industry has changed over the years and we present the risk up front and engage in it much more openly and honestly. When guests come to go snowcat skiing, or rock climbing, or mountain biking I believe they understand they are taking risk and it is an essential part of the experience. From the guiding side of things we also have learned so much about risk over the years. We used to talk about safety and make sure it was all safe and then we learned nothing in our world is safe as there is always risk involved. So here we are today and now we talk about Risk Management and this is the buzz word in the outdoor industry because we cannot eliminate risk but must manage it appropriately. This is how I make a living as a risk manager! I have been a guide for a long time; ski guiding, avalanche forecasting, raft guiding, rock climbing, and working long Outward Bound trips all over Colorado, Utah, Mexico, and Alaska. For many years I was managing risk without even knowing I was doing it.  Now 30 years later I am much more intentional and strategic how I manage risk from day to day and have become a better guide and risk manager.

I work as a guide, trainer, avalanche educator, and owner and lead instructor for Intuition Consulting. Intuition Consulting specializes in wilderness medicine training for recreationalists and developing professionals in the outdoor industry. We teach WFR (Wilderness First Responder) courses which is the “gold standard” in medical training for any outdoor leader, guide, or person who spends time in the backcountry where definitive medical help could be hours or days away. We also teach WFA (wilderness first aid) courses and short CPR, AED, & Standard first aid. These classes give practical knowledge and skills to respond to patients in the backcountry, address life threatening injuries, assess patients, and make appropriate evacuation decisions. This is a key part of every persons backcountry risk management plan is to be trained to deal with incidents and emergencies. We also specialize in avalanche education and offer private AIARE Avalanche Courses working with Irwin Guides in Crested Butte Colorado. The avalanche education world has exploded since the pandemic as more and more people are looking to get away from the ski areas and explore the untouched powder slopes of the backcountry. Avalanche courses have gone leaps and bounds over the years and now are teaching a repeatable risk management process we follow every time we go into the backcountry that really focuses on decision making as a team. It is a wicked learning environment and dozens of people still die every year in avalanches. The avalanche education word is trying hard to keep up on the current trend of more users and trying to combat the media which is constantly pushing the limits of risk taking. Through ski movies, social media, and mountain town culture it is “cool” and desirable to take more and more risk and we glorify “going big” and pushing the limits. We need to start showing the darker side of risk and people need to understand what it is like to loose a family member to an avalanche and how it devistates families, friends, and communities. Risk tolerance or acceptable risk is an interesting topic to me and this is where I spent time now discussing amongst my peers. I find it interesting that every person and/or organization potentially has a different view of what tolerable and how much risk they are willing to accept in a day of recreating or guiding, but this is a topic for a later discussion. For now keep taking risks in your life as it is an essential part of the human experience but make sure you know how to mange your risk appropriately!
If you are interested in personally getting trained in wilderness medicine, avalanche education, or risk management, or have needs for your organization or want custom trainings or courses, be in touch.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Being trained in Wilderness Medicine, Avalanche Education, and Risk Management is an essential part of being a responsible backcountry partner or outdoor professional. Intuition Consulting provides high quality education, training, and certification to deliver effective and impactful courses. Billy Rankin has 30-years of outdoor experience guiding, teaching, and avalanche forecasting. He is a tried and true professional who brings real life experience into his courses and is a dynamic and effective educator.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
A summer climb on the Guides Ridge of Crested Butte Mountain, a mountain bike ride on one of CB’s famous single track trails, a raft or kayak trip down the upper Taylor River, and some float fishing on the Gunnison for some gold medal trout.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Desert Mountain Medicine AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education)

Irwin Guides
Eleven Experience

Website: intuitionconsulting.org

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IntutitionConsultingCB

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHHYihN4ATtPv9jR2Sx6a6A

Other: https://elevenexperience.com/our-team/guides/global/#modal-video-1

Image Credits
images courtesy of Eleven Experience

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.