2019 Banff Wilderness Care Conference

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Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel & Conference Centre

222 Lynx Street

Banff, AB T1L 1K5


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The Banff Wilderness Care Conference is an annual two-day conference focused on issues faced by medical providers operating in the wilderness or other austere environments. A well-balanced event combining lecture style didactic sessions and outdoor workshops provides participants an enjoyable and informative event.

Our days are split, with half the day being taken up by didactic lectures, and for the other half participants can choose multiple one hour workshops, or participate in a single, longer, immersive event that includes exploring parts of our historic Banff National Park. Our content experts are highly qualified and passionate about what they do, and they bring that passion to the event. Our venue, being in the Rocky Mountains, provides a plethora of outdoor opportunities which in May includes both winter and summer conditions and allows for workshops ranging from avalanche rescue and snow shelters to water survival and mountain biking trips. We are proud to be one of Canada’s only opportunities for a wilderness medicine conference experience.

Conference Dates:

May 24-27th: AWLS (Advanced Wilderness Life Support) - Times will vary.

May 24th: Pre-Conference: Slope Rescue (8:00am - 4:00pm)

May 25th: Main Conference (8:00am - 4:00pm)

May 26th: Main Conference (9:00am - 4:00pm)


You will need to select the workshops you wish to attend while you are purchasing your conference tickets. Spots are limited for each workshop so buy your tickets early. Below are a description of each of the workshops, concurrent courses and pre-confernece workshops.

Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS)


This course will run concurrently with the Banff Wilderness Care Conference. All AWLS students will attend lectures and are welcome to join the other events. AWLS students however will not be participating in conference workshops. To acheive all the required hours of learning AWLS students will be participating in seperate specialized workshops covering specific course content during workshop times.

The Advanced Wilderness Life Support® certification course has grown significantly since its development at the University of Utah School of Medicine in 1997. The increasing demand for the certification resulted in the creation of a new organization, AdventureMed, to promote the responsible growth of the AWLS program.

The mission of AWLS is to create backcountry competence in medical professionals, enabling them to prevent and effectively manage emergency medical situations outside their traditional medical facilities.

The AWLS certification is appropriate for any licensed medical professional, or medical professional in training, who has an interest in wilderness activities. Our graduates include outdoor enthusiasts, expedition participants, US Army and other military medical personnel, wilderness medicine academics and Wilderness Medical Society Fellowship candidates.

AWLS is approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credits through the Wilderness Medical Society. The AWLS program is also approved by ACEP, AAFP and AAPA. Other medical professionals please check with your governing body to determine the usefulness of AMA PRA Category 1 Credits.

Pre-Conference: Slope Rescue Workshop

Specifically developed for the Banff Wilderness Care Conference and taught by Raven Rescue (https://ravenrescue.com), this basic one-day course will immerse participants in slope and bank-over style rescues, applied in remote wilderness settings using minimal gear and equipment. This program will be very practical with lots of hands on time to hone the skills you will be learning. Ski patrollers, rural EMS workers, hunters, scramblers, and paddlers are just a few of the groups who would likely find this program valuable. (Disclosure - This workshop is being sponsored and conducted by Raven Rescue, a full-service rescue training agency. They are providing both equipment and instructors and are solely responsible for content.)

Main Conference Schedules

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I'm Still Ticked Off - Lyme Disease and Other Nasties

Accidental Hypothermia

Survival Basics

Endurance Race Medicine

Marine Envenomation

Medical Considerations in the Back-country

Cool Rescues in the Rockies - Parks Canada


Research Review (Journal Club) (1hr)

Join faculty discussion of the latest published research that is helping change practice in Wilderness Medicine. Participants will be sent one or more research articles to review prior to attending the workshop. Faculty will briefly review the article with the group and then discuss how the information may change current practices and the precautions and limitations of the research. This session will be good for anyone interested in medical research and how it can be applied to your practice, plus discussion of what could be the next "big thing” in pre-hospital and wilderness medicine.

Water Purification (1hr)

A Banff Wilderness Care Conference staple. Whether you drink it, use it to clean things or irrigate wounds, clean water is an essential piece of health in the wilderness environment. Step away from the marketing you may see at your favourite outdoor sporting goods store or advertisements in adventure magazines. Craig will take you through the simple science of a variety of means of getting clean water. Although it does not sound like a very exciting workshop we promise you will learn something. If you have not attended this workshop in the past. We highly recommend it.

Spinal Motion Restriction in the Back Country (1hr)

Spinal Motion Restriction has changed dramatically in the past few years due to solid research on the subject. However the rules still err on the side of caution. It likely does little harm if while on an ambulance or in the hospital we immobilize someone prior to x-rays - in the back country this approach can result in increased risk and serious problemsm for both the patient and responders. SMR can increase risk of exposure to the elements, result in increased pain and pressure sores, and greater risk to rescuers when they have to evacuate using a stretcher. This workshop will review current published guidelines and look forward. The group will review some case studies in a simulated setting to determine the best course of action.

Wound Closures (1hr)

A conference favourite. Practice suturing and other wound closure techniques with one of our docs.

Survival – Shelters (1hr)

One of the key elements of survival is shelter building. Cochrane Search and Rescue will review this skill using simple items you should always have with you in your medical/survival kit. A simple shelter could mean the difference of surviving or not if you are forced to stay out overnight.

Survival – Fires (1hr)

Learn about and practice techniques that will help you build a lifesaving fire in the worst of situations. Take this hour to try the fancy fire starter you have in your kit or try a new technique. Practicing this skill may seem unnecessary but when the weather deteriorates and you or your patient is now exposed to the elements it could save a life.

STARS Simulation (1hr)

STARS Simulation bus will be on site to review wilderness medicine related cases. Take advantage of the high fidelity simulator and expertise of this critical care transport team to practice your skills and test your understanding in a safe and comfortable learning environment.


Helicopter Operations (2.5hr)

Join Visitor Safety Specialists form Banff National Park along with Banff EMS paramedics who will be reviewing basic helicopter safety orientation and taking a look at rescue operations in a Bell 407 rotary wing aircraft. Loading/unloading, patient packaging, equipment storage, long line (short haul) awareness, and general helicopter safety points. (Your feet will stay on the ground, sorry)

Map and Compass Basics – Theory (2.5hr)

GPS is a wonderful invention, but its base is still in map and compass. When your battery dies, you dropped your phone, or you have no network coverage, a map and compass could save your life. If you do not know how to take a bearing, orient a map, triangulate your position, understand contour lines, or understand what lat/long is but you spend time in the back country you should at least consider learning these basics. Even great GPS mapping apps like Gaia require you to understand topographical mapping data to safely navigate.

Avalanche Rescue (Max 10) (2.5hr)

Join Sunshine Village Snow Safety team to practice your avalanche rescue techniques. Participants will review basic companion rescue techniques which include beacon searching, probing, and shoveling. The group will also review current best practices for CPR and other resuscitative efforts. The workshop includes a simulation including buried mannequins that will need to be found and possibly resuscitated.

Winter Based Back Country Simulation (Max 10) (2.5hr)

Sunshine Village Snow Safety team will also host a winter-based back country simulation. As a group, treat and transport a simulated trauma patient back to your hut, and/or prepare for spending the night out until organized rescue can arrive.

Advanced Procedures Workshop (2.5hr)

This 2 hour session will review several wilderness medicine procedures that may be indicated in remote or austere environments such as abscess incision and drainage, lateral canthotamy, wound closure and suturing, needle chest decompression, and field amputation. Following a short presentation participants will have ample opportunity for hands on practice using a variety of task simulators. MUST PURCHASE EXTRA ITEM AT CHECK OUT. ADDITIONAL COST $35


Wilderness Patient Assessments – What to do when you have limited diagnostic tools (1hr)

This workshop is intended to participants who may have limited experience in assessing patients or for those of you who only ever assess patients when you have a myriad of diagnostic tools available (like a stethoscope!) Consider what to do in an environment where clothing removal for assessment is not an option. Pre-hospital assessment is limited but will keep practitioners focused on what is life threatening or requiring immediate action or evacuation.

Hypothermia Management – Hypo wraps (1hr)

Another conference staple. All wilderness patients (especially in Canada) need to consider hypothermia management (treatment and prevention). This simple hands on session will review the recommended way patients should be treated and transported in the wilderness setting.

Improvised Splints (1hr)

Learn to use simple items you are carrying or can find in your environment to splint a variety of fractures. Always a fun and well attended session.

Improvised Litters and Carries (1hr)

Organized rescue may not always be available or practical. Learn various techniques to move patients who are not ambulatory to safety or treatment.


Map and Compass Basics – Field Work (2.25hr)

Practice your map and compass skills while in the field. Bearings and triangulations plus using topographical maps to navigate around rivers and other geographical obstacles to get to your desired destination. Those registering for this session should have a good understanding of the basics (as covered in the theory class being held on Saturday.)If you have a background in cadets, scouting, or similar you will likely enjoy the challenge of this session. As with any skill, practice is necessary, especially if you are relying on this skill to save your bacon one day.

Summer Based Back Country Simulation (2.25hr)

Join our faculty in a morning simulated back country incident. Work as a team to treat and transport your patient over difficult terrain ensuring responder and patient safety. Discuss considerations for meshing with organized rescue or spending the night outside.

Survival Techniques – Field Craft (2.25hrs)

Cochrane Search and Rescue will be covering all the basics of survival in this 2.25hr hands on workshop. Learn how to use all the elements that are in your ideal survival kit. These skills may be life saving for a patient you are unable to move until morning.

Mountain Biking Trip and Field Repair Discussion (2.25hr)

Why stand around and learn when you can go for a mountain bike ride on the Tunnel Mountain bench? Join local mountain bike coach and paramedic Mike Milne on this 2hr ride. To ensure we maintain a learning event Mike will make stops along the way to discuss how you can make emergency field repairs to your 2-wheeled machine to prevent a possible survival situation from starting. Skip the survival class and go riding instead! Intended for novices and up.

What’s In Your Medical Kit and How to Use It. (2.25hr)

Can you use a Foley catheter 3 different ways in the back country? A combination of some of our favourite workshops in previous years (medical kits, MacGyver medicine, improvised bandaging). Medical kits can be complex or simple, but they always need to be efficient. Our faculty will help you make the most of your medical kit and show you how the items can be used in a multitude of ways.

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Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel & Conference Centre

222 Lynx Street

Banff, AB T1L 1K5


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Refund Policy

Refunds up to 7 days before event

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