Get to know SAR Volunteer Lizzie Watson

 Lizzie at the SAR Hangar.

Lizzie at the SAR Hangar.

TCSAR: Can you tell us a little about where you grew up?
Lizzie: I grew up in Durham, NC. It’s in the middle of the state, so 2.5 hours to the beach and 2.5 hours to the mountains. A different kind of place. Packed with people and suburbia. 

TCSAR: Did you play a lot of sports as a kid?
Lizzie: I played field hockey for most of my life. I played in middle and high school and then Division 1 in college at Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina. It was my life in college - pretty much a full time job. Boone is a lot like Jackson I think. Jackson is a grown up version of Boone… no university and everything is just bigger. Bigger mountains for sure. 

 At the top of Buck Mountain.

At the top of Buck Mountain.

TCSAR: Is that where you got into more traditional mountain activities and sports?
Lizzie: You know I was really married to field hockey when I was there. I snowboarded while I was there. There are actually 5 resorts right around the university - well, ice hills really. I didn’t get into climbing or rafting while I was there because our coaches didn’t want us getting into too many things and getting injured. Plus we had workouts 5 days a week. It was my life, but I loved it.

TCSAR: How did you end up in Jackson?
Lizzie: I graduated from Appalachian State and I was working at my dad’s law firm and he took me out to dinner and said “Your 23 and you can go anywhere - get the hell out of here”. And I thought, OK, where do I go? I was looking into all sorts of ideas like the Peace Corps and then a friend came home for a wedding and she said she needed a roommate in Jackson Hole. I said I’d be there in 2 months. So random really. I studied history and was planning to go to law school in Boston. I was going to come here for a winter and snowboard and then go to law school. That was 2005 and I never left. 

 Lizzie guiding on the Snake River. 

Lizzie guiding on the Snake River. 

TCSAR: What is your job now?
Lizzie: I’m a full time firefighter and paramedic and it’s taken a long time to get there. I worked at the Four Seasons when I first moved here. I started out bussing tables since I wasn’t good enough to wait tables. I moved into waiting tables and it was great money and benefits and I could play all day and work at night. I went though guide school with Mad River and started guiding on the river in 2007. I was still waiting tables too but I got sick of the Four Seasons and started bartending at the Moose. And then I took a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) and I got curious about medical and wanted to learn more. I did a WFR because I didn’t want to be a liability in the backcountry anymore - I wanted to be an asset. Then I took a WEMT (Wilderness EMT) with NOLS. I wanted to keep it current so I wouldn’t lose it so I started volunteering with the fire department and then I was like wait - you’ll pay me to do this? And that’s how I got there. I love the work. It’s different every day. I’m really ADD so it’s great. I never know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing.

 Lizzie skiing in the backcountry. 

Lizzie skiing in the backcountry. 

TCSAR: What inspired you to apply for the SAR team?
Lizzie: I’ve been curious about it forever because with all of the backcountry activities I do, I would be nervous if I got hurt out there. Being on the team pushes me to be better at all of those activities and I really love the challenge. 

TCSAR: What have you liked best about being on the team so far?
Lizzie: The people - a whole new group of friends. There are a lot of different personalities and I’m constantly being challenged. I love pushing the limits on my comfort zone. 

TCSAR: Are there any trainings or potential rescue scenarios that scare you?
Lizzie: The biggest thing is caves. I have a little claustrophobia and we have to do some entrapment drills for the fire department as well that have really pushed my comfort level. But I just have to stop, take a deep breath, tell myself I’m fine and keep moving.

 Relaxing in Costa Rica.

Relaxing in Costa Rica.

TCSAR: Other hobbies? 
Lizzie: I love to travel. I just went to Bali and stayed at a surf resort. I’m a beginner but it was great. I was able to start surfing some bigger waves. I always seem to go to a coastal place since I live in the mountains - Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Maldives.

TCSAR: Is there anything about you the rest of the team doesn’t know?
Lizzie: I was on a jumprope team. It was called the Bouncing Bulldogs (laughs). It was in elementary and middle school - probably for about 5 years. We would compete and we traveled around the country and even went to the Final Four. We did double-dutch, speed competitions, and routines with 4 or 5 people. It was pretty serious (laughs again).