Get to Know SAR Volunteer Doug VanHouten

 TCSAR volunteer Doug VanHouten

TCSAR volunteer Doug VanHouten

TCSAR: Can you tell us a little about where you grew up?
Doug: I grew up in Sheridan, Wyoming. My dad had been in the Air Force until the time I was about 12 years old and then he retired and we moved to Sheridan. Most of my memories of growing up are from there. Sheridan is only about 10 miles away from the Bighorn Mountains so during the summer I started mountain biking when I was 13 years old and we would go hunting, a little bit of camping, go get firewood and spend time outside with my family. 

TCSAR: What did you do after high school?
Doug: I graduated from high school and had friends that I was rock climbing with and they were all skiers too so I started skiing and that’s what grew my interest and love for the outdoors. I went to Sheridan College and from there went to school in Nebraska to pursue actuarial science, or statistics, and my senior year I decided I really didn’t want to do that and switched my major. I was already taking business classes so I switched to a combo of business and HR. Through my time in Nebraska I realized people have a lot of different interests and one of mine was not living in a larger city or anywhere I wasn’t in the mountains. So from there I moved to Estes Park, Colorado and worked at a YMCA Conference Center for a couple years and then moved to Teton Valley. I started working at Grand Targhee Resort and was there for 7.5 years as the Employee Training Manager, have been working in Jackson for the past 8 years.

 Doug and his wife Eva.

Doug and his wife Eva.

TCSAR: Can you tell us about your family?
Doug: I have an older brother that still lives in Sheridan and my parents live in Rapid City, South Dakota. I met my wife Eva through mutual friends in 2010. We have 3 dogs, 1 cat and 5 chickens. Wilson, Elliott and Shelby and the cat is Mow. It started out as Mo but he was hanging out in some grass clippings in the yard one day so then the spelling became Mow.

TCSAR: What do you like to do for fun?
Doug: I really like spending time outside. My interests have changed over the years though. I started out skiing, backcountry skiing, climbing, mountain biking, then started kayaking in college and at some point I realized I was doing way too many things and was spread a little too thin. So now my main interests are backcountry skiing and snowmobiling in winter and during the summer I still whitewater kayak a little bit, I dirt bike and I bought a raft so I could spend more time with my wife. 

TCSAR: What is your job now?
Doug: I am the Materials Manager at St. John’s Medical Center and I’ve been employed here for about 8 years and also I’m a part time START Bus driver. I drive one of the commuter routes over Teton Pass. I started doing that when I started here at the hospital. It just works really well with my schedule. I drive over, work my day shift here at the hospital and then drive home. 

TCSAR: What inspired you to join Search and Rescue?
Doug: I’ve been part of the team in Idaho for almost 10 years and through my involvement there and after Ray Shriver’s death, which today is actually the 5th anniversary of his death, that was my inspiration to start attending training on a regular basis with the Teton County, Wyoming SAR team. And through that involvement I got to know people and see the great things that they do. I debated for months whether I should apply when they opened up applications for the last class. And I had kind of decided I wasn’t going to apply and was talking to one of the current members, who is now retired, he really encouraged me to apply. I thought more about it, talked with Eva and decided to apply and now I’m part of the team. 

TCSAR: How does it work being on both teams with trainings and callouts? How do you manage it all?
Doug: It can be a challenge at times. Fortunately we only run about 8 - 12 missions a year in Idaho so it’s a much smaller number. I work over here 40 - 50 hours a week so I’m over here quite a bit and with training I just have to schedule myself so I’ve planned ahead with what I’m going to be doing. The time commitment is a bit of a challenge. Right now I’m putting in anywhere from 20 - 40 hours a month on the Idaho team. We’re starting a new rookie class and we have our first training tonight actually. I’ve been the Lead Advisor of the TCISAR team since August and have been able to make everything work but it’s a big time commitment.

TCSAR: What do you enjoy most about being on SAR?
Doug: It’s just really great to be part of a group pf people that are pretty selfless to go out and help others. It’s really exciting to see what we can accomplish with training and planning and being able to execute a successful, or hopefully successful, rescue. 

TCSAR: What do you enjoy the least?
Doug: Right now I guess it’s just the amount of time. It feels like 2 - 4 days per week I’m doing something SAR related on a weekly basis between the two teams.

TCSAR: Can you tell us something people don’t know about you?
Doug: My brother is 3” taller than I am (Doug is 6’ 6”). Growing up neither of us was very good at basketball. And my first involvement with SAR was when I was in junior college in Sheridan. I had friends who were on the team there and they had a mission they were running and they needed someone to deliver food, so I picked up pizza. 

TCSAR: What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Doug: Black Diamond headlamp. They make the best headlamps.

TCSAR: Favorite food?
Doug: Burritos.

TCSAR: What is your perfect day in the mountains?
Doug: Sunny day, deep powder, no issues.