Expert Spotlight: Healthcare Professional and Backcountry Skier – Andrea Daniels

Meet Andrea Daniels, a T-CSCT, avid backcountry skier and contributor to the Leave No Trace program. Now, if you're like me, you probably have no idea what a T-CSCT is. Let's break it down, a CSCT is a Certified Surgical Cleaning Technician. They are technicians that cleans places like operation rooms, limiting the possibility of infection. Now the "T" in T-CSCT, means that Andrea is not only a certified technician, she is also certified to train others. As we come up on our first winter season during the COVID-19 pandemic, we're highlighting Andrea to ask her some questions about backcountry safety during this time, life as a healthcare worker and more.

Andrea, give us a quick introduction about yourself.

My name is Andrea Daniels and I live in Bishop, CA.  I work for the Northern Inyo Healthcare District as an Environmental Services Coordinator. I have been employed with NIH for nearly 20 years. I am a T-CSCT at NIH.  I’m a certified trainer of OR cleaning and infection control.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your life?

Fortunately it hasn’t affected me that much.

Professionally?  I help clean and coordinate my team to keep our facility clean and as germ free as possible. I am exposed to COVID daily, that’s part of my work but I keep my hands washed, wear my N95 mask, use the proper way to disinfect a COVID room and wear proper PPE.  Nothing really changed at work because we always are keeping things clean and doing what is expected. My facility has very low infection rates and COVID is just another virus we need to kill.

Personally?  All that changed was the masks. I have been tested twice for COVID but by God’s grace I was negative. I live my life like I always have. I wear my mask when asked to while at work and in stores in town to help keep my local store open. I have always been careful like washing my hands for 20 seconds (reciting the lords prayer is 20 seconds) and using proper cough etiquette. So this was not a shock at all, there are so many viruses out there besides COVID.

Socially? I miss going to the movies, having sushi with friends and hiking with large groups but it didn’t take away getting outdoors and that is where I am most of the time.  Because I live in a rural area, I am able to get out and hike or backpack without issue.  The Sierra is so huge and vast that you may not see people for a while but that depends on the time of year it is. I was able to complete my 30 mile backpacking trip from Agnew Meadows to Toulomne Meadow in August.  There was no need for a mask due to the fact there wasn’t that many people on the trails and we’re outdoors.  This is what keeps me going and it’s my outlet for the stress of everyday life.

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What do you think the backcountry season will look like during a pandemic?

Depends if Mammoth Mountain is closed down and our snow pack. If we get a heavy snow year, we will have more skiing or riding in the backcountry for sure because you have the chance to be away from people. I had seen so many more people out in the backcountry last season due to lift services were shut down due to COVID last March. We didn’t have the greatest year but there was snow to be had during the month of March.

Skier Pausing Before Dropping Over the Cornice at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
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Do you have any suggestions for skiers and snowboarders this season?

Yes I do, be avalanche smart. I know many will go to the backcountry and most need to be educated if they never have done it before. Take an avalanche course, carry proper equipment, carry a beacon and first aid. Most of all have fun but be alert. Things could go very wrong in seconds.

Tell us more about the Leave No Trace Program? What have you been doing with the program?

I believe in Leave No Trace, they are a group who provide education, research and initiatives so everyone can venture outdoors can help protect and enjoy our areas responsibly.  At least 60K people have been trained in LNT in 12 months.  235K Children learned LNT in the last year and 15.5 reached with LNT educational annually.  Epic numbers!

What I have been doing with the program is donating for sure.  Right now Lake Tahoe is a hot spot for liter, pet waste and wildlife impacts.  There were so many uneducated people coming to camp and recreate in that area and they really left a mess. That happened in Bishop. I have been passing on my knowledge to others online or in person the ethics of LNT and I would like to become a master educator in the future. I also try to hep pick up trash left behind either in the community or in the backcountry promoting pack it in and pack out more.