Joshua Sage, Kirsten Szykitka, Paula and Dave Wescott
About Winter Count
Founded by Dave and Paula Wescott in 1995, Winter Count has become one of the preeminent primitive skills gatherings, with a reputation for the high quality of its instructors and its small class sizes. Winter Count is an annual “conference” style event that was started for instructors and others in the fields of primitive living, experimental archeology, and outdoor survival to spend time with peers—sharing their knowledge and skills, and having a good time.
In 2016, Winter Count came under the direction of Joshua Sage and Kirsten Szykitka, who eventually moved the gathering to a new, remote site in southern Arizona’s Sonoran desert that is studded with magnificent rock formations and saguaro cactus, and domed at night with stars.
Joshua has a lifelong love of the wilderness, first sparked when he attended the Colorado Rocky Mountain School. He pursued a path of outdoor leadership as a NOLS instructor, a backcountry ranger in Colorado, and working at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School. He participated in the first Rabbitstick in 1988, and continued to do so with his family, cherishing the instructors and students that have become family over many years. Kirsten has decades of experience in varied nonprofit leadership roles, focusing primarily on group facilitation, communication skills, and intercultural understanding and peacemaking. Together, Joshua and Kirsten, along with an incredible team of staff and instructors, strive to create a safe, welcoming, inspiring, and educational event for all.
Since its founding, Winter Count has grown and now draws approximately five hundred people— instructors, students, and staff who spend one week together, camping in the desert and sharing their enthusiasm for a broad range of skills, including fire making, archery, basketry, hide tanning, pottery, flint knapping, and much more.
Winter Count is known for attracting a diverse group of people, with a wide variety of life experiences, family backgrounds, spiritual views, and levels of expertise. For one week, they form a community that—in addition to teaching and learning about primitive skills—shares meals, tells stories, and plays music around the campfire. Many folks have attended year after year, bringing their kids to what has become for them a “family reunion.”