On Monday, NOLS Teton Valley wrapped up the inaugural winter ski course with the Berkshire School, a private boarding school in Massachusetts. The campus was pleased to host the new course and have our first ever high school students out on a winter adventure.
As we have seen over the last few years, more and more schools and universities are looking to NOLS to enhance their curriculum, whether that be through leadership skills or hard technical skills. Rob Lloyd, former NOLS instructor and current science teacher at Berkshire, got in touch with NOLS Professional Training last year to work on creating a NOLS experience for his students. All Berkshire students spend a week prior to spring break doing “Pro Vita Week”. The NOLS winter course was one of many options students had. You can read more about Pro vita week here.
The Berkshire winter expedition was much like our usual winter courses, but shorter in length. It was only 7 days in total! Most of the students came with a background in ski racing and Rob wanted them to be challenged. So, we went telemark skiing! All students spent a day at Grand Targhee learning to telemark, then we packed our gear and headed up to the Plummer yurt. The yurt allowed us to focus on avalanche awareness and backcountry touring skills. After the yurt, we camped for two nights and learned how to be warm and comfortable in the winter.
Each day, we skied untracked powder, explored beautiful mountain terrain, worked hard, and made delicious meals under a nearly full moon. Yet days were not without challenges. Skinning through untracked powder was hard work, and learning to make water and food in a snow kitchen was a new skill for the 8 high school students. At the end of the week, though, everyone felt a strong sense of accomplishment. All students left with an Avalanche Awareness certification and a newfound excitement for slaying fresh powder. It just goes to show that no matter the length of a NOLS course, students walk away with a memorable experience where they learn patience, support for one another, new skills, and the value of hard work. We hope to see Berkshire back for another adventure in the future.