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How Winning the Iditarod on Foot Started with NOLS

By Molly Herber on Mar 6, 2020

Editor's note: Pete Ripmaster is an ultrarunner, motivational speaker, parent, and graduate of a 1997 NOLS Alaska Mountaineering course. In 2018, he won the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 1,000-mile footrace from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. In this interview, he shares how building self-reliance and competence necessary to competing in this arduous race began with his NOLS expedition.

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Topics: Alumni, Alaska, ultrarunning, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments

José González, Knight Campbell, & Kit DesLauriers on Their Trails To Success [Video]

By NOLS on Feb 13, 2020
Photo courtesy of José G. González

NOLS graduates are an inspiring bunch. Over the years, we’ve heard again and again that their NOLS courses impacted their trails to success.

Whether success means founding a nonprofit that empowers Latinx communities in the outdoors (José González), becoming the first person to ski the seven summits (Kit DesLauriers), or launching a company built around outdoor leadership training (Knight Campbell), NOLS courses can facilitate learning and growth along the way.

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Topics: Alumni, NOLS alumni, video, Stories, #TrailsToSuccess, Alumni Accomplishments

Billycan Romance: A Lifetime Adventure

By Rich Brame on Feb 4, 2020
Photo by Nathan Page

In about 1983, two New York City bankers met at a party. There was the usual small talk, music by Culture Club, and some shop talk, too. Home loan rates were 13%; electronic games maker Coleco was a hot stock; hit movies were Flashdance and The Big Chill.

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Topics: Alumni, Wind River Wilderness, NOLS alumni, Wind River Range, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments, romance

A New Map: A NOLS Grad’s Journey to Walking Again

By Dan Kenah on Jan 14, 2019
Photo by Mireille Brown

In his 1997 Idaho Adventure Course evaluation, Jim Harris’ instructors noted that “map reading comes easily to Jim.”

He reflected on that skill recently, and how it felt like he "was given the keys to the castle. I could go anywhere on the planet" with it. But at the time he had no idea it would lead him down a path where few maps exist to show the way forward.

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Topics: Alumni, NOLS alumni, Adventure Courses, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments

Leading in the Avalanche Safety and Education Industry

By Kim Freitas on Dec 19, 2018
Photo by Paul Rachele

Editor's note: Adapted from the Fall 2016 issue of The Leader.

When Jaime Musnicki was first introduced to skiing at age two, it led to a lifelong love of winter sports and an unexpected career path.

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Topics: Alumni, Avalanche, winter, inspiring women, women in leadership, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments, Leadership

Help Your Friends Love NOLS Alumni Trips

By Kyle Courtaway on Nov 29, 2018
Photo courtesy of Kyle Courtaway

I’m looking down the long dinner table at a rifugio (mountain hut) in the Dolomites with my childhood friends mixed with new NOLS friends. As I sit, I'm reflecting on what it took to get my friends here. We're happy, and enjoying our time together in these Italian mountains.

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Topics: Alumni, Alumni Trip, Italy, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments

Easing Back Into Your Frontcountry Life

By Molly Herber on Dec 26, 2017
Photo by Hailey Arnold

The first few days home after my month-long NOLS mountaineering course, I luxuriated in ordinary things—running water and reconnecting with friends, resting in my own bed after nights of camping in windy, cold mountains. But trading a crowded tent for my own bed also felt lonely. The foods I couldn’t wait to feast on went from exciting back to normal. Rest turned into restlessness. I learned that coming back to the frontcountry is as important a change as learning to live in the wilderness.

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Topics: Alumni, Expedition Prep, Camping, Skills, expedition, Stories, Instructor Stories

From the Office to the Wild: How I Became a Naturalist

By Day Scott on Dec 18, 2017

On a recent camping trip, I saw a group of young boys using sticks as swords, throwing rocks, and flinging algae from the tiny creek that ran adjacent to the campground—not ideal Leave No Trace behavior. I went over to their trip leaders and introduced myself as a naturalist and expressed my discomfort with what the boys were doing. I wasn't sure how the leaders would react—would they ignore me, a black woman, and let “boys be boys”? Instead, one of the leaders called the boys over and told them to have a seat because they were about to learn a lesson on stewardship.

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Topics: Alumni, Wilderness First Responder, inspiring women, Wilderness Medicine, women in leadership, Stories, Wilderness Medicine Stories

Building and Rebuilding: What I Learned on an Alumni Service Trip

By Haley Cushing on Jan 10, 2017
Photo by Julie Polhemus.

On the first day of the 2016 Alumni Service Trip in the Adirondacks, I remember thinking that our motley crew of highly motivated yet enormously unskilled laborers had quite an impossible mission before us. It was our goal to revamp a bridge and, looking at the bridge spanning across Moose Creek, it looked like a daunting task.

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Topics: service, Alumni, service project, NOLS Northeast, Alumni Trip, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments

Big Agnes Co-Owner Len Zanni: Finding His Way in the Outdoor Industry

By Molly Herber on Sep 13, 2016

At last summer's Outdoor Retailer event, we were able to connect with Len Zanni, co-owner of Big Agnes, Inc. and a NOLS grad! Len talked with us about what he’s learned from NOLS and from his years of working in the outdoor industry.

Len Zanni first found the outdoors when he headed to Colorado for college. Finding himself in one of the West's best places for the outdoors just after finishing a Wind River Wilderness course in Wyoming, he drank in everything he could.

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Topics: Alumni, Leadership Skills, education

Any Year Can Be a Gap Year

By Shelby Cranshaw on Sep 9, 2016

I am not entirely sure what I meant when I claimed to “hate nature” for the majority of my life.

But I said it. Often. My dad used to bribe me up mountains with M&Ms every 100 steps. He threatened to send me on NOLS courses during my high school summers when I complained of boredom.

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Topics: Alumni, NOLS Patagonia, Semester, adventure, Gap Year, education, Wilderness Medicine

How to Create an Eye-Catching Resume by Talking about Your NOLS Course

By Kim Freitas on Sep 1, 2016


Photo by Aaron Burden.

It can be challenging to clearly and concisely articulate your school and work history on just one page. Not to mention when you have to explain something like a NOLS course!

Luckily for you, a NOLS course gives you a competitive edge—it's unique, valued across industries, and gives you an opportunity to set yourself apart on an application.

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Topics: Alumni, Leadership Skills, adventure, education, college prep

Real Life Scenario: A Rescue at Ellison's Cave

By Allen Padgett on Aug 26, 2016

Four experienced cavers were traversing Ellison’s Cave (one of the deepest caves in the lower 48 States) when, in the middle of the mountain, one of the party slipped and fell about 30 to 40 feet down a hole. When his buddies got no response after calling down to their friend, one left to get help while the other two stayed behind.

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Topics: Alumni, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, Wilderness Medicine

My Playground, My Dad, My Leadership Voice

By Brette Brickel on Aug 23, 2016

I have always loved being outside, being in the mountains; however, my road since college had taken me from that lifestyle. In the past few years I made it a priority to bring it back to the forefront, which is why I was so excited to show my dad my New Hampshire playground.

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Topics: Alumni, Leadership Skills, adventure

3 Months in the Rockies to 30 Countries in a Year: How a NOLS Alum Went Worldwide

By Erica Levine Weber on Aug 18, 2016

My choice of going on a NOLS Semester in the Rockies was as absurd as traveling to 30 countries with a baby before their first birthday. Apparently, I have a flare for the ridiculous!

I had never been canyoneering, kayaking, rock climbing, ridden a horse, or even camped before. Now, add to that dumbfounded look you're starting to picture, a 17-year-old girl who was still mastering a command of her limbs (think a few clicks past klutzy), and not exactly an Olympic athlete. I'm pretty sure my parents cried when they dropped me off at the airport, not because they'd miss me, but because they weren't totally confident I'd survive.

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Topics: Alumni, Leadership Skills, travel, Family, adventure, education