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NOLS President John Gans Announces Retirement

By NOLS on 11/30/18 3:51 PM

NOLS President John Gans announced on November 28 his plans to retire at the end of 2019. He is the fifth president in the school’s 53-year history and longest-serving leader. Gans has been a part of the school for 38 years and at the conclusion of 2019, he will have served as the school's executive director and president for 24 years. He started his NOLS journey as a scholarship student in 1979 on a Semester in Kenya, later serving as director of NOLS Alaska, admissions and marketing director, and operations director before assuming the role of president in October 1995.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, John Gans

Help Your Friends Love NOLS Alumni Trips

By Kyle Courtaway on 11/29/18 5:02 PM


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, enjoying our time together in these Italian mountains. 

Contrast that with a moment earlier that day: Our hiking group took a break and I spied one of my childhood friends lying prone on his back, giving me two thumbs up. But I was worrying that he was questioning his decision to go on this trip.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Alumni, Alumni Trip, Italy

New Courses for Winter & Spring 2019

By NOLS on 11/5/18 3:30 PM


Photo by Nikole Wohlmacher.

For winter and spring 2019, we’re excited to offer two new women-only courses: backpacking in the Southwest and backcountry skiing and snowboard touring in the Tetons.

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Topics: expedition, leadership, all-women, new courses, Behind the Scenes

How Valuing Different Leadership Roles Makes Better Teams

By Molly Herber on 10/23/18 8:13 AM

Photo by Brad Christensen.
 

Picture a leader in your mind.

Maybe you're imagining a lone individual singlehandedly making decisions and wielding authority.

Or, maybe you're thinking of someone completely different—like your friend who avoids the spotlight, but always has their eyes open for places to help. 

Which one’s a “real” leader? Of course, the answer’s both—and more.


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Topics: leadership, Behind the Scenes

What You Learn on a NOLS Semester

By Brooke Ortel on 8/30/18 9:10 AM


Photo by Jordan Cranch.

On her Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator semester, Erin Phillips skied backcountry mountains, canoed whitewater rapids, and hiked more than 100 miles across the Utah desert. Each new landscape brought fresh experiences, including the day she and her coursemates hiked for hours to reach a water source in the desert’s slot canyons and danced in celebration.

The desert awakened another kind of thirst as well, a burning curiosity about the beautiful and harsh environment that surrounded her: “Escalante taught me a very special lesson: to stop. To stop doing and start listening.” 

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Topics: outdoor semester, Semester, Semester abroad, Behind the Scenes, leadership, culture

Research Connects Wilderness Experience with Stronger Problem-solving Skills

By Shannon Rochelle on 8/28/18 9:11 AM

Photo by Justine Cornelison.
 

Last summer, the Antler River was a knee-deep stream flowing through a broad meadow deep in the mountains of Alaska. Now, it was a moving lake, flooding the entire meadow.

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Topics: Semester, Semester abroad, outdoor semester, Behind the Scenes, Research, Problem Solving, leadership

NOLS and the Wilderness Risk Management Conference: 25 Years of Facing Challenges Together

By Molly Herber on 7/25/18 8:28 AM


Crossing a river. Photo by Eric Page.

While taking my instructor course to teach for NOLS, we spent a lot of time talking about decision making. For example, would we cross this river using the snow bridge or a wading technique—the bridge looking like the more comfortable option compared to the guarantee of wet boots, but which might collapse and dump us into the chilly water anyway.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, WRMC, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

New Courses for Fall 2018

By Molly Herber on 5/16/18 10:09 AM

Planning a trip always represents new possibilities: Where will we go that’s new? And where will we return to in a way that’s radically different?

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Topics: expedition, Behind the Scenes, new courses

Climbing for More Than the Summit

By Ben Lerman on 4/5/18 8:22 AM


Ahlqvist on an acclimatization climb in the Himalaya. Photo courtesy of Carina Ahlqvist.

“I am driven to do my part for a better world, not just reach the summit and get an adrenaline kick.”

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, mountaineering, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Himalayan climbing

Lynn Hill on Mitigating Risk with Wilderness Medicine

By Jared Steinman on 2/8/18 7:51 AM

“To my knowledge, none of the climbers I was with were formally trained in the way of wilderness medicine and with only a medical kit and no radio communication, I felt very out there. I knew that if anything went wrong or if someone needed help, we couldn’t do much of anything.”

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Responder

New Courses for Summer 2018

By Molly Herber on 1/29/18 8:16 AM

Putting a new course together is good practice for tolerance for uncertainty. We try to answer questions like, will folks be excited about canoeing the Adirondacks this year? Or would they rather go on an all-girls backpacking expedition in the Olympic National Forest? In the end, we have to do the same thing we do in the backcountry—use the information available to make a decision, and then see what happens.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, new courses

Up Mountains and Down Rivers: Packrafting at NOLS

By Tim Kelley on 1/16/18 8:35 AM

I found packrafting in the summer of 2015 on a three-week trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. While I was already an avid whitewater paddler and backcountry hiker, packrafting clarified my love for the backcountry into something more simple. It was not just about the feeling of traveling with a river’s current or across eddy lines. It was not just the feeling of lactic acid in my legs after a steep climb. Packrafting was a synthesis of all I loved about exploration—a celebration of traveling through the backcountry by any means. It begged me to look further and it opened doors to adventures that were otherwise impossible.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, packrafting, Alaska

Transform Your Backcountry Cooking with the New NOLS Cookery

By Helen Wilson on 11/30/17 4:10 PM

“We’re out of food!” Josh shouted as his group hiked into the campsite on the last night of the course.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, recipe, backcountry recipe, NOLS cookery

Embracing Acceptable Risk in the Non-Traditional Classroom: Marin Academy & the WRMC

By Lexi Golestani on 11/21/17 2:40 PM

NOLS Risk Services caught up with Julie Barnes to find out why she values risk taking, risk management, and wilderness-based experiential education. Julie is the Director of Outings at Marin Academy (MA), an independent high school in San Rafael, CA, with a big focus on immersive experiential education & engaged learning. Many of these experiences take place in wilderness areas, which invite challenge, exploration, and the opportunity, for students and faculty alike, to be fully present.

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Topics: Wilderness Risk Management Conference, WRMC, Behind the Scenes

Black Wolf Expedition: First Descent Packrafting in the Canadian North

By Chad Lorenz on 11/13/17 10:45 AM

“I am going to say it's not really possible to connect the Broken Skull with other rivers in the area, the mountains are just too impassible…Black Wolf Creek is unknown. Drops at a significant gradient from Grizzly…and passes through some very narrow canyons which would probably be huge whitewater. Not really recommended to go there...It is not possible to connect Broken Skull or Black Wolf (to) Thundercloud Creek without helicopter support.” -Local river guide

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Instructor expedition, packrafting, Canada