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What Can Spring Learn from Winter? Lessons for the Transition

By Jonny Hepburn on Apr 2, 2020
Photo by Eric Page

Instructor Jonny Hepburn reflects on lessons learned in one season and how they apply to the next.

Evening light catches mountains shrouded in snow as we head south—spring slopes tinged with the hues of sunset. It's a time of seasonal transition. We're headed to the river now, saying goodbye to snowy mountain adventures till next year.

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Topics: whitewater, Skiing, Skills, Kayaking, winter, Instructor Development Fund (IDF), Instructor expedition, Stories, spring, Instructor Stories

What I Wish I Knew Before I Was a Camp Counselor

By Colleen Kelley on Mar 23, 2020
Photo by Will Wamaru

Throwback to the sweet hot summer of 2015: The USA Women’s team won the World Cup, Taylor Swift’s 1989 was topping the charts (I sang every lyric to every song), and I was an energetic, sunburnt, 19-year-old working at a camp in West Virginia.

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Topics: wfa, WFR, Wilderness First Responder, First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness Medicine, Stories

Hiking Like a Girl

By Caroline Dooley on Mar 16, 2020
Photo by Caroline Dooley

Every day for years I wore the same outfit: baggy red basketball shorts and pink floral sandals.

For me, this is what it meant to be a girl. My love of floral print combined with a hatred of form-fitting clothing, creating a unique juxtaposition that made me me.

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Topics: Leadership Skills, Sea Kayaking, Backpacking, Kayaking, Alaska, Alaska backpacking, Stories, Student Stories

Northern Absorption: Backpacking & Canoeing in the Yukon

By Katie Raymond on Mar 9, 2020
Photo by Ari Bruns

We rounded the last bend in the river and I could finally see our campsite. The sun had broken through the clouds and a bald eagle flew overhead, not more than 30 feet away. I looked at Sarah. Relief was in her eyes.

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Topics: Canoeing, NOLS Yukon, Backpacking, Yukon, whitewater canoeing, Stories, Locations

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

5 Myths About a NOLS Gap Year

By NOLS on Feb 20, 2020
Photo by Photo by Nick Garrett

It's common for students to seek out gap year opportunities that will position them as exceptional college applicants and job candidates.

NOLS offers students the best of both worlds through its gap year expeditions, providing unique travel destinations with a structured leadership curriculum. Learning hands on, in the outdoors, teaches skills that prepare students for college and beyond.

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Topics: Study Abroad Stories, Gap Year, education, myth, NOLS Expeditions, Stories

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

Jimmy Chin’s Journey from NOLS to the Oscars

By Brooke Ortel on Feb 3, 2020
Photo courtesy of National Geographic

It’s Oscar season once again—a great reason to celebrate Jimmy Chin, co-producer of the top documentary feature film of 2019. Not only is Jimmy a world-renowned skier, climber, and film-maker, he’s also a NOLS alum, former instructor, and current Board member. Years before he stepped into the international spotlight, Jimmy started his journey with NOLS.

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Topics: NOLS Grad, nols instructor, Rock Climbing, NOLS Alum, parenting, Free Solo, leaders of color, Stories, Alumni Accomplishments

Wilderness and Identity: Q&A with NOLS LGBTQ+ Canyonlands Backpacking Grad

By NOLS on Jan 27, 2020
Exploring the out-of-this-world views of Utah on NOLS' first LGBTQ+ Backpacking Expedition. Photo by Emi Birch

Mat is the Summer Program Manager at Summer Search—a nonprofit that empowers young people who face systemic oppression by providing a unique combination of social-emotional mentoring, post-secondary advising, and summer leadership experiences—such as a custom course hosted by NOLS. He has directed a summer camp that taught peace, social justice, and environmental stewardship. He has also engaged high school students in community service and led service trips to developing countries. 

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Topics: backpacking, hiking, adventure, Canyoneering, LGBTQ, q&a, affinity, Stories, Affinity Stories

Celebrating NOLS in the New Year

By NOLS on Jan 9, 2020
Paul Petzoldt instructing a group of NOLS students in the early years of the school. Photo from NOLS archives.

January 2020 is a month of great reflection and celebration at NOLS. It marks the:

  • Welcoming of our first female president,
  • Paul Petzoldt's 112th birthday,
  • our 55th year educating students in the outdoors, and
  • 50 years of NOLS in homes across America.
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Topics: NOLS, Events, anniversary, history, paul petzoldt, documentary, Announcements, Stories, Terri Watson, 55th anniversary

Our Favorite Places to #OptOutside

By Brooke Ortel on Nov 14, 2019

Join the NOLS community in opting outside on Black Friday! We hope you’re able to get outdoors this Thanksgiving, whether that means hiking a favorite trail, walking in a local park, or exploring nearby public lands.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of our favorite places to #OptOutside!

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Topics: Events, adventure, NOLS Events, Thanksgiving, Stories, #optoutside

Add Some Wild to Your Halloween with Our Pumpkin-Carving Stencils

By Jordan Cranch on Oct 21, 2019

Happy Spooktober from NOLS!

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Topics: Events, Just for Fun, halloween, Stories

3 Mottos I Learned From My AMGA Ski Guide Training

By Jesse Quillian on Sep 18, 2019
Managing loose dry sluffs in "Mozambique." Photo by Mike Poborsky, Course Director.

In Spring 2019, NOLS instructor Jesse Quillian, also the field staffing director, participated in a 10-day AMGA Ski Guide Course based out of Jackson, WY, through the support of NOLS’ Pete Absolon Memorial Endowment and the Field Instructor Development Fund.

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Topics: Skiing, Skills, Becoming an Instructor, winter, backcountry skiing, Instructor Development Fund (IDF), Stories, Instructor Stories

Learning to Say “Thank You:” The path to building community while climbing

By Andy Notopoulos on Sep 3, 2019
Photo by Alex Thomas

“Thank you!!!”

My words echoed into the misty air that hovered between the granite canyon walls where cracks, edges, and ledges wove together a treasure of rock climbs. I was amidst a rescue skills test of Single Pitch Instructor exam with the American Mountain Guides Association, with support from the NOLS Instructor Development Fund.

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Topics: wilderness education, climbing, Skills, Becoming an Instructor, Rock Climbing, Instructor Development Fund (IDF), gratitude, Stories, Instructor Stories