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Supporting NOLS through Solar Time


The sun has been used to tell time for centuries. The earliest known sundials are the shadow clocks used in Egyptian and Babylonian astronomy in 1500 BC. Today the sun is rarely used to tell time, but doing so can be a way to connect with the rhythm of nature—especially when traveling in the wilderness.

The Utah-based company, Heliosphere Designs, creates sundials that display time by reflecting seasonal patterns of light onto the translucent dial face of the solar timepiece. Inventor and entrepreneur, Joyce Popendorf, creates solar timepieces for use in the home and the backcountry.

Joyce supports NOLS through donating a portion of her business profits to NOLS through One Percent for the Planet, an alliance of businesses and non-profits committed to environmental stewardship.

“NOLS’ most important work is the unique experience of deeply engaging participants with the natural world,” says Joyce, of Logan, Utah. “This work is very similar to the goals of Heliosphere: to connect individuals with a sense of place, to foster stewardship, and to encourage further exploration of our natural world.

“The solar timepiece is a hands-on instrument that engages the individual to not only experience solar time but also gain a sense of familiarity with the patterns of light. As an architect, one of my favorite quotes is by the architects Moore, Yudell, and Ruble, ‘We cannot hope to be stewards of the earth, if we are not intimately engaged in its cycles.’”

With connections comes a sense of place.

With a sense of place comes a shift in perspective.

With a shift in perspective comes new ideas.

Using a sundial relies on a vast underlying science that is intricately linked to an exact location on Earth and the seasonal effects of our orbit around the sun. Experiencing the Heliosphere solar timepiece not only connects the user with their spot on the globe but also engages users with their own exploration of the invisible forces that shape our natural world.


Heliosphere Designs will be releasing an instructional interactive solar timepiece application for portable use to engage users with their field kit designed to take the 4-inch transparent spherical solar timepiece, carabineer O ring, and compass into the field to enhance their exploration of time and navigation.

“NOLS’ outdoor learning experiences not only connect participants with the natural environment but also encourage further explorations,” Joyce says. “This provides a vital, engaging connection to experience our natural world, as does the sundial field kit. To me, it is these connections and individual ah-ha moments that foster stewardship of our environment.”

Joyce chooses to donate a percentage of her business’ profit to NOLS through One Percent for the Planet, as Heliosphere and the school share the goal to engage individuals in learning about our natural world, whether in our front yard or remote mountain ranges.

By Melissa Hemken, Foundation Relations Coordinator

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Mar 3, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni

'Do What You like. Like What You do.'

“We don’t take a trip. A trip takes us,” said John Steinbeck.

 NOLS gave me the opportunity to experience a trip that would take me. It all started in 2012. I couldn’t find a study abroad program that fit my needs. I could have traveled abroad with my university, but I still would have been sitting inside classrooms imagining what the great outdoors had in store.

 When I headed home for Christmas break I heard about NOLS for the first time. My Dad heard about NOLS from my cousin, a NOLS alumnus, and suggested it for me. After some research, I secured the last spot on a semester abroad that was right for me: a Semester in Australia.

 An outdoor education, especially one that involved being on water, was a dream come true. From early childhood, I remember being fascinated by any water source. Marine life always caught my attention, and Australia gave me the tools to encounter and understand a variety of species.

 My course was split into three sections: canoeing (39 days), backpacking (23 days), and cultural (7 days). I had little to no experience with any of these technical skills, but with three brilliant instructors and an outstanding group of coursemates, we were able to grow in all of the aspects of this trip. The Kimberly in Western Australia is so remote and accompanied with a wide range of species that I had never heard of. It was something I loved waking up to and studying everyday. How far out of the “real world” we were really hit me when we arrived at a waterfall and one of my instructors told me I could count on one hand the number of people who had seen it.


Photo Credit: Jackson Sinclair 

Right then, I knew I would forever use my NOLS experiences for future endeavors. After an amazing cultural section of fishing, storytelling, and group classes, our course came to an end and I didn’t know when I would be affiliated with NOLS again.

 I returned to my last year of school still trying to figure out what I would do once the year was over. Stumbling around the web one day looking for jobs, I found myself back on the NOLS website looking through courses. That’s when I came upon the PR & Marketing Internship.

 During my first month working at NOLS, I have been introduced to an amazing community at work and in Lander. My internship has allowed me to work on a variety of projects. One of my primary responsibilities is writing press releases for NOLS grads. This allows me to really understand each course and what the highlights are—useful information for my next course. Also, I am working on the blog and social media.

 This job also involves connecting with our partners to keep them updated on what NOLS is doing so they can inform people around their areas. In March, I will work my first event at the local high school to spread the NOLS mission and answer students’ questions.

 One of the best parts of working this internship is getting to interact with the students. NOLS Rocky Mountain is right down the street and when courses are getting ready to take off, I help with the equipment and issue gear to the students. Being able to share my experiences with them and vice versa is something special, especially when it is their first expedition.


Volunteer for NOLS WMI EMT course

Besides working at NOLS, Lander offers more activities than I could’ve imagined. Coming out here with a few technical skills, I thought I might have already seen what could be offered. Boy was I wrong. In the backyard of this small town lies Sinks Canyon State Park. People flock here from all over for rock climbing and I have heard numerous people tell me I’m in the right place to learn. The hiking is tremendous as well. The trails wind around opened rock walls and eventually lead to a waterfall. Fly-fishing, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing are just a few of the activities I look to pursue while being out here.


 Photo Credit: Justin Alexandre 

The opportunities are endless at NOLS, and I’m happy to be a part of it.







Permalink | Posted by Michael Betz on Feb 26, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni

A Colorful Partnership: NOLS Grad Teams up with Harry's

Fred R. Barncard once said, “A picture is worth ten thousand words.”

 For Jimmy Chin, a former NOLS instructor, this quote became a reality. Today, Chin is known worldwide as one of the most recognized adventurers and outdoor photographers. He works with National Geographic to capture moments of pure bliss and eye-opening expeditions. Chin also started his filmmaking career in 2003 and since then he was built a production company with two partners.

 One of Chin’s greatest accomplishments came in October 2006 where he successfully climbed and completed a ski descent of Mount Everest. He became the first American to ski the South Pillar Route. Other expedition highlights include climbing Mt. Kinabalu and Meru-Sharks Fin, becoming the first person to accomplish an ascent and ski descent of Tai Yang Peak, and many more.

 The setting for one of Chin’s recent adventures was Grand Teton National Park, one of his favorite destinations. Even though Chin plays here often, as he lives nearby, this trip would be different. He partnered with the co-founder of Harry’s Razors to create limited line of razors based on his accomplishments. On this expedition, Chin and his expedition mates would find themselves not only taking pictures of the outdoors, but also photographing Chin’s new line of razors, a fun project.


Photo Credit: Brad Christensen 

Besides teaming up with Harry’s, Chin has been featured through numerous companies.

 Chin lives for adventure and has been featured in Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, National Geographic Magazine, and People Magazine. He currently resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he continues to focus on his upcoming expeditions and keeping a close shave.




Permalink | Posted by Michael Betz on Feb 23, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni

Life on the Borders

 “Semester on the Borders students experience two very distinct and complimentary bioregions on this course: the desert Southwest and the Pacific Northwest marine environment. I can't think of another course that integrates such extremely different environments into one expedition,” said NOLS Instructor and Pacific Northwest Operations Manager John Harnetiaux.

 Over the course of 86 days, two NOLS locations team up to offer an adventure like no other. The Semester on the Borders expedition offers five sections throughout the course. First, students experience some of the best rock climbing in the world in the Cochise Stronghold in Arizona or Joshua National Park and Taquitz in California. During this section, students develop an extensive amount of confidence that guides them into lead climbing when ready. 

 “The highlight is experiencing the daily contrasts of the desert environment. It might be 80 degrees during the day, and then drop down to below freezing later that night. Gaining 1000 ft. of elevation in the Gila, Galiuros, or Santa Teresas can change the ecosystem dramatically, with the flora and fauna being remarkably different within this relatively short gain in vertical distance,” said Harnetiaux.

 After this section is complete, the course gets to experience a whole new environment in the Pacific Northwest.

 “NOLS Semester on the Borders was the perfect practicing ground, and this trip seemed to cover interesting topics, and a wide range of climates while maintaining an outdoors educator travel life feel,” said recent Borders graduate Zachary Piña.

 Being able to make the transition to a marine life expedition is a tremendous goal for everyone on the journey. During the two sections in the Northwest, students learn two more technical skills. Sea kayaking and keelboat sailing provide further lessons in becoming an extraordinary leader.

 “The SWNW section is 3 weeks long. Each student gets more time navigating, more time trimming sail, more days as "First Mate" than any other keelboat sailing course we offer," said NOLS Instructor and Curriculum Publications Manager Ben Lester. "For a skill as complex as keelboat sailing, that extra week is super valuable for cementing learning.

 While traveling through the waters of British Columbia’s coast and reaching the Strait of Georgia, students each have the opportunity to be the first mate of the boat. The first mate is given complete control over the crew and in this position is able to truly follow his or her vision and action.

 The Semester on the Borders includes a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course before stepping foot in the outdoors. This section is taught by NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute instructors, and upon completion students receive WFA and CPR certifications.

 Piña reflected on finding his way to-and in-the Borders.

 “Deciding on one place was difficult and choosing both, seemed to be the best choice, as it provided a glimpse at the life of a traveling outdoor educator, which ultimately is the direction that I am still heading towards,” he said.







Permalink | Posted by Michael Betz on Jan 22, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Wilderness Medicine Institute

Honoring a Shared Legacy


Paul Petzoldt (second from left) poses for a photo at Camp Hale, Colo. Photo: Frank Chuk 

As NOLS celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, we take a look back at the connections forged along the way and honor our history. This year, the 10th Mountain Division Foundation generously donated scholarship funding to NOLS for active military, veterans, and their immediate family.

In 1943, the U.S. Army formed the 10th Mountain Division to fight in mountainous terrain. The young men—recruited from ski patrol, U.S. Forest Service, ranches and Eagle Scouts—trained at Camp Hale, near Leadville, Colo. at an elevation of 9,300 feet. Beyond combat skills, the men were practicing wilderness survival and rescue techniques.

The following year, and 21 years before founding NOLS, 36-year-old Paul Petzoldt joined the division as a staff sergeant to teach safety and preparation techniques. The legendary mountaineer was an obvious choice to train the men who would ultimately fight in the mountains of northern Italy during World War II.

Troops went out from Camp Hale in groups of 10 to develop their protocols and maneuvers. They often skied up to 25 miles a day and spent nights in snow huts. Given the small groups, there was a great deal of camaraderie among recruits and higher-ranking officers. It is clear that Petzoldt’s teaching was revered, respected, and absorbed.

In 1945, the 10th Mountain Division became the last U.S. Army division committed to the European Theater. They were in combat for over 110 days, took every objective, and never retreated. Of the division, 1,000 men were lost in action and many more wounded.

After the war, the division was decommissioned and its members scattered all over the country to work at ski areas, for the Forest Service, and in outdoor education.

In 1963, Petzoldt helped establish the first American Outward Bound program in Colorado. While working at Outward Bound, he recognized the need to teach people how to enjoy and conserve the outdoors. His vision was to train leaders capable of conducting wilderness programs in a safe, rewarding manner, and the result was NOLS. Ernest “Tap” Tapley, also a 10th Mountain Division member and friend of Petzoldt, was a lead instructor for NOLS for the first decade of its existence. 

The heritage of the 10th Mountain is honored today by teaching youth to love the outdoors, as well as the technical skills necessary to travel in the backcountry. The scholarship support from the foundation will help the next generation of leaders learn and grow in the wilderness. It also honors all 10th Mountain Division soldiers killed in action, veterans, and the legacy they created.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Jan 21, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership

NOLS Grad Nominated for 2015 Adventurer of the Year Award

“Now what do you think each one of those people who voted for you needs to learn?"  “And what do you think you need to learn?"

These are two questions Kit DesLauriers was asked by her NOLS instructor when selected by her coursemates to lead a small group through a three-day backpacking journey in Alaska. Over 20 years later DesLauriers says, “Of course both of those questions were largely rhetorical but they remain relevant to this day.”

DesLauriers, a NOLS Semester in Alaska ’91 graduate, who currently resides in Jackson, Wyoming, is one of the most well-known ski mountaineers around the world and a nominee for the 2015 Adventures of the Year Award. This award is presented by National Geographic and selected by readers. It recognizes people who have helped make our year in adventure that much better. Through exploration, adventure sports, conservation, and humanitarianism DesLauriers has shown her dedication to her passion in life.

You can vote for DesLauriers every day until Jan. 31.


Andy Bardon photo

From early childhood, DesLauriers remembers having had a passion for the outdoors, whether it was hiking in the desert or canoeing down a river with her family. By the age of 19, DesLauriers was ready to take her adventure abroad and traveled to France to study at the University of Marseilles. Once October break came about, she took advantage of her location and traveled to Switzerland to backpack through the Alps.

“I realized that with some formal training to supplement my desire to see the world, I, too, could go to these far off places,” she said she realized while reading through some books at a local’s cabin.  Little did she know, NOLS was going to give her this opportunity.

After returning to the states, DesLauriers earned her degree from the University of Arizona and was encouraged by a NOLS graduate to take a course.

“I wanted as much experience in as adventurous of a location as I could possibly get,” she stated.

After some research and reading through a NOLS catalog, DesLauriers found the Semester in Alaska which, “fulfilled my dream and opened many doors.”

Since her course, DesLauriers has pursued numerous expeditions, many back in Alaska.

“In between that moment on the Chickaloon during my Semester in Alaska '91 and my first expedition to the Brooks Range in 2010, I made four other trips to Alaska including two heli-skiing trips on Thompson Pass, a climb and ski descent of Denali, and a boat- based ski mountaineering adventure based in Prince William Sound (which was also inspired by my NOLS course experience),” DesLauriers said. “That first trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in April 2010 won my heart, however, and I went back to the Arctic Refuge in 2012 and again in 2014.”

Also, DesLauriers has teamed up with Dr. Matt Nolan to conduct studies on the McCall Glacier. During this time she was able to climb and ski Mount Isto and Mount Chamberlin.

Today, you can find DesLauriers taking her family on vacations from Yosemite to Jackson Lake.

“I believe that if you make the choice to lead a life inspired by the outdoors, your kids are likely to follow by example,” she said.

We think she’s setting a great example, and she has our vote. Vote for DeLauriers here

Permalink | Posted by Michael Betz on Jan 16, 2015 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, In The News, On The Net

WMI Soap Note App Launches

In November 2011 Dan Rogers was hooked.

Earlier that year, he had been working in Baltimore as a developer for Eye Byte Solutions. After taking a WMI Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course in January, Rogers decided it was time to leave his job, head west, and spend more time outdoors.

“That opened the gates for me of really wanting to get out on bigger adventures, which just weren’t possible for me in Baltimore” Rogers reflected.

He left the East Coast to be a trail crew leader before taking his second course, a Wilderness EMT in Jackson, Wyoming, using funds from the Veterans Association (Rogers served 8.5 years with the Army and National Guard). Within a month of his course ending, he was working for the WMI office in Lander, Wyoming.

While he loved the West, Rogers couldn’t deny his passion for the tech industry or the renewed persistence of Eye Byte. A perfect solution was in the making.

Rogers left WMI and started a satellite office of Eye Byte in Jackson. He now lives and works in Teton Valley as Eye Byte’s UX and Web Development Director. When he isn’t working, he is in the mountains.

“It’s one of the best balances I’ve ever had, really. I’m able to still do what I’m passionate about, while being based here in the Tetons,” Rogers noted.


Rogers climbs the Grand Teton.

Rogers and WMI never lost contact. He had made a good name for himself at NOLS, and when WMI was looking to build an app for students, Eye Byte got the contract and Rogers was the developer.


“Really being able to understand where users and WMI staff were coming from, how the process works and how SOAP notes work, having filled out a million of them myself,” the WFR and WEMT grad noted, made the project a success.

The app, now available for iPhones and Android phones, is a great tool to help students and first responders alike document thorough patient assessments. Using the SOAP (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan) approach to recording information, the app allows users to save findings, attach photos, and share the report via email when connected. The app can operate offline, offers helpful information windows and tools, allows users to record multiple sets of vital signs, and more.

Download the app today and make sure you have it when you need it. 



Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Jan 2, 2015 in the following categories: Alumni, Wilderness Medicine Institute

NOLS, REI proud to sponsor Latino Outdoors WFA

On November 8-9, NOLS and REI collaborated to offer a two-day Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course to the leaders of Latino Outdoors.

José González for scenarioJosé González founded Latino Outdoors with this simple idea: Where are the Latino-led organizations with conservation and the environment as a primary focus?

His connection to nature began when he was a kid growing up in México growing crops on a farm. Later on, in the United States, González had a different experience when he saw Sequoias for the first time—much different than the one he had as a kid running around the hills by his backyard.

“This place was a protected space and it seemed so magical to me,” he reflected.

While in college, González saw himself in the migrant students he was teaching about the outdoors. He found himself wondering why he didn’t see more Latinos in national parks and outdoors.

So he created Latino Outdoors, a place to give a home to his love of the outdoors and his strong commitment to share this love and training with Latino communities. The organization is a community and network of outdoor professionals. It is a starting and continuing point for Latino outdoor and conservation professionals who engage and learn with Latino communities and a starting and continuing point for Latinos to engage and learn about the outdoors and conservation organizations.

“We use Spanish as a cultural asset, English as a professional tool, and being bilingual as an affirmative identity,” González said. “We seek to provide opportunities to network and build professional connections, to be a training ground for current and future professionals, and we are cooperative and collaborative by nature.”

In early November, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute and REI collaborated in support of this important organization. NOLS and REI were pleased to be able to provide the two-day course to Latino Outdoors leaders on scholarship.

WFA course Latino Outdoors

“This kind of technical assistance is crucial in the community-building work we do and in amplifying the work that gets more of our communities into a diverse range of outdoors experiences,” Latino Outdoors Facebook stated shortly after the course.

Additional WFA opportunities can be found here.

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Dec 18, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Wilderness Medicine Institute

Creating a Climate of Thanks

In the world of environmental sustainability, too often the amount of work to do overshadows a great many accomplishments that should be celebrated. This Thanksgiving, NOLS was happy to take a moment and offer #climatethanks. In case you missed us on twitter, here are three pieces of gratitude we’d like to offer up for those who work to preserve our wilderness classrooms: 

1)    NOLS Grads Above all else, NOLS’ greatest contribution to the environment is our graduates. They are skilled leaders who understand the beauty and fragility of our planet. Thank you to the countless NOLS alumni who have gone out and changed the world!

NOLS Leaders on Sustainability and Conservation from NOLS on Vimeo.

2)    NOLS Faculty and Staff support the education and experiences that inspire students to become environmental leaders. Thank you to all NOLS employees who work incredibly hard to further a mission they believe in and are agents for positive change in the world.   

3)    Generous funding for our alternative energy programs Rocky Mountain Power, The North Face, and many other organizations and individuals support our sustainability initiatives. Thank you for making it possible for our students to benefit and learn from the clean energy generated onsite at nine NOLS campuses around the world.

Obviously this is just a small snapshot of what we are thankful for, but it’s a start. Many thanks to everyone for supporting NOLS, we couldn’t do it without you!


Permalink | Posted by Karly Copeland on Dec 3, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

What Wilderness Means to Us


To me, Wilderness means we still have a place to go. A place to go immerse in pure, fresh water, a place to go sit on top of a ridge and watch the sun dip below the horizon, a place to go and enjoy the peaceful quietness of an alpine meadow on a sunny summer day. We still have a place to be us.

—Mike Casella, NOLS Marketing Representative

Join Mike at the celebration of the Wilderness Act's 50th anniversary in Albuquerque this weekend. Learn more here.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 16, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

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