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Imagine your 2014 summer

Summer is here!

Well, at least the 2014 summer NOLS course catalog is here, and that's even better, because you still have time to plan the perfect summer with NOLS.


We have boxes and boxes and boxes of the summer catalog here at NOLS Headquarters, so request one here. If you'd prefer a paperless version, we've got you covered, too. Download the iPad version of the 2014 summer catalog here.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Jan 16, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Curriculum, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, Yukon

The 12 Days of NOLS

We’ve found the perfect way to get you into the holiday spirit and fight the cold snap with a hearty laugh. Watch NOLS Creative’s newest (and possibly goofiest) release, “The 12 Days of NOLS,” a NOLS variation on the classic tune, to get a taste of the NOLS experience or reminisce about your course! Written with extensive input from the peanut gallery, shot and edited in less than 12 hours, and brought to you with only mild shame, we now ask you to watch the video and sing along.

On the first day of my course Paul Petzoldt gave to me ...


Windpants with a reinforced knee

Two trekking poles

Three Peaks Ranch


Five pounds of cheese

Six dudes belaying

Seven miles a' shwackin’

Eight malt balls missing

Nine quickdraws clipping

Ten backpacks bulging

Eleven toasty hot drinks

Twelve students mapping

 Happy Holidays from NOLS

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Dec 10, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Books, Curriculum, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Yukon

Sharing a Love for the Outdoors: Debi and Scott Flora


“The only sticker on my banjo case is a NOLS sticker,” Scott Flora proudly told me last week.

Scott and his wife, Debi, are the parents of two NOLS graduates, one of them an employee at NOLS’ headquarters in Lander, Wyo. The Floras were introduced to NOLS through a backpacking buddy and NOLS instructor when their son and daughter were still too young to really consider the program.

Scott and Debi Flora on a night hike up Mount Cutler in Colorado Springs, Colo.

No strangers to the backcountry themselves, the couple met on a cross-country skiing trip Scott was leading through Colorado State University- Pueblo (formerly the University of Southern Colorado). As their family grew and the kids got old enough to walk (most of the time) they began taking family camping and backpacking trips into the Rockies and beyond.

Years later, their son, Bradley, was considering advancing his career in the ski industry. Debi and Scott remembered the Wilderness Medicine Institute, founded near their home in Colorado. It seemed like a good fit, so Bradley journeyed to Lander to become a wilderness EMT.

Aug 2003 067
Bradley exploring in the Colorado Rockies.

Scott and Debi witnessed a growth in their son’s confidence after his course, along with an increased awareness of the safety ramifications of adventure activities. This boost was in part to the clinical time the students spent in the ER of a nearby hospital.

He was being treated as a professional, treated with a level of responsibility,” Debi explained, “I think that had a huge impact on how he saw himself.”

Bradley also benefited greatly from the scenarios that allowed him to work as a member of a team.  Overall, his NOLS training was such a positive experience that when his sister, Larkin, was looking for a gap year program, Bradley suggested that she look into the semester courses.

Larkin’s Spring Semester in Baja brought on many challenges, including being one of two female students on the course. She worked on holding her own with men, and Scott believes that she came out of it able to relate to men in a new and different way.

Larkin milks a goat during the backpacking section of her Semester in Baja.

Larkin and her coursemates faced other challenges, including multi-day windstorms, desert heat, lack of water, and long days of paddling. They also experienced the small joys of an unexpected citrus orchard, and a pod of dolphins playing near their boats, along with the cultural opportunities traveling in another country provided. For Larkin, these moments made the discomfort worth it.

This controlled adversity can be built into a course, such as an extra hard day of hiking, or it can come from external effects such as the weather. Debi and Scott feel that this adversity helped make Larkin’s transition to college the next fall smoother.

“Parents have concerns about their children going off to college, and having an intermediate step for kids is a good thing,” Scott stated, “When you think of a college student going through a course, and then they get to college and they realize that ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad!’ They are better prepared for adversity and challenges in life because they’ve experienced adversity and challenges at NOLS.”

The Flora Family at their home in Colorado.

The Floras believe that NOLS, and all extended wilderness travel, has a transformative affect on young people especially. For this reason they are strong proponents of wilderness education.

“NOLS graduates bring their personal growth back into the world,” Debi insisted. “How they interact in their job, with their family, their friends, their community is all effected by how they feel coming out of NOLS.”

Because of this, Debi and Scott have decided to donate annually to NOLS. They believe that outdoor education will contribute to making the world a better place and want to see the school continue well into the future. 

Scott and Debi Flora during a raft trip on the Colorado River. 

To donate to the NOLS Annual Fund or learn more about gifts to Campaign NOLS, visit

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Aug 29, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS, Mexico, Wilderness Medicine Institute

Drumroll, please ...

It has arrived. Thirty thousand copies of the shiny new course catalog have been unloaded and piled up at NOLS Headquarters, and another 30,000 will be shipped to potential students soon.

We thought we’d introduce you.

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 2.09.47 PM

Like last year, the NOLS course catalog has a clean, square shape and inspiring personal accounts to make the NOLS experience relatable.

With this catalog, though, we have dedicated more pages to courses and NOLS locations, specifically for the upcoming season. In fact, it’s dedicated almost entirely to the winter and spring course offerings at NOLS because we are going to publish three seasonal catalogs a year from now on. This will allow us to tailor the information in each catalog to each season to give you more helpful information about our course offerings.

You can look forward to a summer course catalog in January and a fall course catalog in April. All three catalogs will be available iPad apps shortly after their publication.

If you haven’t already requested a catalog, do so here or keep an eye out for the app, to be released soon! 

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 28, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

Former NOLS Chair honored

The Murie Center presented former NOLS Board of Trustees Chair Gretchen Long with the third annual Spirit of Conservation Award last week. 


Long is a 1991 graduate of the 25 and over Baja Sea Kayaking course and was named chairman of the NOLS Board in 1998. She is also an emeritus board member of The Murie Center.

The Murie Center Spirit of Conservation Award is presented to an individual whose life work demonstrates a commitment to conservation, civility, and community—trademarks of the Murie family legacy. The Murie Center, in partnership with the Grand Teton National Park, engages people to understand and commit to the enduring value of conserving wildlife and wild places.

Congratulations, Gretchen!

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 13, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, In The News, Leadership, Mexico

Sometimes half the battle is getting there …

A group of NOLS students encountered their first experience adversity and uncertainty before their course even started last week. As Hurricane Paul neared the Baja Peninsula, the Loreto airport, their destination, shut down.

The challenges of operating in remote areas are not unfamiliar to NOLS, however, and it took just a little time to get all 11 students to the NOLS location for their Baja Sea Kayaking course.

As the storm weakened, rain hammered the Baja Peninsula and students were advised to stay together and wait for a rescheduled flight from Los Angeles. Because there aren’t flights to Loreto daily, and upcoming flights had been booked, NOLS and the students worked together to get the group to Cabo, instead.

Regular emails and phone calls were exchanged between parents, NOLS Mexico, NOLS Headquarters, and students throughout. In addition to tolerance for adversity, the moment demanded strong communication. In fact, at the same time, NOLS Mexico and Headquarters staff were communicating with three courses in the field about the hurricane and updating parents about their location and well-being.

Five of the 11 Baja Sea Kayaking students spent the night in Los Angeles, then flew to Cabo. They spent another night waiting for a flight that had just been added to Loreto, rather than taking a bus to Loreto. This was a challenge in itself for NOLS: working with the small Mexican airline for the first time.

It was certainly a boon to this group that another student, traveling by himself, also found himself in Cabo at this time. He is Mexican and had a cell phone. NOLS Headquarters was able to facilitate his rendezvous with the five and put him in direct communication with the NOLS Mexico office for the rest of their journey.

The remaining five students had made it to Loreto earlier and hopped a shuttle bus to the NOLS location. Unfortunately, because information about roads proved to be virtually non-existent, this ride, which usually takes an hour, took nine due to washed out roads. The six from Cabo arrived at NOLS Mexico Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after the five who flew to Loreto.

BAJ 10:17 students

Just 48 hours late, the entire course was safe and happy at the NOLS Mexico Branch in Coyote Bay, ready to begin the next adventure Mexico would provide them.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 22, 2012 in the following categories: Mexico

NOLS grad dines with strangers

NOLS holds both breakfast and communication in high regard. 1995 Semester in Mexico graduate Matt Webber is taking these two principles to a new level and across the U.S. this year.

Screen shot 2012-09-06 at 1.43.56 PM Matt Webber and Courtney Dillard write on their website,, that they embarked on a breakfasting journey across the nation to remind readers that we are all part of the same community.

“America is polarized,” the website states. “We feel that part of this civic problem is the lack of strangers connecting with strangers. We want to change this—or at least challenge it in our own small way—by taking strangers out to breakfast across America. We’ll share local diner fare and conversation, learning what our new friends think about life’s big and little questions.”

They settled on breakfast in large part because that’s where they were when the idea struck. The setting has proved to be perfect for comfortable conversations: “breakfast is something that feels like home to most folks … which certainly helps when you’re asking a total stranger to breakfast,” Matt explained.

They share each conversation on the website with the intention of selecting 50 to compile in a book: Breakfast with Strangers: 50 Meals Across America.

“We’ll be reaching out to these strangers in a variety of different methods, from social media to want ads to community ads to just grabbing somebody as they’re about to sit down to their meal,” Matt explains in a video on the site.

One of those strangers was NOLS Alumni and Development Director Pip Coe.

“Pip, like many of these breakfasts we’re having, was by pure chance,” said Matt. “I always knew her name as I had seen her photo over the years in various NOLS catalogs, but we didn’t roll into town with the plan of taking her out to breakfast.”


After meeting her in the NOLS building and then running into her on the street in Lander, the two decided they had to take her out for breakfast.

“Someone like Pip who has so much experience not just in the field but also a deep history with NOLS seemed like a perfect person to represent Lander, Wyoming,” Matt concluded.

NOLS played a role in Matt being back in Lander on this occasion.

“I feel like my semester with NOLS has had some influence on most of all my decisions or passions I’ve pursued since then,” Matt said. “When it has come to travel, or loading my backpacking, planning with Courtney to leave our home and travel around in a van for five months to take strangers out to breakfast—well, my semester at NOLS had a role with that, too.”

Strike up a conversation with a stranger today or get in touch with Matt and Courtney and let them take you out for breakfast in your hometown at [email protected], (304) 50-MEALS or 3519 NE 15th Ave (Box #300), Portland, OR 97212.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Sep 6, 2012 in the following categories: Alumni, Mexico, On The Net

Must love long walks in the mountains …

NOLS is a diverse and fascinating community, something reality TV star and NOLS grad Ames Brown can attest to.

“It’s the people that make it exciting,” Brown said of NOLS after completing his second course.

Brown shares that enthusiastic energy, grinning from ear to ear fresh from the field on a Wilderness Horsepacking course.

*July 19 2012 crossing Two Oceans Pass in  Bridger-Teton National Forest on course Wilderness Horsepacking (b)His smile might be familiar, given his participation on The Bachelorette, season two, and Bachelor Pad, season two. Though he found enduring love on neither, Brown found a different love on his first NOLS course shortly thereafter.

“This is like the best organization. I never expected to fall so much in love with it,” he raved.

Brown first came to NOLS in March, signing up for a Himalaya Mountaineering course just five days before it started. Having never slept in a sleeping bag before, Brown knew he would be challenged.

“It’s such an ostensibly difficult thing, but it wasn’t difficult at all,” Brown said, which he credited his instructors for.

Even the truly tough moments Brown relishes.

“The low points are actually the high points on a NOLS course. Adversity’s the best part … the opportunity to be creative,” he noted.

*Phurkia, India on April 18, 2012 with instructor Nick Storm

He followed his mountaineering course with a horsepacking course this month, something else in which he’d had no prior experience. This is the same reason he selected a sailing course for his next NOLS experience.

“It’s fun to start new things later,” said the 32 year old."I realized NOLS has expertise in all these different areas, and you might as well try it."

In addition to all the outdoor skills he’s racking up, Brown has seen a distinct change in himself, calling NOLS “transformational.” The curriculum and experiential learning foster a sense of humor, boost self-confidence, and demand self-awareness.

“Both the Bachelorette and NOLS strip you of all your worldly, like your occupation and all that background, and it only matters who you are and that determines your success or failure,” Brown said.

*July 24 2012 fly fishing in Bliss Creek Meadow Wyoming on Course Wilderness Horsepacking
Brown fly-fishes in Bliss Creek Meadow in Wyoming.

“And, you can find love in both situations and I did not find love in either case,” he laughingly added.

 You never know, there’s always Baja Coastal Sailing.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 24, 2012 in the following categories: Alumni, India, Mexico, Rocky Mountain

The NOLS Yukon 2012 In-Town Line Up

281537_10150333734595971_2377351_nThe NOLS Yukon Branch is buzzing with excitement for the 2012 season, and with the arrival of the first set of instructors our anticipation for the Instructor Course students to arrive has doubled, maybe even tripled! This year’s in-town staff is full of returning members eager to gear up and set up all incoming students for success. After a phenomenal staff training and team-building weekend, each Muck Boot-wearing staff member is thrilled to fulfill their positions on board of what will be a legendary line up!

This years intern position is filled by Aaron Ratko, Brock University graduate from Windsor, Ontario. Equipment Expert/Manager Meredith Young is back for another season in the gear lab after her “beautiful” experience with the “beautiful” people of “beautiful” NOLS Mexico. Steve Coughlin, hailing from Montreal, Quebec, has made the shift from last years Operations Manager position to the role of Rations Coordinator. Steve has been working hard to organize and prepare the land of rations, as it has been said, “rations is what makes the world go ‘round”. Program Coordinator and Program Supervisor, Dave Pigott and Bri Mackay have been focused developing and delivering the new bear-briefing program. They have also been proficient with keeping staff updated on other program developments and updated vehicle training. The Director, Jaret Slipp has expressed his excitement for this season’s staff, incoming instructors, and possibly most of all, for the arriving NOLS Yukon students of the prosperous and promising 2012 season.

The NOLS Yukon Branch staff prides themselves with their positivity and hospitality and this year have set goals to keep this reputational enthusiasm at a high standard! Along with remaining supportive and encouraging, the staff have an additional focus at the NOLS Yukon Branch to drop kilowatt-hours to lower our Carbon Footprint and become a greener Branch! The next two weeks at NOLS Yukon will be rich and full as the Yukon Instructor Course, Yukon Hiking and Canoeing combo Course, and the Yukon Summer Semester will head into the beautiful and exhilarating Yukon Terrain.


The mountains will always be there, the trick is to make sure you are too - Hervey Voge

Permalink | Posted by Leader 101 on Jun 18, 2012 in the following categories: Mexico, Yukon

Come to NOLS Mexico!

Imagine a land of stark contrasts: ocean and desert, cactus and pine, teeming seas and sparse shores. This is the Baja Peninsula, a land of unique wilderness opportunity. NOLS Mexico is the home of our ocean-based programs where you can learn how to sea kayak and sail as well as backpack.

Creative Team members Brad Christensen and Brian Hensein spent a week in Baja California filming some of the most stunning footage we’ve ever seen.

They pared it down to the very best material to give potential students an idea of life on a course in Mexico. The video is overflowing with student testimonials, instructor insights, director knowledge, and images that transport viewers into the courses in “the best classroom in the world.”

Take a moment to escape and consider a trip south.


Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Feb 21, 2012 in the following categories: Mexico

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