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Teton Valley Ranch Camp and the WRMC

The latest installment of the WRMC blog series profiles Teton Valley Ranch Camp (TVRC), a Western style youth camp that has been operating in Wyoming for 75 years, and stands as Wyoming's most historic residential summer camp. In this interview we caught up with TVRC Executive Director Carly Platt.


The mission of Teton Valley Ranch Camp is to provide educational excellence in camp programming in an enriching western environment. 


WRMC: What do your participants gain from the wilderness setting?

TVRC: An appreciation and love for the wild places of Wyoming and the planet. An understanding of the principles and practices of Leave No Trace. Knowledge about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: wildlife, plant life, geology, ecology, and our role as stewards of the environment. Recognition that spending time in the outdoors can be FUN! The basic hard skills needed to plan and execute a backcountry expedition and an ability to identify hazards and manage risk proactively.

WRMC: Why does your organization send employees to the WRMC?

TVRC: Risk management is an important practice in all aspects of our organization's programming. The WRMC has been particularly helpful for us as we make policy and decisions to manage the risk of bringing young children on backpacking and horse packing trips in remote Wyoming wilderness areas. Especially helpful to us in recent years have been ideas for staff training, advice on legal considerations, and conversations about "hot topics" and other current industry trends. Another hugely beneficial aspect of the conference is networking and sharing ideas with other backcountry program directors. It is helpful to speak with others in the backcountry industry, even if their programs look very different from our summer camp setting.


WRMC: How has attending the WRMC helped you provide a better experience for your participants?

TVRC: By regularly attending the WRMC, we are able to stay informed about current industry standards and best practices to ensure an objectively high quality, educational, and fun experience for our campers. At the conference, we are challenged annually to revisit our programmatic decisions and to incorporate exciting new ideas in the months leading up to our summer season. Through lessons and frameworks we have learned over the years, we have also been able to incorporate risk management into our curriculum as an important takeaway for our staff and campers alike!


WRMC: How has attending the WRMC changed the way you manage your program?

TVRC: Attending the WRMC has provided our year-round staff with principles, resources, and connections to make risk management an institutional priority. More than anything, the opportunity to have conversations and share ideas with other leaders in the backcountry industry has made our program stronger and stronger with each year we attend.


We feel lucky to have outstanding WRMC attendees like the staff from Teton Valley Ranch Camp joining the discussion each year. For the chance to network with knowledgeable and experienced folks from TVRC and other similar organizations please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.

Click on the image below to learn more about the WRMC or to register online.

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Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Aug 28, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

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

Backcountry Film Festival

For the second year in a row, NOLS is a title sponsor for the Teton Valley Backcountry film festival.  There will be a raffle with lots of cool prizes and films highlighting the world of non-motorized backcountry travel.  For $5, you can't go wrong with this fantastic event.  Come out and join us on the 16th of January-Dan


Permalink | Posted by Dan Verbeten on Dec 31, 2013 in the following categories: In The News, Teton Valley

Winter 2013/2014 Has begun at NOLS Teton Valley

We are excited to kick off another winter here at NOLS Teton Valley.  Early season storms have deposited over 100 inches of snow in the Tetons thus far, making for some excellent skiing and riding. Instructors have been working on getting their ski legs stronger and avalanche assesment skills honed.  Our outfitting manager continues to unpack boxes of new winter layers that will be available for participants to rent this winter.  Check out this video below to learn some helpful info on how we stay warm when camping in the backcountry.

The morning sun helps warm this well oriented snow kitchen in the Tetons.  December 29th marks the arrival of students of the 23 and over Winter Ski Trip.  We look forward to a great season-Dan

Permalink | Posted by Dan Verbeten on Dec 16, 2013 in the following categories: Teton Valley

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

Taking Stock of the Government Shutdown

Tourists and wedding hopefuls weren’t the only ones disappointed by the closure of the National Parks and other public lands during the partial government shutdown. As barricades and closure signs adorned the normally welcoming entrances to parks and national forests, those in the outdoor education industry were, in some cases, left without a classroom. Several NOLS locations had to re-route courses at the last minute, quickly adapting and finding new locations for several courses.  

Alexis_alloway_pnw_122Students hike and work on map skills on Ptarmigan Ridge near Mt Baker, Wash. Photo by Alexis Alloway

  • A Semester in the Northwest course had its hiking section moved from North Cascades National Park to the adjacent Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest and was able to run without further complications. Another Semester in the Northwest course was scheduled to run their coastal hiking section in Olympic National Park and instead they hiked on Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
  • NOLS Southwest had a canoeing section scheduled to run through Big Bend National Park in western Texas and had to relocate upriver to Big Bend Ranch State Park. During the two days of logistics and shuffling around the students were sent to a primitive skills camp just outside of Tucson. The students ran the same part of the river twice, as entrance downriver into the National Park was off-limits. A custom course with NASA at NOLS Southwest was also postponed.
  • At NOLS Rocky Mountain, a climbing course scheduled for Devil’s Tower National Monument moved to Vedauwoo.
  • NOLS Teton Valley was not affected, but if the shutdown had taken place during the river running season, a course that runs through the Salmon-Challis National Forest likely would have been re-routed.

Willy_Hazlehurst_tvb_16Instructor Dennison Web (stern) and an IC student on the Owyhee River. Photo by William D. Hazlehurst.

Though public lands have re-opened, the shutdown will continue to have rippling effects as commercial outfitters try to regain the momentum they lost.



Permalink | Posted by Mike Casella on Nov 6, 2013 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, In The News, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Teton Valley

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

WRMC to Host the Acclaimed Author, Laurence Gonzales

Join us at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. The conference seeks to provide practical solutions for challenging issues that face organizations that explore, work, and teach in wild places. This year the conference will be held at Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Teton National Park, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. The event is co-sponsored by NOLS, the Student Conservation Association, and Outward Bound—three organizations that understand the complexity of running a quality outdoor educational program and provide workshops that meet the needs of industry professionals.

The WRMC provides a professional setting for outdoor educators to share and learn from one another.  Our quality workshops are led by some of the most seasoned veterans in the outdoor education community. They will teach you all about risk management skills, administrative practices, pertinent research, and up-to-date field techniques.  All the while, through our open forum, you can voice your comments, concerns, and questions to help improve the quality of the conference. Among this year’s array of qualified presenters is award-winning author Laurence Gonzales.


Gonzales was born in St. Louis and grew up in Houston and San Antonio. Drawing from the experiences of his father, a World War II pilot who survived against all odds, Gonzales has pursued a career in understanding who survives, who does not, and why. He has authored several books including Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and its sequel Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. Gonzales has won several awards, including two National Magazine Awards and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

During his keynote address, Gonzales will address intelligent mistakes: why smart people do stupid things, based on his work for his books Deep Survival and Everyday Survival. His talk will explore the natural functioning of the brain and how, even when we are performing basic tasks, it can lead us in to systematic errors. 

Don’t miss out on this year's opportunity to witness the culmination of twenty years of collaboration between some of the most respected names in Wilderness Risk Management! Come and join the conversation!

Permalink | Posted by Max McQuarrie on Jul 26, 2013 in the following categories: Professional Training, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

PR & Marketing Intern Gets a Breath of Fresh Air

    Hey I got an idea! I know it’s the middle of winter, but let’s go live outside for two weeks straight and freeze our butts off! We can bring a bunch of dehydrated food that all looks the same and throw it in a pot of water over a miniature stove that is sometimes really hard to get to work! Toilet paper? Don’t be silly. We will use jagged chunks of snow! We can also make the biggest pile of snow ever and dig it out and live in it! How neat does that sound? You know what else we can do? We can climb mountains every day until our calves burn so much we toss around the thought of amputation.  Boy, I am getting more excited by the minute! So, what do you say? You in?


    Why would anyone want to put themselves through that kind of anguish? I’ll tell you why. When you get to the top of that mountain, you may be huffing and puffing and sweating but the sense of accomplishment far surpasses that. You are suddenly overcome by a 360-degree view offering immaculate vistas. Oh, and after soaking in the beauty you get to rip skins and ski back down the mountain, shredding powder and weaving in and out of trees. Smiling is inevitable and the occasional “whoo!” may burst out involuntarily. And as far as the food goes, everything tastes gourmet out there. It’s really fun to be creative and expand your cooking skills. You may try making brownies and when they don’t set the way you wanted, realize you used the hot chocolate mix instead. This is OK because you can just tell everyone you made chocolate pudding. Any form of chocolate in the backcountry is satisfying, and it will make for a funny story.

    All of the former is true of a backcountry skiing course I participated in recently. Let me tell you, the personal rewards of accomplishing something like winter camping far outweighs the minor inconveniences. A graduate from last year’s Spring Semester in the Rockies, I couldn’t resist coming back as a NOLS intern and being an advocate for the school’s mission. When given the opportunity to take another course as part of my internship, I snatched it up quicker than I would a hundred dollar bill lying on the ground (inaccurate but good for the story). On Feb. 27th I signed up, and on March 2nd I loaded up and headed over to Driggs, Idaho from NOLS Headquarters in Lander, Wyo.


    NOLS Teton Valley was super inviting and the kitchen cooks could have competed on Hell’s Kitchen. When the rest of the students showed up the following morning the fun began. After the conventional introductions there seemed to be a quickset bond and contentment among our group. It made our social interactions fun and comfortable. We spent our first two days were spent at Targhee Ski Resort. There we all got some invaluable lessons from skiing aficionados. Being a novice skier myself, those first two days improved my skills greatly, and I felt ready to hit the backcountry slopes. On the third morning I loaded my skis in a truck named Goose and we all made our way to the trailhead. My coursemates and I got a quick lesson on pulling our sleds behind us while skiing and then took off up Plummer Canyon. I immediately felt nostalgic, remembering my winter section from last year. Our destination was Plummer Canyon yurt. We spent the first two nights out there; as it was an ideal place to quickly access some great skiing. Next, we headed farther out into the backcountry on a B-line toward Wow Basin. That was when things got real and the winter camping began. It felt great to have had prior experience in that type of setting, as I was able to step into a peer leadership role and assist others who were new to the system. It’s crucial to be aware of your body and how it reacts to a cold environment. Careful not to touch a fuel bottle or shovel with exposed hands. Even the little things like walking and boiling water must be given careful attention, as one little injury leaves you far away from any hospital and could compromise your entire trip. Everyone on this course looked out for one another and we were all effective communicators. Since everyone had a high level of energy and worked so hard constructing our snow igloos and kitchens we were able to do a ton of skiing. Our instructors also spent a considerable amount of time dropping avalanche knowledge on us and by the end we all earned our Recreational Level I certificates. Some of my highlights from the trip were summiting Mt. Wow and listening to inspirational readings around a warm, cozy fire at night.


    Being in the backcountry allows one to reflect on his/her life in the “real” world. Some nights I laid in my sleeping bag all bundled up thinking about how much fun I had that day and how I couldn’t believe I was on another NOLS course.The journey that has led me to where I am today is an unforgettable one. What’s even more exciting is what lies ahead. All I know is whether in the snow or on a white sandy beach in Hawaii, I believe it’s essential to get away from it all from time to time and satisfy that craving for adventure. It also allows you to gain perspective on how powerful and majestic Mother Nature really is. 

Permalink | Posted by Brent Wallen on Mar 27, 2013 in the following categories: Teton Valley

Lease Buyout Spares Hoback Basin in the Wyoming Range

Wyoming Range

Photo: Aaron Bannon

In a remarkable display of generosity and community cohesion, The Trust for Public Land recently announced the completion of a deal to purchase the leases attached to 58,000 acres of wilderness within the Bridger Teton National Forest surrounding Bondurant, Wyoming in the heart of the Wyoming Range. The $8.75 million needed to purchase the leases from Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) was raised by over 1,000 individuals in just 90 days.

This buyout is Wyoming conservationists’ most significant victory in recent memory. It put a stop to PXP’s plans for the installation of 136 natural gas wells, and as a result guaranteed protection for the headwaters of the Hoback River along with wildlife migration routes, and prized hiking, climbing, fishing and hunting forever.

Though we do not operate in this area specifically, we commend this collaborative effort and success. NOLS runs several courses, including Adventure Courses for younger age groups, and backcountry skiing and winter camping in the Wyoming Range just to the south of the Hoback Basin. While students learn in a similar ecosystem and on similar terrain, the newly preserved area to their north will serve as an ever-present example of today’s struggle to maintain wild spaces. 

This achievement sets a precedent for other land management scenarios that may arise in the future, and serves as a good example of the sense of persistence and determination that is important to instill in the leaders of tomorrow.  Area residents agree that the buyout is something to be proud of, and many are wary that this situation will not be the last of its kind. In an interview at a backcountry fishing spot, Hoback Basin land owner and outdoorsman Dan Bailey comments, “There will be other battles that will come, but these are important initial battles to the success of preserving this area.” 


Congratulations to The Trust for Public Land for their remarkable achievement, and thank you to all who contributed to the lasting protection of the Wyoming Range.

Permalink | Posted by Jack Fisher on Jan 11, 2013 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Rocky Mountain, Teton Valley

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