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.
Lease Buyout Spares Hoback Basin in the 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.
Winter Wilderness Medicine
The Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) has offered Wilderness Medicine Expeditions (WME) since 2009. These courses are designed as an introduction to wilderness medicine, as a means of gaining continuing medical education, and these courses also allow medical professionals to earn credits towards Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. The WME is designed for and open to medical professionals from EMT to MD.
The most recent addition to WMI's list of courses is a winter WME. From Feb. 26th to March 5th five participants spent time at NOLS Teton Valley learning and practicing wilderness medicine skills, honing skiing and snowboarding skills at Grand Targhee Ski Area, touring on Teton Pass, and then heading to the backcountry for 3 days and nights based out of a backcountry yurt.
This backcountry time allowed the participants to not only enjoy backcountry skiing but to also participate in skills sessions, scenarios, and highly educational evening discussions!
WME participants work to aid one of their party who suffered a "broken" leg. Scenarios are a significant part of the WME curriculum and allow learned skills to be applied.
Congratulations to Jamie, Andrew, Jesse, Deborah, Kurt, Chris
Saturday night, a few truly outstanding members of the NOLS team were recognized for their work. Each recipient of the 2011 staff awards was given a standing ovation by the crowd in attendance at the reception and a plaque.
Our first award recipient is an instructor and program supervisor. She took her Instructor Course in 2002, and since then she has accumulated just over 200 weeks in the field.
Jamie has taught four instructor courses and countless instructor seminars. She is a “go-to” instructor for the staffing office, as she is a backpacking, mountaineering, winter, and climbing course leader. She is known for her excellent work ethic, superb attention to detail, and commitment to training staff.
NOLS Pro has noted her “high-quality work, extensive expertise, and ‘can-do’ attitude.” These qualities were exemplified on the India Air Force Mountaineering Course on Denali. Jamie worked tirelessly to provide a safe and successful expedition that greatly improved NOLS’ relationship with the India Air Force. Once again, she proved invaluable when she agreed to fly to India at a moment’s notice to help support the instructors and students who were involved in the recent and tragic fatality.
Jamie has also worked as a mountaineering program supervisor in Alaska and is presently a winter program supervisor at the Teton Valley. As a program supervisor, she shines under pressure, has great vision and action, works exceptionally well as a member of a team, and is an advocate for staff.
Andrew Knutsen—In town
Andrew started his NOLS career in 2006. He cheerfully helps employees no matter how busy he is or how hard the question might be. He has a high level of expertise and can fix most problems or answer most questions on the spot. If he can't, then he'll do some research and keep digging until he finds the answer. While he primarily works with in-town staff as information systems desktop administrator, he willingly helps any NOLS employee work-related or not.
One question on our annual evaluations is, “what have you done to improve yourself and your position?” Andrew’s response exemplifies a great work life balance. He got certified as an OS X Apple Technical Coordinator and expanded his house sitting from cats and dogs to include horses.
Andrew is a great ambassador for NOLS. He is an avid hiker and proud member of the long-distance hiking community. He often shuttles folks who are on the Continental Divide Trail between road heads and town, which puts NOLS and Lander in a good light and also supports the use and preservation of our classroom.
He is an actor and has participated in a number of theatrical productions in Fremont County such as Man of La Mancha and Guys and Dolls. In November, he will play the role of Robert Starveling in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Jesse started her career in 2000 as a student on a Himalaya Backpacking course. She has been a staple at the Rocky Mountain Branch since her Instructor Course in 2005. Thirty-five of her 41 courses have been based out of Rocky Mountain.
From the beginning of her career, she has continually worked to improve and expand her skills. In 2007, she took the initiative to expand her winter skills by taking a NOLS snowboarding course in the Teton Valley.
She brought her extensive horse background to NOLS and quickly became an integral part of Three Peaks Ranch. She played an important role in finalizing the Horse-packing Instructor Notebook.
In 2008, she became a program supervisor at Rocky Mountain and split her time between Lander and the Ranch.
In October of last year, she left her job in-town to focus on full-time course work. She joined the annual faculty program, and, in the past year she worked an unbelievable 35 weeks in the field. Students of her last course noted her passion for teaching, knowledge of the NOLS curriculum, great sense of humor, and her extreme fitness—perhaps the result of 35 weeks in the field in one year.
Not surprisingly, she was not present to accept her award because she was in the field proctoring an Outdoor Educator Semester.
Deborah Nunnink—In town
Deborah is known for working and living the values we all hold dear at NOLS. She has been a key member of the NOLS community and the Lander community since 2002. She has exemplary expedition behavior and always does more than her part. She is committed to education, wilderness, and leadership.
As operations director, Deborah has transformed many ways that we do business, and her commitment to efficiency has made it possible for NOLS to prosper in challenging times while other organizations have been challenged. She helps our individual schools better themselves and has helped develop many key employees at NOLS. She strives to build programs and operating areas that are sustainable, effective, profitable, and fun.
When she was interviewed her for her job, a former boss stated she enjoys having contests and playing games with fellow employees. He also made it clear she almost always wins those games (he actually seemed a bit perturbed about this). What he didn’t say was that when she is on your team everyone wins and so does our mission.
Executive Director John Gans wasn’t able to attend the reception and admitted, “One of the hard parts of being away for this annual meeting is that I am not personally able to award this recipient. She has given so much to our organization and has been a real key to our success.”
Kurt came to the school in 2007 on a river instructor course in Utah. He has been working consistently since then in our programs in Utah, Idaho, India, and Brazil and will work in Patagonia this spring.
Since 2007, he has accumulated over 100 field weeks working river, sea kayaking and hiking courses. In 2011 he spent 28 weeks teaching classes on the water.
He is well known for his laid- back style and his excellent student outcomes. He is a fantastic coach on the river, and students comment that he is fun yet informative, respectful, and has an incredible passion for the outdoors and paddle rafting. His self-awareness, commitment, communication, and creativity are reflected over and over in his performance evaluations and are what make branches so happy to have him back.
A recent evaluation noted he did a great job of not only coaching students, but also his junior staff. He held students to high standards while respecting the knowledge they had gained from their previous semester sections. He sat down with his patrol leader and charted out the next steps in his development to course lead.
He is not able to be here as he is presently canoeing on the Amazon with semester students.
Chris Brauneis—In town
Chris first came to NOLS in 1992 on a Fall Semester in the Rockies. He worked in the Rocky Mountain issue room on and off for several years before taking his instructor course in 1997. Since then, he has worked 146 weeks in the field.
In 2004, he began work in the Rocky Mountain Program office in both the evacuation coordinator and program supervisor roles. He has shown extraordinary patience and professionalism in answering hundreds of parent phone calls.
The staff who nominated Chris for this award said the following:
“I personally am more successful in my job for having him as a friend and co-worker, as are dozens, if not hundreds, of others at NOLS.”
“His presence at the branch makes me want to continue to prioritize field courses in Lander, and I can’t imagine working in town at the RMB under a different supervisor.”
Chris is also known for his random-acts of kindness such as personal emails thanking employees for doing some aspect of their job or offering to help an employee out either personally or professionally.
In 2007, Chris became the Rocky Mountain program director where he currently oversees the supervision of 350 field staff annually. His dedication to the student experience is always forefront in his actions.
Please join us in congratulating each of these remarkable members of our team—this year's employees of the year.
Permalink | Posted by Casey Dean on Oct 18, 2011 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Yukon
Winter Warmth - Camp and Sleep System
If you have been following along with our Winter Warmth series, you should be familiar with the layering and bootie system NOLS is known for. Today we explore other ways to stay warm once you arrive at your camp for the night.
NOLS Teton Valley Courses Lend a Hand
Teton Basin Ranger District staff supervised and gave direction while students and their instructors decreased the slope of a switchback and improved drainage systems in the area.
Check out students in action!
Grand Targhee Resort Awards NOLS Teton Valley "Green" Grant
NOLS Teton Valley has been awarded $2,000 by the Protect Our Winters (POW) Foundation for installation of solar panels and educational project. These panels could provide up to 30% of electricity use at the NOLS location. The money came from Grand Targhee Resort employees who generously donated portions of their check to the foundation (these donations were also matched by the resort), and from guests of the resort who purchased tickets on Two-Fer days which included a $10 donation to POW.
The POW Foundation awarded $10,000 in total to environmental projects for non-profits that would benefit the local community. Other organizations received grants for water conservation education, a film on recycling, gardening education for school kids, and sponsoring one trail-work crew member.
Staying Warm: The NOLS Layering System
Fresh from NOLS Teton Valley: The latest video from NOLSywood debuts today featuring the NOLS layering system.
Get a glimpse into the tried and true method for keeping warm on those cool summer nights, or during a rainstorm in the North Cascades. Whatever the elements have to throw your way, you will be prepared for your course with a clothing combo to crush the conditions. You can also subscribe for free on iTunes today.
Stay tuned to the blog next week where we release a discussion and Q&A on the NOLS layering system.
Operation Purple Recognizes Kids Serve Too!
When you hear "Operation Purple camp" you should think: Kids Serve Too! The National Military Family Association's Operation Purple camp is a time for having fun, making friends, and reminding military kids that they are the Nation's youngest heroes. Camps are free to all participants thanks to support from the Sierra Club and The Sierra Club Foundation.
This summer, NOLS Professional Training was proud to host two 10-day Teen Leadership Expeditions (Camps) for 24 excited teenagers of military families. Backpacking through the Rocky Mountains (NOLS Teton Valley), these Operation Purple participants learned how to camp, hike, navigate, and lead their expedition-mates.
For more information, watch this Sierra Club documentary about the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple program:
WMI Grad Makes Good
Bob Foster, a graduate of the Wilderness Medical Institute’s “Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals” course in 2008, recently became Fremont County Idaho’s new Emergency Services Director.
Foster ‘s goal is to “provide high quality emergency care to EMS patrons and high quality training to EMS volunteers” in southern Idaho- including Driggs (home to NOLS’ Teton Valley Branch).
Be sure to check out the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute website for updates or to choose a training option that's right for you.
Congratulations to Bob Foster!