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Wilderness Risk Management Conference

REI and the WRMC

As we busily prepare for this year’s Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC), we thought we’d take some time to reflect on our awesome community and those who help make it that way. We want to highlight some of the organizations that continually come the WRMC and find out why they attend and how the WRMC has influenced their risk management practices.

In our continuing WRMC Blog series, we caught up with Rebecca Bear, Outdoor Programs & Outreach manager at REI, in Kent, Washington and asked her some questions. Perhaps you will see similarities to your own program and discover how the WRMC community can help you.


WRMC: Tell us more about REI members and participants.

Bear: We primarily serve REI members and customers who are looking to learn new outdoor activities or deepen their skills in a particular outdoor sport. There are 5 million active REI members of all races, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, ages, genders, etc. It is a large [and] diverse group of outdoor enthusiasts.

WRMC: What do your participants gain from the wilderness/ remote settings?

Bear: Actually most of our Outdoor School participants are not in remote settings. We help our customers connect to the great, iconic, local destinations close to urban areas, like Climbing at Carderock [near] D.C. or learning to stand up paddle under the Statue of Liberty.

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

Bear: I send my field managers to the conference because I think they benefit from the cross-pollination of ideas and some of the foundational risk management concepts discussed in the workshops.

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

Bear: Our managers appreciate the time we have to discuss concepts and how they apply to REI’s risk management. Many of them leave with tangible ideas and concepts they take back immediately to their work.

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

Bear: Our program is relatively young (10 years old) in comparison to Outward Bound, NOLS and SCA, etc. As a result, we have benefitted from the knowledge, resources, and tools from the WRMC as we have built our risk management structure. Our training program includes articles from the WRMC library and concepts that are foundational to outdoor programs risk management (like subjective v. objective risk). We’ve also been able to innovate off of these concepts and design them for the unique circumstances of our urban day programming.          

We would like to extend a big thank you to REI’s Outdoor and Outreach Program for their contributions to the WRMC. We look forward to having them share their knowledge and experiences again this year. Bear and her colleague, Jeremy Oyen, will present a workshop offering solutions and techniques for training part-time and seasonal field staff. If your program faces challenges with how to incorporate seasonal staffing with the risk management needs of your organization, especially in an urban setting, come take advantage of the opportunity to network with the great folks at REI and other similar organizations. 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 Jul 22, 2014 in the following categories: Curriculum, Leadership, On The Net, Professional Training, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Colorado Mountain Club and the WRMC

The 21st annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) is only a few months away, and we are beyond excited to get our wonderful WRMC community together once again. We thought we’d highlight some of the organizations that continually attend the WRMC and ask them why they send staff to the conference year after year.

We caught up with Brenda Porter, director of member and volunteer engagement at Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) in Golden, Colorado, and asked her some questions about CMC and its participants and why they prioritize the WRMC each year.


Colorado Mountain Club, said Porter, “is a community of people who love the challenge, thrill, and inspiration of exploring the mountains.” CMC has over 5,000 club members and teaches 7,000 K-12 school children through their Youth Education Program (YEP). Many CMC members are also volunteers who provide thousands of hikes and classes to other CMC members every year. Participants in CMC’s outdoor education activities and trips range from rank beginners to experienced high-altitude mountaineers.

According to Porter, CMC has more than 3,000 trips and over 25 educational courses for members and the public, all led by volunteers. She finds it challenging to provide ongoing training and support to outlying volunteers.

“The WRMC has been a good source of colleagues with whom to share ideas and experience with volunteer outdoor leaders,” Porter said.

One of CMC’s key volunteers, Uwe Sartori, attended the WRMC last year and commented afterward that his experience was, “both eye-opening and life-changing for [him] as a volunteer trip leader and instructor.”

Porter emphasized that, “the WRMC is a fantastic place to network, both with staff and volunteers from other mountain clubs, as well as with people from other outdoor organizations. The WRMC is also the best place to share ideas and learn about current topics in wilderness risk management. I have grown personally and professionally when presenting workshops at the WRMC on ‘risk management with volunteers’ to other volunteer organizations.”

When asked how the WRMC helped her provide a better experience for her participants, Porter shared the following story of CMC’s YEP program:

“When the first accident in the program’s 15-year history happened this summer, YEP staff responded according to our EAP, protocols, and training. I believe that CMC staff’s past experiences with the WRMC factored in a positive outcome with the child who needed emergency care, his family, as well as the other participants who continued their outdoor activities.”

We are honored to have CMC in attendance once again this year and look forward to having them share their knowledge and experiences. If you are volunteer-based organization, come take advantage of the opportunity to network with CMC and other similar organizations. Please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.

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Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Jul 15, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Wilderness Risk Management Conference, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

Leemon receives Wilderness Risk Management Award

NOLS Director of Risk Management Drew Leemon has been awarded the Charles (Reb) Gregg Wilderness Risk Management Award at the 20th annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC).

The Charles (Reb) Gregg Award for exceptional leadership, service, and innovation in wilderness risk management recognizes extraordinary contributions to the outdoor education community, to adventure and service organizations, and to programs and businesses that utilize wild places for their activities. Recipients of the Reb Gregg award have contributed significantly to the practice of wilderness risk management by raising standards of practice, providing valued service to an industry committed to connecting people to wilderness, and supporting the stewardship of wilderness.

DrewLeemonLeemon has been in wilderness education for 34 years, including as the NOLS risk management director for 18 years. He has also committed 18 years to the WRMC steering committee and six years as its chair. During his tenure with NOLS, he designed and implemented the NOLS accepted field practices, a tool for communicating NOLS' best field practices, supervises training and continuing education opportunities for field instructors and led initiatives such as NOLS' incorporation of satellite phones and personal locator beacons on field courses.

Leemon’s colleague, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute Curriculum Director Tod Schimelpfenig introduced him at the WRMC award ceremony.

“[Leemon] has created an atmosphere of openness in risk management and incident response, a culture where it's acceptable to investigate, report, and learn from our experience. In a world that can be secretive, suspicious, closed, and defensive when problems arise, field staff trust that field incidents will be handled thoughtfully, carefully, thoroughly, and respectfully. NOLS—and Drew—plays a large role in this process: sets a standard for communicating lessons learned.”

Upon accepting the award, Leemon noted the passion that brings together the WRMC, himself included:

“We’re all here because we know that adventure, experiential education, and being in nature exposes us to physical and emotional risk, but that this risk is what allows us and our students to grow and become better people. This duality of risk means that while we risk loss, we also gain by taking risks,” he said.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 21, 2013 in the following categories: In The News, Leadership, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

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

Thomas Hornbein, M.D. Announced as WRMC Keynote Speaker

Tom Hornbein Headshot

The annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) in Portland, Ore. is nearing, and the opportunity to get a discounted early registration is waning. Register
on or before Aug. 10 to save $100 off the $660 registration fee. The conference, co-sponsored by NOLS, the Student Conservation Association, and Outward Bound, is a three-day (Oct. 24-26) packed value for industry professionals.

In addition to gaining practical risk management skills, networking with other outdoor industry professionals, sharing field and administrative techniques, and helping develop risk management standards for the adventure and education industries, attendees are treated to some awe-inspiring speakers like this year’s keynote speaker Thomas Hornbein, M.D.

Hornbein’s expertise in altitude research and the physiology of breathing was borne of a passion for mountaineering. His experience with mountain rescue and teaching first aid prompted a change in career course. He went back to school at the Washington University School of Medicine. His growing curiosity about how humans adapt to high altitude led to an interest in the physiology of breathing.

After medical school and an internship in Seattle, he returned to his hometown of St. Louis for anesthesiology residency training and two years as a National Institute of Health (NIH) supported research fellow. Following a brief stint in the U.S. Navy, Hornbein joined the faculty of the Departments of Anesthesiology and Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Throughout his career, his research has focused on the stimuli that prompt an animal to breathe, particularly carotid body and central chemosensors and the related regulation of brain acid/base balance. These studies have yielded over 100 journal articles and book chapters, as well as many years of NIH funding.Hornbein has served on numerous editorial boards and NIH committees. He continues to teach and maintain active involvement in high altitude and related research. Hornbein also continued his mountaineering, including trips to Alaska and the Himalayas.

He and Willi Unsoeld, in May of 1963, became the first climbers to ascend Mount Everest via the West Ridge as part of the first American expedition to Everest. In his ninth decade, he remains active in exploring, climbing and caring for mountain environments.

Learn more about the various workshops and seminars the WRMC will offer this fall at Pre-conference events, including a WFR recertification, begin Oct. 22.

Permalink | Posted by Brian Fabel on Jul 27, 2012 in the following categories: Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Final forms emerging at one locale, structure taking form elsewhere.

The Caretaker Residence is really coming along-





-while the central building is beginning to get the framning for the main floors:



Permalink | Posted by jstoddard on Mar 29, 2012 in the following categories: Wilderness Risk Management Conference, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

Hot Risk Management Topic: 15 Passenger Vans

From Instructor Dave Yacubian at a recent NOLS Risk Management Training (RMT):

15-passenger-van We were discussing transportation in the RMT today, and an interesting discussion ensued surrounding the requirements for Class B licenses in California. There was an instance where a rental car agency mistakenly provided a 15 passenger van for rental when the organization had rented a 10 passenger van. The staff member did not realize the difference until after driving students 3-4 hours out of town.

The discussion covered the fact that removing seats from a vehicle to accommodate fewer passengers does not change its classification, at least in CA, and in this case the staff member would be required to have a Class B license.

Additionally, what role does the rental agency have in renting the incorrect vehicle? We suggested instituting very specific vehicle checks prior to exiting rental car lots, and reflecting this in you transportation policy.

To learn more about topics like this, see our upcoming schedule of Risk Management Trainings.

Permalink | Posted by Brian Fabel on May 19, 2011 in the following categories: Curriculum, Professional Training, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Second Largest WRMC Embraces New Workshops, Mitigates Risk

With beautiful Pikes Peak as a backdrop, 347 people gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Colorado Springs for three days to talk risk management.  Among the mix were seasoned speakers, industry professionals, exhibitors from various organizations, and of course, the WRMC Staff who were hard at work ensuring the attendees were having the best conference experience yet. 

Jed Tod Schimelpfenig receives the Charles (Reb) Gregg Award For Exceptional Leadership, Service, and Innovation in Wilderness Risk Management

Shana Tarter, the chair of the WRMC steering committee, commented on the challenges and successes of the conference on which she and her team worked so diligently.

“The greatest challenge in developing an educational agenda for the Wilderness Risk Management Conference is to effectively meet the varied needs of our attendees.  We strive to serve those new to the industry and the grizzled veterans.  I believe the 2010 Wilderness Risk Management Conference struck an excellent balance.  With the introduction of a "Core" workshop track we were able to help our newer attendees prioritize the fundamental workshops.  Additionally, we intentionally added new workshops and pushed return speakers to branch out into new topic areas to continue the learning for our more experience attendees.  I am incredibly pleased by the caliber of this year's workshop and truly feel there was something for everyone.”

It was easy to recognize the attendees as they rushed around the conference center donning their outdoors-inspired garb.  Many asked where they could get their climbing and hiking fixes. Not a strange request with this crowd.   

Doug Mahon, the program director from University of Colorado-Boulder and also a speaker on managing urban youth said, "The topics were timely and presentations were effective. I especially appreciated Paul Nicolazzo’s Pre-conference workshop: Effective Outdoor Program Design & Management.  I personally had a great time reconnecting with folks I have not seen in a while and enjoyed making new friends, as well as presenting myself. I look forward to next year in Boston as I believe this conference is important to the industry..."

A successful conference always includes inspiring and engaging keynote speakers, and with Mike Gauthier and Maggie Fox, this year lived up to expectations. The lively exhibit hall transformed into a reception and cocktail hour on Thursday evening, and on closing night a dining room laden with candles and plates of fresh caught trout, steamed veggies, and chocolate lava cake.

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the recipient of the Charles (Reb) Gregg Award For Exceptional Leadership, Service, and Innovation in Wilderness Risk Management, which went to Tod Schimelpfenig of WMI.  This award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the outdoor education community, adventure and service organizations, and to programs and businesses that utilize wild places for their activities. Tod spoke of his personal and professional contributions and experiences in risk management in the outdoor industry, and shared a bittersweet moment on how much he cherishes his colleagues in the field.

Overall, Colorado Springs 2010 was filled with moments of learning, instruction, reuniting, and was another great step forward for wilderness risk managers.  See you next year in Boston!


Permalink | Posted by Abbie Digel on Oct 28, 2010 in the following categories: Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Call for Proposals: Wilderness Risk Managment Conference (WRMC)

Wrmc007 Be heard by presenting at the 2010 Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC). The call for proposals for the WRMC on October 14-16 in Colorado Springs, CO is open.

Each year 300 engaged attendees come to learn from the experts. When you present at the WRMC, you raise the bar in the industry. Respected and renowned, WRMC speakers are at the cutting edge of research and field practices.

The deadline for proposals is March 31st, 2010. We look forward to seeing you in Colorado Springs this coming October!

The Wilderness Risk Management Conference
1-800-710-6657 x3 | |

Permalink | Posted by Brian Fabel on Jan 20, 2010 in the following categories: Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Day 1 of NOLS Risk Management Training

Yacubian_dave I always look forward to teaching the NOLS Risk Management Training curriculum! It's very useful for organizations that operate across a broad spectrum. The training provides actionable opportunities for a wide variety of programs. Participants range from executive directors to program staff, small private companies to large universities, and environmental education organizations to outdoor adventure groups, any of which could be domestic or international in scope.

This group is sharp—among the 15 of them they bring varying levels of experience and needs. Tomorrow we are getting ready to do our emergency response activity which concludes with the class having the opportunity to review an incident and to ask one of the instructors (who is role-playing as the director of the program) questions. I have a feeling they are going to keep me on my toes!

- Dave Yacubian, Instructor of the NOLS Risk Management Training, a pre-conference workshop to the Wilderness Risk Management Conference on 10/13/09

Permalink | Posted by Brian Fabel on Oct 21, 2009 in the following categories: Professional Training, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

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