A desk job isn’t for everyone, particularly not for avid readers of Vermont Sports. So, in the interest of creating a happy and healthy readership, we’ve put together a listing of the outdoor education programs in the state and slightly beyond. Each of the four-year colleges that are part of the Vermont State College system offers an outdoor major, as does the University of Vermont and Sterling College. Outside Vermont, we’ll focus on New England College in New Hampshire and Paul Smith’s College in New York.
Castleton State College, Castleton
Program: Outdoor Education Administration
Level: Minor within the Sports Administration Program
Years in existence: Four
Number of students per year: Too early to tell
Highlights: Primitive Survival Skills, a course designed to investigate Northeastern wilderness environments and their relation to the modern adventurer, minimalist, or nature enthusiast. The course teaches self-sufficiency and backcountry wisdom. Included is the study of the psychology of wilderness living and survival, primitive fire building, wilderness food preparation, emergency hunting and trapping, edible-plant gathering and preparing, cordage weaving, shelter construction, water purveying and filtration. The class combines lecture with hands-on instruction and includes a three-day primitive skill “walkabout” in the remote regions of the Green Mountains, as well as a 24-hour solo experience.
Key courses: Advanced Wilderness First Aid; Rock Climbing; Orienteering; Camping Skills; Fly Fishing; Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding.
Famous former student: Josh Hardt, who is credited with turning the Moosalamoo Center at Otter Valley Union High School into an experiential learning program.
Contact person: John Feenick, chair of the Physical Education Department, email@example.com
Johnson State College, Johnson
Program: Outdoor Education Program
Level: Undergraduate major with minors in Adventure Education and Wilderness Leadership, and Environmental Education
Years in existence: 14
Number of students per year: 120 total graduates
Highlights: A four-decade-old course called Learning in the Outdoors, which involves running the weeklong Camp Abnaki for sixth graders in Grand Isle County (in conjunction with the Burlington YMCA).
Key courses: Introduction to Outdoor Education, which includes visits to programs such as the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Shelburne Farms, Echo Center, and Bolton Adventure Center; Wilderness Leadership Techniques, in which students plan and embark on their own expeditions (last year’s class spent two-and-a-half weeks in New Mexico backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and rafting; Winter Expedition, which takes place during February break and allows students to learn advanced skills in locations varying from the White Mountains and Adirondacks to western locations like Idaho.
Famous alumni: Steve Charest, program director and lead instructor at Petra Cliffs; Alisa Anderson, program manager of the Smuggler’s Notch Adaptive Ski Program.
Contact person: Karen Uhlendorf, professor of Environmental and Health Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyndon State College, Lyndonville
Program: Mountain Recreation Management
Level: B.S. in Adventure Leadership or Ski Resort and Snowsport Management
Years in existence: 38
Number of students per year: Average of 20 with a B.S. degree, including about a third with business minors.
Highlights: Experiential and expeditionary learning in classrooms that include local and global mountain ridges, valleys, rivers, and streams; Resource Impacts class, better known as “walk in the woods”; Expeditions, involving multisport skills; Lyndon Outdoor Orientation Program, a freshman orientation program that includes backpacking on the Long Trail. Adventure Leadership, students in their junior and senior years have the opportunity to work as leaders on the orientation course.
Key courses: Wilderness First Responder; Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities; Leave No Trace Master Educator; Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics; Avalanche Level 1 and 2.
Famous alumni: Kris Blomback, general manager at Pats Peak Ski Area; John Worth, director of Burke Mountain Ski Patrol, co-owner of East Burke Sports, and developer of Kingdom Trails; Angela Irvine, co-founder of Little Bellas; Jamey Wimble, general manager at Mad River Glen; Scott Reeves, vice president of operations at Stowe Mountain Resort.
Contact person: Catherine DeLeo, chair of the Mountain Recreation Management Department, email@example.com
Sterling College, Craftsbury Common
Program: Outdoor Education and Leadership Program
Years in existence: 14 for the four-year program; two-year program existed prior
Number of students per year: Three to four graduates per year, or roughly 23 percent of the student body.
Highlights: Bounder, a class required of all students for which the final test is a four-day, three-night winter camping expedition in the Lowell Mountain Range with neither tents nor stoves.
Key courses: A 10-week internship in which students have traveled as far as Alaska, Minnesota, Utah, and Wyoming; a five-week course in Natural History and Expedition Skills, which alternates between the Sierra Mountains and Alaska; Wilderness First Responder, which is a foundational course for first aid; skills courses in white-water canoeing, rock climbing, ice climbing, challenge course instruction, and a backcountry skiing course in Idaho that provides Level 1 avalanche certification.
Famous alumni: Program alumni are working across the country from New England to Oregon with one alumnus in Russia. Graduates include an Environmental Studies teacher in Virginia, the program director of the Farm School in Massachusetts, a photojournalist, an expedition leader, and several who work in the ski industry.
Contact person: Jill Fineis, dean of students, firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Vermont, Burlington
Program: Parks, Recreation, and Tourism
Level: B.S. with two concentrations: Outdoor Recreation (public sector) and Tourism (private sector)
Years in existence: 39
Number of students per year: Generally, 18 to 25 students graduate from the program each year
Highlights: Ski Area Management, partially taught at Stowe Mountain Resort; Eco-Tourism and Sustainable Development, which involves a service-learning component and includes a trip to Costa Rica.
Key courses: Environmental Interpretation; Wilderness Education and Leadership; Park and Wilderness Management; and Outdoor Recreation Planning.
Famous alumni: Alumni work for various federal agencies, K2 Sports, Adventure Treks, Mountain Escapes, Resorts USA, Brandywine Conservancy, Shelburne Farms, Hunter Ski Bowl, Catamount Family Center, Salomon Sports, Aspen/Snowmass, Stowe Mountain Resort, and the American Alpine Club.
Contact person: Walter Kuentzel, department chair, Walter.Kuentzel@uvm.edu
Paul Smith’s College, Paul Smiths, N.Y.
Program: Recreation, Adventure, Travel and Ecotourism
Years in existence: 10
Number of students per year: 10 to 12
Highlights: Eco-Adventure Practicum, a two- to three-week, student-planned international trip. This year’s students spent 22 days in Guatemala and Belize, sampling as many adventure travel experiences as possible and then evaluating them for their level of eco-tourism, sustainability, environmental friendliness, as well as what they give back to the local economy. Previous trips have gone to Costa Rica and Africa, and next year’s class will go to the Dominican Republic. The trips include a service component, as well.
Key courses: Adventure Travel and Eco-Tourism; Winter Recreation, culminating in a four-day, three-night trip to the White Mountains with a summit attempt on Mount Washington; Risk Management; Outdoor Leadership.
Famous alumni: A number of students work for Adirondack Leadership Expeditions.
Contact person: Joseph Dadey, assistant orofessor of Forestry, Natural Resources and Recreation, email@example.com
New England College, Henniker, N.H.
Program: Outdoor Leadership
Years in existence: Three
Number of students per year: Growing from seven to 30
Highlights: Wilderness First Responder, the highlight of which has the teacher playing the part of the victim. Last year Instructor Viti put her feet in freezing water and had her students bring her back from borderline hypothermia. This is accompanied by a theory class where only two papers are graded by the instructor—the rest are peer-reviewed and graded.
Key courses: Low Ropes; High Ropes; Experiential Education Course; Backpacking during midterm break and spring break; single-credit rock- and ice-climbing classes.
Famous alumni: No graduates as of yet.
Contact person: Raelyn Viti, instructor of Outdoor Leadership, firstname.lastname@example.org