Test leadership and adventure skills in two distinct wilderness environments: The remote and beautiful Florida Keys, and the pristine, challenging Rocky Mountains.
Two months, two radically different skill sets. This 65-day semester course is the learning experience of a lifetime. On this exciting and demanding course, you’ll explore the art and science of wilderness expeditioning and acquire the personal, group leadership and technical skills to travel safely in both sea and snow. Start in Leadville, Colorado, where you’ll travel through the pristine mountain environment of the Rocky Mountains by skis and snowshoes and earn an Advanced Wilderness First Aid certificate. Then you’ll head to Florida, where you’ll learn the most ancient and traditional of marine skills: sailing and navigation in the subtropical waters of the Florida Keys. You will become a certified lifeguard through the American Red Cross. All throughout your journey you will encounter challenges that push you physically, emotionally and socially – these challenges offer you a chance to discover your strengths and potential, and to practice using techniques and tools that will help you better cope with anything the future brings.
NOTE: Outward Bound strongly recommends that all students be vaccinated against COVID-19 and up to date as defined by the CDC prior to arriving to their course start. For all open enrollment courses beginning on or after April 15, 2023, Outward Bound will no longer require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. For questions regarding this policy please see this page or call us at 866-467-7651.
Wilderness First Aid, American RedCross Lifeguarding, NAUI Openwater SCUBA
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JOIN WAITLIST Once a course has reached capacity, three waitlist positions become available. To join a course’s waitlist, click “Join Waitlist” to begin the application process. A $500 deposit is required. This $500 deposit includes a $150 non-refundable application fee and a $350 tuition payment. The $350 tuition payment is refundable only if you cancel your waitlist application or if an open position does not become available. If a position does become available, the applicant will be applied to the open position and the Application and Cancellation Policies of the Regional Outward Bound School will be followed, including forfeiture of the $500 deposit if you cancel 90 days or less prior to the course start date.
Waitlist applicants are encouraged to complete all required admissions documents while awaiting an open position. Positions may become available up to two weeks prior to the course start date. Applicants may only apply to one course. We recommend applying to a course with open positions instead of a course that is accepting waitlist applications. If you have questions, please call 866-467-7651 to speak with one of our Admissions Advisors.
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Course start, Leadville, CO
Colorado section: Cross Country Skiing & Winter Camping
Most College Savings Plans, including the 529 College Savings Plan, may be used to attend an Outward Bound expedition, thanks to a partnership with Western Colorado University. Anyone can register – you do not have to be a current Western Colorado University student. Registration is easy! Click here to learn more.
Develop outdoor skills. Enhance your leadership and communication abilities. Strive to increase your knowledge of the environment – all while learning wilderness travel techniques in a variety of stunning environments. The ultimate goal of our Gap Year expeditions is to help you develop the confidence, knowledge, and integrity essential for effective leadership. Whether you are learning how to safely tie in on belay, deciding as a group how to navigate through new terrain, or setting up a minimum-impact campsite for the evening, you’ll be honing and practicing skills for life.
Build skills, form connections: Amidst rugged natural landscapes, learn to lead and to follow; to give and receive feedback; and to trust in your own capabilities as you expand your technical and personal knowledge base. Find connections with your crewmates based on support and respect (and fun too!), and in the thick of challenges, discover there is more in you than you know.
Value strengths and strengthen values: Uncover your unique character strengths, exercise your independence as you gain life experience and learn how to let compassion in to everyday life by pushing your own limits and supporting your crew as you tackle obstacles together, big and small.
Demonstrate mastery: As you gain confidence in new skills and a better understanding of the natural world around you, take on more decision-making responsibilities. Work together to achieve team goals, solve problems and succeed both as independent individuals and as a group.
What you’ll learn: Examine your personal values and discover more about your true self. Hone your technical abilities as you become a master at ropes courses or swift water rescue techniques and Wilderness First Aid. Numerous certificates are available depending on the course, and up to 18 credit hours can be earned along the way.
Exploring new environments and building new connections will put your tenacity to the test. You’ll return with broader understanding of the natural world around you, deeper appreciation for small kindnesses and greater confidence in yourself and others that will serve you well long after you return.
Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.
After your winter skills training, you and your team will embark on an epic journey: a multi-day tour through the snowy Rockies to summit a high peak. You’ll navigate through avalanche terrain, melt snow for water, and learn how to thrive in one of the harshest climates on Earth. One of the best parts of a winter expedition is carving a cozy camp out of the snow, complete with tables, benches, and even snow cabinets. You will carry all of your food and gear in your backpack or pull it behind you on snow sleds. During this section, you will learn to assess and adapt to varying snow and weather conditions. Depending on weather and snow conditions, you may have the opportunity to see stunning 360-degree views from a high peak.
Traditional 30-foot sailboats encourage teamwork and leadership like no other classroom. On an open boat with no cabin and no engine, the group will live closely together using only wind and oars to power their way. As they rotate responsibilities during the expedition, students learn to sail a traditional sailing vessel. On this course, students learn to:
Adjust sails properly for sailing at different angles to the wind, and to execute sailing maneuvers like tacking and gybing, which turn the boat through the wind
Navigate using a chart and compass to arrive accurately at the day’s destination, using techniques that include taking bearings, dead reckoning, triangulation and sounding.
Move the boat under oars, coordinating all of the rowers' movements so that the oars splash as one, precisely maneuvering in and out of secluded anchorages
Take turns at anchor watch (under brilliant night skies), monitoring vessel safety and reflecting on their day’s learning.
Live (cook, eat, sleep, work and learn) as a team aboard a small open sailboat, contributing energy and ideas, sharing tasks and responsibilities and relying on each other.
This course will split the sailing expeditions into two main time-frames – with final 9-day expedition just before the transition to Colorado.
The Advanced Wilderness First Aid (AWFA) course is a 4-day introduction to wilderness medicine that combines classroom time with hands-on practical sessions. Students will learn how to manage injuries/illnesses in the backcountry, setting them up for safe and self-reliant expeditions in the future.
This section of the course will cover CPR, First Aid and lifeguard techniques – such as rescues, back-boarding and general safety procedures. The training is a mix of theory and practice. Students will be tested using Red Cross guidelines before receiving their certification.
Participants follow Leave No Trace ethics as service to the environment and do acts of service while leading and supporting fellow participants. Students develop a value of service, seeing the impact of their actions firsthand and transfer this desire to serve their communities back home. Past projects have included working on a goat farm, building trails, cleaning trash and debris from natural spaces, working with a local community garden, and removing invasive species.
The Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition to give students quiet time to reflect on the Outward Bound experience. With the basics of food and equipment, and with safety a top priority, students will take some time away from the group to be alone at sites of their own, using the wilderness skills learned during the first parts of the course. Often located along beautiful lake shorelines or peaceful rivers, Solo sites are chosen to offer as much solitude as possible (yet be within emergency whistle-signaling distance of other group members). Most students spend their Solo time journaling, drawing or just thinking and resting as they process lessons learned and focus on their goals for the future. Instructors check on each participant at regular intervals. The time students spend on Solo depends on the length of the course. On courses longer than three weeks, Solo is up to 72 hours long.
This course focuses on developing the leadership and technical skills necessary to begin a career as an Instructor or expedition leader in wilderness environments, or to take on challenging and versatile roles in a variety of other fields. Outward Bound’s leadership curriculum is based on over 50 years of leading expeditions. Students will refine the way they meet challenges and opportunities, relate to others and view their world. Technical skill development is a robust and challenging component of this semester program. Whether students want to pursue a career as a guide or outdoor educator, or strive to become more proficient and safe when traveling alone or with friends and family, or aspire to develop the capacity to lead in an adventurous setting, this course will expand their skill base through the instruction of experienced specialists in these skill sets.
Students will have another chance to step outside their comfort zone and explore a new environment as they earn their PADI Open Water Scuba Diver Certification. This is a unique opportunity to learn about sub-tropical ecology and scuba skills while participating in several dives to complete this certification.
Home to numerous birds and abundant marine life, the region owes its productivity to the confluence of water flowing out of the Everglades into inner Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The backcountry of Florida Bay offers challenging shoal draft navigation and the opportunity to explore mangrove keys, tidal flats and coral patch reefs. These warm, shallow waters provide an exciting cruising area for Outward Bound’s sailing boats and some of the best training ground for developing advanced sailing skills. The Atlantic side offers excellent open water sailing and snorkeling at the outer reefs. The course area extends to the Everglades, with beautiful sand beaches and a maze of rivers and bays to explore. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Seminole, Matecumbe, Cuchiyaga and Guarungumbe nations.
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
The Rocky Mountains, one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, stretch 3,000 miles from Alaska to New Mexico. These legendary peaks have had a profound influence on the development of the continental United States. The Colorado Rocky Mountains has the greatest concentration of high peaks in the lower 48 states, with hundreds of “Thirteeners” (13,000 plus foot tall mountains) and 54 “Fourteeners.” The state is famous for its abundant wilderness adventure possibilities, from skiing to rock climbing to mountaineering. Colorado courses may take place in The Gore, The Holy Cross, The Sawatch, The Elks, The Sangre de Cristos, the Rawah, or the San Juan mountains. Each of these Colorado ranges present unique challenges, but they are all beautiful, wild and rugged. These regions are within the ancestral lands of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Cheyenne, Arapaho, Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux), Eastern Shoshone, Jicarilla Apache, and Pueblos nations
If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.
To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.