Outdoor Recreation Leadership Course – Keene State College

“All of this is outside my comfort zone. So each activity feels like a big accomplishment.”

Christa, studying for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, gets right to the heart of Keene State’s Outdoor Rec Leadership course. Led by Brent Arsenault and Sandi Howard, two veteran Northern Outdoors guides, the course takes students up mountains, on ropes courses, and due to some wacky winter weather last week, on icy cross-country ski trails (the summer course substitutes rafting for skiing.) While the students’ majors range from Sustainable Product Design to Business Management to Communications, they all share an appreciation for getting outside, trying new things, and seeing new sites.

The week began with a few team building challenges inside the lodge… (it was -8 outside.)

Tent Building Team Building

Before heading outside to the ropes course…

Ropes Course Zipline

And a steep hike up nearby Pleasant Pond Mountain.

Pleasant Pond Mountain

The group then headed to the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center to try out some cross-country ski gear. No one in the class had ever cross-country skied before. Inevitably, things began with some falling…

Sugarloaf Outdoor Center

Within one day the new skiers were able to ski up the switchbacks to Stratton Brook Hut, a challenge even for experienced skiers.

Cross-Country Ski to Stratton Brook Hut

(Only one ski was lost on the fast, icy ski downhill in the morning. All skiers and limbs intact. We call that a job well done!)

In addition to helping students face new challenges head on, and teaching team building skills, Brent and Sandi are hoping to draw a few into the outdoor recreation lifestyle. Most students choose to take the course for “fun credits.” Most enjoy some form of outdoor recreation. But few see it as a career path. The winter course hasn’t yet converted any students (it’s only been running a few years.) But the summer course, six years running, has led three students, who had never been rafting before, to become Northern Outdoors raft guides… and lifelong adventurers.

John “Bunk” Johannesen, one of the older students in last week’s class sums it up:

“Having been around for a few more years than the kids in the class it reassured me as a parent that I am doing the right things in my own family by exposing my own children to adventures in the outdoors. Like I tell my boys it is not always the destination you will remember so much as the travel, experiences, and adventure along the way. Can’t wait to get another trip into the area soon.”

The Keene State College Outdoor Rec Leadership Course is offered twice a year, once in the summer, once in the winter. Here at Northern Outdoors we offer customized programs for colleges, businesses and other organizations. Get the details on our outdoor leadership programs and contact us to create a program that meets your group’s goals.


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