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MIssion and Values

What makes NOLS the leader?

I have the opportunity to travel frequently for NOLS, meeting our graduates and their families. As I meet with our extended NOLS family, I am constantly reminded that the decision to attend a NOLS course is a pivotal one. Participating in a NOLS expedition will change how you think about wilderness, about challenges and hurdles, and about everyday life. NOLS changes lives. While this is the outcome, it isn't happenstance. Our graduates achieve these results because NOLS, a non-profit school, has a focused and experiential approach to education.

NOLS focuses on our students. They come to us motivated to learn. They have a thirst for adventure. Since 1965 we have taken more than 80,000 people on extended expeditions, typically 30 days in length or more. Our students learn outdoor skills. They develop leadership. They learn about and experience wilderness. They return home different.

NOLS focuses on staff. They come from all over the world to join this team of talented and enthusiastic educators. They are the outdoor industry's best-well trained and highly skilled with a passion for teaching and a great respect for the wilderness. We invest in our staff. Before we consider hiring them, we spend 35 days evaluating and improving their skills on the NOLS instructor course. They mentor under more experienced instructors during their early work with NOLS and attend instructor seminars to advance their skills and teaching techniques. NOLS also helps support their personal expeditions in some of the world's most challenging outdoor pursuits.

NOLS focuses on the details. An expedition's success lies in the little stuff-the transportation, the equipment, the staging areas, the food. NOLS runs nearly 300 expeditions a year, world-wide. We leave nothing to chance. When you sign up for a NOLS course, you get NOLS instructors and the support from the NOLS expedition team. We don't pass off the responsibility to sub-contractors.

NOLS focuses on excellence. We aren't resting on our laurels. From the Wilderness Medicine Institute to curriculum development, to safety techniques, we are constantly pushing ourselves to a higher level. This means your NOLS course will be the best outdoor education experience available.

For over 40 years NOLS has remained focused on its original goal-to give people the skills to comfortably and responsibly lead others in the backcountry. As it turns out these skills are the same skills it takes to thrive when you step out of the wilderness.

Join us.

John Gans
Executive Director


NOLS Board of Trustees Chair Fred Kleisner and Executive Director John Gans
Photo: Brad Christensen
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