A first glance at this Leader may find
you questioning what season it is. Our cover story
has NOLS Instructor Willie Williams sea kayaking in
warm tropical weather, but as you turn the pages,
the temperature drops and you move into the beautiful
powder of the Rockies and other winter environments.
This contrast is not unusual for NOLS, an organization
where you can often pick your season.
Twenty years ago, when I was teaching
full time for NOLS in the wilderness, I spent my summers
on ice and snow, leading Alaska Mountaineering courses,
and then migrated to the Baja peninsula, where I instructed
sea kayaking through the winter months. When I passed
through the Rockies in the fall and spring, I was
always turned around as to which season it actually
was. So focus your reading on your season of choice,
or jump into both the tropics and the snow.
Every wilderness enthusiast knows that
snow can show up in any calendar month. It therefore
makes sense that our staff are knowledgeable about
this topic. This Leader profiles several snow scientists
in the NOLS community. It also has a great article
by NOLS Instructor and world-famous skier Naheed Ahmed,
about a ski expedition in China with former NOLS Instructor
Jimmy Chin. Finally, we welcome essays from Tom Reed
and Mike Clelland on the fine art of the telemark
This issue also profiles students and
staff from the first NOLS course in 1965. It is interesting
to see that many of the participants went on to play
a huge role in developing NOLS and influencing its
future. I have been lucky enough to spend time in
the mountains with both Tap Tapley and Bruce Barrus.
Tap’s outdoor skills and physical talents are
legendary. He influenced a phenomenal number of early
students and staff, and started our NOLS Mexico program.
I went for a run with Tap on his 60th birthday. I
was over 30 years his junior, and yet I was the one
breathing the hardest. Bruce Barrus got me off to
a good start at NOLS as the course leader on my NOLS
Instructor course. I went on to work three courses
and staff seminars with him. He likewise taught and
influenced numerous NOLS students and staff. Two other
students on that first NOLS course, Andy Carson and
Tom Warren, went on to become NOLS giants. Both of
them were renowned mountaineers who teamed up with
NOLS students to put up numerous first ascents in
the Wind River Range.
While much has changed at NOLS since
that first course in ’65, our core of teaching
wilderness skills, leadership and conservation has
remained consistent and strong. Our fiscal year ended
on August 31, and our annual meeting in October gave
us the opportunity to reflect on achievements and
changes since ’65. Even though the year was
filled with international unrest, war, travel concerns
and a weak economy, we educated a record number of
students—over 9,600. Our students came from
around the world and ranged from 14 year olds, to
educators, to astronauts, to aspiring wilderness guides.
Yet, the biggest key to our success was probably the
same as it was in 1965—the powerful educational
influence of the wilderness and the considerable talent
and commitment of our staff and volunteers. At our
annual meeting we recognized a number of these individuals
with our annual staff awards. You will find a bit
of information in this Leader on these Tap Tapley’s
of today. The annual meeting was also a chance to
introduce Peter Roy, our new chairman of the board.
To learn more about how Peter came to NOLS back in
1973, visit The Leader on-line (www.nols.edu/alumni).
Peter and all of the trustees volunteer an incredible
amount of time and resources to strengthen NOLS and
our mission outcomes and they were certainly a key
to our success in the last year.
Our current year at NOLS is off to
a great start, with our fall semesters around the
world fully enrolled. In addition, we are offering
several new courses this year that provide great opportunities
for first time and returning students. They offer
chances to sea kayak or fly fish in Patagonia, acquire
the skills to be a river guide, or hike in New Zealand.
So find a month that works, decide what season you
want it to be, and come join us in the wilderness!