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Fall 2003 Issue
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Pick Your Season at NOLS
Outstanding NOLS staff and alumni were recognized at the annual NOLS State of the School held in Lander, Wyo. this October: (Top) Mary Jensen, Willie Warner, Liz Tuohy, John Cederquist, Mike Meekin, (Bottom) Read McCulloch, Peter Absolon, Roger Robinson. Not pictured: JeanAnn Paulus, Jere Lester, and Raul Castro.

John Gans,
Executive Director

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 turn.

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 ( 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!

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