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NOLS Facts

Our Mission
The mission of the National Outdoor Leadership School is to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.
Read about our values…

Brief History
In 1965 Paul Petzoldt, legendary mountaineer and outdoorsman, began a small outdoor school near the mountains of Lander, Wyoming. He called it the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and today that small school has grown into the world's premier teacher of outdoor skills and leadership.

Based out of its International Headquarters in Lander, NOLS now operates in 13 locations on five continents. More than 155,000 graduates around the world have come to NOLS to learn leadership and outdoor skills including backpacking, mountaineering, sea kayaking, canoeing, rafting, sailing, skiing, caving, horsepacking, rock climbing, and fly fishing.

The NOLS time-tested formula is the same today as it was in 1965: Take people into the wilderness for an extended period of time, teach them the right things, feed them well, and when they walk out of the mountains, they will be leaders in the wilderness and beyond.
Read more about NOLS History…

NOLS Facts

  • Founded in 1965 in the mountains near Lander, Wyo. by Paul Petzoldt, legendary mountaineer and outdoorsman.
  • Since 1965, NOLS has educated over 155,000 students in skills including backpacking, mountaineering, sea kayaking, canoeing, rafting, sailing, skiing, caving, horsepacking, rock climbing, and fly fishing.
  • NOLS operates in 13 different locations worldwide, including the Rocky Mountains, Teton Valley, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, Alaska, the Yukon Territory, Mexico, Patagonia, Scandinavia, the Amazon, India, Australia and New Zealand.
  • NOLS students range in age from 14 to over 70 and come from all walks of life, from all 50 states, and countries around the world.
  • NOLS courses run from 10 days to 135 days in length.
  • College credit (2-27 hours) and financial aid are available for most NOLS courses.
  • NOLS courses focus on leadership and outdoor skills. The goal of every NOLS course is to give students the skills to do their own expeditions in the backcountry and to transfer leadership skills to their lives in the frontcountry.
  • Leadership skills learned at NOLS are applicable to life at work, school and home, including problem solving, judgement and decision-making, communication, confidence, conflict resolution, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, vision and action, and self-awareness.
  • Wilderness Ethics are an important part of the NOLS curriculum. Students learn about the natural history, ecology, and wildlife in the areas where they travel, as well as land management topics.
  • NOLS is a founding partner of the national Leave No Trace program (LNT), writes all the curriculum, and provides training for land managers, outdoor leaders, and others.
  • NOLS Professional Training offers innovative, customized NOLS courses for businesses and organizations, focusing on any aspect of the NOLS core curricula—leadership, technical skills, risk management or environmental studies. Some clients include Google, NASA, and Harvard Medical School.
  • The Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) became a part of NOLS in 1999. WMI offers training for outdoor professionals and continuing education for medical professionals. As an institute of NOLS, WMI’s goal is to provide the highest quality education and information for the recognition, treatment, and prevention of wilderness emergencies.

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Patagonia Mountaineering - Instructor Andy Tyson Teaches a class on glaciology.
Photo: Traverse Zink
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