Historia de NOLS

Credit: NOLS Archives

Corría el año de 1965…

Desde 1965 cuando la escuela fue fundada por Paul Petzolt, NOLS ha enseñado técnicas de vida al aire libre, conservación práctica y liderazgo, a más de 50,000 alumnos. La casa matriz de NOLS está ubicada en Lander, Wyoming, Estados Unidos y además tenemos programas en Arizona, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Chile, India, Canadá, México y Australia.

Los cursos de NOLS se desarrollan en un formato de expedición por lugares aislados, remotos y poco visitados; su duración varía desde 7 hasta 95 días. Se realizan una amplia gama de cursos incluyendo: excursionismo, montañismo, kayak de mar y de río, espeleología, cabalgatas, escalada en roca, esquí y navegación a vela. Ofrecemos cursos para personas desde los 14 años hasta programas diseñados para adultos mayores de 50 años. Los cursos tienen un cupo que varía de 10 a 17 alumnos. Cada curso está supervisado por un equipo con experiencia en el área, compuesto de 2 a 4 de instructores. Todavía lo que hacemos esta muy ligado a expediciones de larga duración en áreas silvestres, pero a la vez contamos con los departamentos de publicaciones e investigación científica para informar el curriculum de los cursos, adelantar la misión de la escuela y difundir información a una mayor audiencia.

Promovemos la protección de nuestras aulas (la áreas silvestres) enseñando a través de publicaciones, investigación científica y seminarios especializados en técnicas para minimizar los impactos debidos al uso recreativo en áreas naturales.

NOLS Timeline

field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2010-2020

Locations opened:
NOLS Wyss Campus, a place designed for our growing wilderness medicine courses (Lander, Wyoming).
NOLS East Africa (Arusha, Tanzania)

Locations closed:
NOLS Amazon 


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2016

NOLS completes a two-year branding initiative. This includes redesign of visual and voice elements, website, logo, as well as renaming of NOLS pillars:

NOLS Custom Education (formerly NOLS Professional Training)
NOLS Wilderness Medicine  (formerly NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute, or WMI)
NOLS Risk Services (formerly NOLS Risk Management Services)​
NOLS Expeditions


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2015

NOLS celebrates the 25th anniversary of WMI and the 50th anniversary of NOLS as an organization, remembering our history and preparing for the future.

Graduates of wilderness medicine courses begin receiving certifications electronically, increasing student service while saving the school thousands of dollars and hours.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2013

NOLS designs, develops, and leads Expedition Denali, the first all-African American team to attempt to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley), the United States’ highest peak at 20,320 feet. Learn more about Expedition Denali and the film telling their story, An American Ascent, here.

The Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus earns LEED Platinum certification.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2012

NOLS opens the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus in Red Canyon outside of Lander, WY.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2011

NOLS starts Gateway Partnerships and fellowship programs, initiatives that aim to provide education and pathways of access to underserved populations.

NOLS opens NOLS Northeast in the Adirondacks.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2010

NOLS signs an agreement with REI to deliver wilderness medicine courses through REI Outdoor Schools and markets throughout the United States.

NOLS enters into a 20-year agreement with the Government Services Administration to facilitate course delivery to federal agencies.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2000-2010

Locations opened:
NOLS Scandinavia (Katterjakk, Sweden)
NOLS Amazon (Amazon Basin, Brazil)

NOLS Australia (Broome, West Australia)
NOLS New Zealand (Aniseed Valley, South Island)

Locations closed:
NOLS Kenya


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2007

WMI and Landmark Learning partner, expanding NOLS’ course offerings in the southeastern United States.

NOLS launches our new sustainability initiative, with the goal of creating a comprehensive, long-term plan to reduce the school’s global environmental footprint.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2006

Students head out for the first Year in Patagonia course, the first ever yearlong program in outdoor education.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2005

NOLS celebrates our 40th anniversary and receives the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for our fair, honest and ethical business practices.

NOLS began offering courses that combine wilderness medicine training in an expedition format.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  2002

WMI moves its staff and offices from Pitkin, CO to NOLS Headquarters in Lander, WY.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png 1980-1999

Locations opened:
NOLS Teton Valley (Driggs, Idaho)
NOLS Southwest (Tucson, Arizona)
NOLS Patagonia (Coyhaique, Chile)
NOLS India (Ranikhet, India)
NOLS Yukon (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory)


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1999

Thelma Young, beloved NOLS equipment seamstress and the longest tenured NOLS employee, dies at the age of 69.

Paul Petzoldt, founder of NOLS, dies at the age of 91.

NOLS purchases the Wilderness Medicine Institute, Inc. (WMI), now NOLS Wilderness Medicine , to better serve students by broadening educational opportunities and expanding its geographic reach.

NOLS launches NOLS Professional Training, now NOLS Custom Education, to provide customized experiences to our audience, including NASA astronauts, MBA programs, and other non-profits.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1998

NOLS conducts its first formal review of an outdoor program’s risk management practices, which eventually leads to other risk management offerings and the launch of NOLS Risk Management Services, now NOLS Risk Services. Earlier pro bono reviews of peer programs and participation in the Association of Experiential Education (AEE) accreditation process paved the way for this development.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1995

Joanne Hurley becomes the first woman to be named Chair of the NOLS Board of Trustees.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1994

NOLS coordinates the first Wilderness Risk Management Conference at NOLS Pacific Northwest in Conway, WA.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1991

NOLS runs the first Leave No Trace (LNT) course in the Wind River Range near Lander. We collaborate with the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service to develop the curriculum for these courses. This curriculum is now internationally known and used.

NOLS starts the Department of Public Policy, later named Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, to help maintain the integrity of and access to wild places.

NOLS Wilderness First Aid by Tod Schimelpfenig and Linda Lindsey, now NOLS Wilderness Medicine, is first published.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1990

The Wilderness Medicine Institute, Inc. (WMI) is founded by Melissa Gray and Buck Tilton in Pitkin, CO. WMI runs 3 courses with 83 students


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1987

Soft Paths, by instructor Bruce Hampton and researcher David Cole, is published. The book was NOLS’ definitive statement on backcountry conservation and minimum impact practices. It was later adapted into several popular educational videos.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1986

The first computers are installed in the NOLS international administrative offices at the Noble Hotel in Lander.

NOLS hosts its first alumni reunion.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1984

The Instructor Development Fund is established to help instructors seek further development in leadership and outdoor skills.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1980

Joan Chitiea becomes the first woman elected to NOLS Board of Trustees. University of Utah and NOLS form a partnership to offer students academic credit.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1970-1979

Locations opened:
NOLS Kenya (Naro Moru, Kenya)

NOLS Alaska (Palmer, Alaska)
NOLS Pacific Northwest (Conway, Washington)
NOLS Mexico (Coyote Bay, Baja California)
NOLS Tennessee
NOLS East

Locations closed:
NOLS East
NOLS Tennessee


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1979

NOLS offers its first course in wilderness first aid, called Backcountry Emergency Care.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1975

Petzoldt is removed as executive director and named senior advisor. The NOLS Instructor Association (NIA) forms in response and to advocate for instructor interests.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1974

NOLS is the first in the outdoor industry to run a semester length outdoor education expedition.

The Wilderness Handbook, written by Paul Petzoldt, is published. This was the first NOLS publication for national distribution.

The first edition of the NOLS Cookery is published. This was the first NOLS publication for public distribution.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1970

Alcoa Hour presents “Thirty Days to Survival,” a television show that got the word about NOLS out to a wider audience.


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1965-1969

Locations opened:
NOLS Rocky Mountain (Lander, Wyoming)


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1966

The first women enrolled on NOLS courses.

College credit became available to students.

Thelma Young is hired as a seamstress to make equipment and clothing that was not available commercially. She invented tents, wind shirts, sleeping bags, and more that provided the basis for many innovations in outdoor gear, and that NOLS still uses today!


field-note-arrow-small-mud.png  1965

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is founded in Lander, Wyoming by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt.

Our first course sets out from Sinks Canyon wearing Army surplus wool clothes, carrying heavy external frame backpacks, and ready for the challenges awaiting them.

Photos | Courtesy of the NOLS Archives