Outdoor Education: Always in Season!

Outdoor Education: Always in Season!

Residing in Central New York means signing up for many months of cold winter days; being in a small, rural town can also make things feel a bit dreary. However, in talking to some members of Outdoor Education, one finds there are some pretty unique winter activities that can be done in this area. 

“Next weekend we have a telemark skiing PE class which is a form of downhill skiing where your heel isn’t attached to the ski. A lot of people have never done it, so most people start off at a base level. … It’s a lot of fun to just have everybody learn it together,” junior Adam Limoges said. “There’s also some more chill ones like Quinzee building which is kind of like an igloo but it’s not ice blocks, you build it out of snow. So Quinzee building is fun, or backcountry cooking– just how to make good food while you’re with only a stove and a pot really. So there’s a lot of fun ones for any sort of skill or adventure level that you want.”

There are also options for students to sign up for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ice climbing. Most activities have classes led by OE leaders, in addition to rental equipment for students to borrow for their own individual use. Senior Vanessa Dawley, an avid fan of ice climbing, highly recommended trying it out. 

“[OE is] doing ice climbing which is really cool [and] probably one of the only spaces where you get to ice climb for free. We’re going to do a couple prep classes next week and then go out to the Adirondacks where we stay at a cabin and then ice climb,” she explained. “Just over [winter] break we went on a winter trip for upper staff where we went ice climbing for a week, and those sort of longer trips are really immersive, so you pick up skills really really quickly because you have to. … [The] climbing program in OE has been really rewarding because you go from knowing nothing to being a very independent climber.”

Limoges had similar sentiments about the skills learned through this program and the benefits of a winter excursion. 

“One of the highlights of mine was our winter camping trip. We pack up sleds and snowshoes and skis and we go trot through the woods and set up camp in the middle of the snow and it’s really fun. It’s cold sometimes, but if you layer right, and make some tea and eat warm food it’s amazing and it’s so beautiful and it’s so quiet and pristine out there when it’s just you out in the woods in winter,” he said. 

Being a part of the greater Outdoor Education program has been a rewarding experience for many; sophomore Emma Lewis shared the ways in which it has impacted her Colgate experience. 

“It’s definitely the thing that has impacted my experience most… [It’s] something that I’m really proud to be in because I’ve learned a lot of new skills and I get to use them and teach other people, so it’s like a kind of a confidence booster for me as well and just a way that I feel like I’ve grown a lot in college,” she said. “All last year I was a trainee so I was constantly learning from other people in the program but then at the beginning of this year I led one of the [first-year] orientation wilderness adventures. […] I felt really proud because all the [first-years] in my group were so excited to be doing it and thought it was so cool. […] I finally got to really put the skills that I have learned into action and just […] felt kind of like a really good full circle moment.”

All three members also discussed the sense of community that is created by participating in Outdoor Education activities, whether one is a leader or a participant. 

“[Outdoor Education] also allowed me to just get to know other people through teaching these PE classes. All these college students sign up to get their PE credits and they’re not really sure what to expect sometimes so it’s fun to bring in a group of them, get to know them, get them to know each other and build little communities on campus just through a couple days out in the woods,” Limoges said. 

Lastly, Lewis advocated for signing up for any activity, even if you aren’t familiar with it. 

“It’s always great for people to sign up for the PE classes that OE runs because we as leaders really want to be able to do them. … If you’re looking for PE credit or just [want] to do something fun and different I think it’s a really awesome opportunity that not everyone knows about or necessarily takes advantage of. But, all the leaders are so cool and everyone’s going to be so excited to have you there if you do want to sign up for one,” she said.