The Pacific Northwest has long been known for its natural features that lure the most adventurous people to clamber over mountain tops and ski down powdery slopes. However, the great outdoors can be a dangerous place, and those who lack experience may be daunted by all it has to offer.
That’s where Western’s AS Outdoor Center comes in.
From organized outdoor excursions to equipment rentals and bike maintenance, the Outdoor Center has students covered for all their outdoor needs.
The excursions, which take place across two sign-up periods each quarter, are accessible to a range of students, with participants needing minimal to no previous experience to sign up.
“Our excursions provide the opportunity for students to disconnect from the daily routine of classes and try something new that provides a way to connect with peers, learn new skills and to take time for their own physical and mental health and well-being,” said Viking Outdoor Recreation Manager Stephen Magnuson.
Third-year Western student Asher Schoepflin participated in the first excursion of 2023, the Kulshan Backcountry Ski Adventure.
“I didn’t have any backcountry experience prior to the trip,” Schoepflin said.
Schoepflin did have plenty of experience on skis, which was the only prerequisite participants had to fulfill.
“The trip leaders did a great job of giving instructions to less experienced participants,” Schoepflin said. “They gave us great tips and advice. … They didn’t expect us to have experience with things like backpacking, avalanche training or good cardio for going up hills.”
Zoe Cowan, a trip leader scheduled to lead the Full Moon Night Hike for women & non-binary people on Feb. 5, said she came to the Outdoor Center one year ago with only casual experience backpacking.
“I had a bit of background knowledge in backpacking, just from personal trips [and] a little bit of sea kayaking,” Cowan said.
When Cowan was hired, she received formal training in backpacking, sea kayaking, hiking and rock climbing.
It is critical to have solid safety training when it comes to outdoor adventuring. In 2022, the Washington State Search and Rescue Volunteer Advisory Council conducted approximately 900 search missions, according to Bill Gillespie, the council's president.
“There are not enough publicly accessible trainings for people,” Gillespie said. “It costs organizations money to offer classes and most do not have the money to offer classes for free.”
The Outdoor Center provides these opportunities to learn the necessary skills from enthusiastic instructors for a low price.
Along with knowledgeable staff and minimal entry requirements, one of the biggest perks the excursions have to offer is the price. Trips cost $10, while seminars and classes, such as the upcoming Backcountry Seminar Series and Intro to Bike Maintenance Class, are free. However, the Outdoor Center has much more to offer than just excursions and classes.
From Monday to Friday every week, students can visit the Outdoor Center, located on the first floor of the Viking Union, for equipment rentals and bike help.
Rentals include mountain and road bikes; camping, climbing and snow sports equipment; as well as single and double kayaks. Prices vary based on how long the equipment is rented for, but a single day on the slopes with a full set of ski equipment costs just under $25.
The Outdoor Center’s bike shop offers a full service for around $2.
Logan Ruch, an employee at the bike shop, said he enjoys helping the customers learn how to fix their own bike while he works.
“If someone comes in with a broken bike, we encourage the student to try to learn how to fix the bike with us and facilitate sufficiency and bike maintenance, which I think is really important,” Ruch said. “I think biking has a lot of ego behind it, especially in bike shops. … People kinda look down on you for your bike not being a certain condition when it shouldn't have to be that way.”
Cowan said the Outdoor Center wants to welcome and encourage anyone and everyone to experience the outdoors.
“Don't be afraid of any of the people in here,” Cowan said. “It's OK if you don't know how to do something because you can come here and learn.”
The Outdoor Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in VU 150.
Miles Tennant (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a second-year planning to major in the news/editorial path of the journalism department. When not reporting, he enjoys playing soccer and spending time in the gym.
You can contact him @email@example.com