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New program to train adventure leaders By Crawford Kilian Anyone living or travelling in the Sea to Sky Corridor is aware of the explosive growth of the adventure tourism industry. People are rock-climbing, kayaking, hiking, snowboarding. Companies are springing up to cater to the endlessly growing demand for something more challenging than a day at the beach. Now Capilano College plans to meet that demand with trained and certified outdoor leaders. Based at Cap's Squamish campus, the new Coast Mountain Leadership Institute will launch its first Wilderness Leadership program running from February to May, 2000. A second program will start Aug. 1 and run until Nov. 4. The program has evolved from Capilano's quarter-century of experience in training specialists in outdoor recreation. Faculty in the outdoor-recreation department are directly involved in creating and running Wilderness Leadership. "We see a growing demand for qualified outdoor leaders in a rapidly expanding adventure-tourism industry," says Catherine Boniface, convenor of the outdoor recreation program. "We also want to offer educational opportunities to meet local demand in the Sea to Sky Corridor." Boniface sees a trend toward increased adventure travel, and points to the success of companies in Whistler, Squamish and the Vancouver region. She mentions the growth of sea kayaking and mountain travel, as well as "the international recognition of Squamish as a rock-climbing Mecca, and the explosive increase in visits to the region for backcountry hiking and ski touring." Greig Gjerdalen, another faculty member, says: "This is a dynamic, growing industry in which skilled, energetic and creative people will find exciting careers." Students in the Wilderness Leadership program, he says, will need some outdoor experience. As well, "They should be focused, committed, energetic, positive individuals with good communication skills and willingness to work with a team." The program includes six 3-credit "core" courses in subjects like natural history, wilderness first aid, and landscape interpretation. Students will learn how to interpret local ecosystems, provide first aid in emergencies, and even resolve conflicts. As well, each student will choose a specialized group of skills courses — water travel, mountain travel, winter travel and wilderness travel. Water travel, for example, trains participants in canoeing, white water kayaking, sea kayaking, and sailing. The program is based in Squamish, says Boniface, because of its "incredible natural attributes that greatly enhance educational opportunities in this field." She adds: "Squamish is in the middle of the corridor, allowing access for people throughout the region." Students will be able to "home stay" with families in Squamish, but they'll spend much of their time living in tents while taking field-based courses. "We really like the abundant opportunities in the Squamish region for sea kayaking, river travel and mountain travel," she says. She also likes the accessibility and suitability of the terrain, where students will master leadership skills such as group management, navigation, environmental stewardship, and natural and cultural interpretation. Gjerdalen warns that students must be prepared for the dangers in such terrain as well. "We require a doctor's certificate that the applicant is in good health," he says. "And successful applicants will be asked to sign a disclosure of inherent risk." He adds that Wilderness Leadership is not for anyone lacking in motivation or unwilling to face new and different experiences and challenges. The commitment must be financial as well as intellectual. Cost of the full-time Wilderness Leadership program, is $8,525 — "plus accommodation and living costs," Boniface adds. Students should have at least Grade 12 and be 19 or older, with good reading, writing and research skills. (Students as young as 18 may enroll in skills courses with a written recommendation from a high-school teacher or principal.) They need to be physically and psychologically ready for some intense challenges — not just in the program, says Gjerdalen, but in the industry. They should have their own appropriate outdoor gear. Full-time students will receive preference, with remaining spaces open to qualified part-timers. And once they've graduated from the 14-week program, where will they go? Boniface says some may set up their own adventure-tourism businesses, but most will go to work for established firms in outdoor recreation or adventure tourism. "We anticipate high demand for qualified graduates both locally and globally," says Gjerdalen. Graduates may also want to "ladder" into Capilano's Outdoor Recreation Management diploma program, with credit for the courses they've already taken, and then move on to a Bachelor of Tourism Management degree. Should students understand one critical fact about the program before they apply? Catherine Boniface smiles. "Be prepared for full commitment of time and energy." Sidebar: For more information about the Wilderness Leadership program, call the Outdoor Recreation Management program at Capilano College, 604-984-4960, or email: The program's Website is at

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