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UW's Outdoor Progam is a National Finalist
The 2012 general election is over. But the University of Wyoming Outdoor Program (OP) still needs your vote.
The OP is one of four national finalists for the 2012 Polartec Made Possible College Challenge, a $10,000 grant contest that will be decided through voting on Polartec’s Facebook page at http://bit.ly/TFH59l. Voting ends at midnight Dec. 14, with the winning university to be announced the following day.
It’s little surprise that one of the finest outdoor universities in the United States, as ranked by Outside magazine ranking (http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/Outside-University-15-University-of-Wyoming.html), is among the finalists for the prestigious national award.
From rock climbing to whitewater rafting to cross-country skiing, OP Coordinator Dan McCoy says UW has something for every outdoor enthusiast.
How can students get involved in the Outdoor Program? I think there’s a common misperception that we’re a club or an organization where you have to be a member in the Outdoor Program to participate. It’s nothing like that, whatsoever. You can just sign up, specifically, for what you want to learn or what you want to do.
What are the most popular components of the Outdoor Program? Purely from a numbers perspective, the most popular thing we have is the climbing wall. We had over 14,000 hourly counts last year alone. The other areas that are the most popular are our trips, clinics and programs. We offer the gear swap, the Banff Mountain Film Festival, stuff like that. Our clinics, where we teach bike maintenance or ski tuning, draw larger crowds. And our outings are always popular. Pretty much every weekend that school’s in session, we have trips to somewhere in southeastern Wyoming, the region or further. … Our gear rental is popular, too. This time of year, it’s mountain bikes, rock climbing equipment, sleeping bags and tents. We have really reasonable rates for students, faculty and staff, so we see a lot of people come in here and grab equipment.
How does an outdoor experience enhance a students’ collegiate experience? We do evaluations of all of our trips and it’s really pretty cool to see the students’ comments, particularly from our wilderness orientation programs. The biggest one that we do is called the Fall Outdoor Experience, where we take almost 120 freshman students all over southeast Wyoming on nine different trips. I’ve received emails and evaluations back from those trips that are just wonderful. I hear things like, “This program really helped me get adjusted to campus life,” or “It helped me meet new people that I’ve been friends with now for years,” or “It helped me learn a new activity.” It’s great to know that our programs can help students transition to life here in Laramie.
How does UW take advantage of its natural surroundings to provide students with the best possible outdoor experience? Vedauwoo is a fantastic resource, especially for rock climbing. It’s really a world-class area that draws climbers from all over the world to attempt some of the more difficult climbs. But, for us, we focus on the easier routes to just get people climbing on the rocks. We also use the greater Pole Mountain area, which includes Happy Jack and the whole national forest area, to do hiking trips, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mountain biking. There are a ton of opportunities up there for all of those things. … In the Snowys, we also do mountain biking and, occasionally, we do telemark ski clinics at the Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area. We do backpacking trips up around Medicine Bow Peak. We do hiking trips, both day and full-moon hikes, and snowshoeing, too. … Going a little bit further west, we do canoeing trips on the North Platte River. We go whitewater rafting through the Northgate Canyon on the North Platte, typically during the summer in conjunction with a local outfitter guide. We go caving up north of us in the Shirley Mountains. We go fly fishing sometimes on the North Platte or Laramie rivers or at some of the plains lakes. Gosh, there’s just so much in this area that we really don’t need to leave here often.
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