Why IWLS

What makes IWLS world class…

The high quality wilderness education, world class technical skill development, and professional outdoor leadership that define the International Wilderness Leadership School, are grounded in the collective experience of our directors, instructors, and administrative team. The breadth of practical experience, range of programming, well developed curriculum, effective educational model, and dedication to the highest standards make our courses the choice for aspiring outdoor professionals and adventurers.

Pilot Drake Olson and his plane “53 Charlie” at work over the mountains outside of Haines, Alaska. -Kevin Forster

INSTRUCTORS: IWLS instructors are exceptional outdoor leaders. Every IWLS course draws on decades of experience with technical instruction, outdoor leadership training, high altitude guiding, and countless expeditions in Alaska, Utah, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, Russia, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Bolivia, Antarctica and Mexico. IWLS leaders are technically skilled, passionate about wilderness, and committed to each and every student. Their dedication insures each student an educational experience that will exceed their expectations!

In addition to the hard technical skills, IWLS instructors are expert in the softer skills of risk management, client care, and group dynamics. Not only will they insure a quality experience for each student, but will also work to impart this judgment to them.

IWLS leaders are committed professionals who are exemplary instructors. They are enthusiastic for what they do and the places that they do it in!

LEADERSHIP & PRACTICAL GUIDING EXPERIENCE: The International Wilderness Leadership School is a division of Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School, Inc. No other leadership organization has the technical background, scope of programming, and the hands on leadership and guiding experience of IWLS. The uncompromising safety consciousness, technical competence, and leadership ability of IWLS instructors come from their substantial practical guiding experience. Not only are they technically skilled and passionate about wilderness, but our instructors are committed to each and every student. Their dedication ensures each student an educational experience that will exceed expectations! IWLS instructors are experts at teaching the hard skills and risk management required for leading and adventuring in some of the most demanding environments on the planet.

EDUCATION & CURRICULUM: Learn by leading, by teaching, by doing. These tenets define the IWLS experiential education model. IWLS is fully accredited by the Association of Experiential Education (AEE). This places us among the ranks of 47 elite organizations that meet the highest standards for safety, risk management, instructor training and programming. The AEE accreditation process is widely recognized to be the definitive standard in the field of outdoor leadership education. IWLS meets the rigorous standards for excellence in program governance and oversight required for AEE accreditation. A low instructor to student ratio supports an active learning process whether you are stepping into leadership roles or practicing technical skills.

COURSE SIZE: Group size is one of the most important factors affecting the type of experience you will have in leadership school. Smaller group sizes give IWLS the flexibility to individually meet the goals and expectations of each student. For this reason, we strive to keep our groups to below ten students with a 1:3 instructor to student ratio. While other courses offered through organizations have average group sizes of 13, most IWLS courses have between six and eight students and two instructors. When it comes to leading the group over an alpine pass, teaching lesson plans on local ecology, or reviewing skills one-on-one with your instructor, IWLS course sizes are perfect for achieving your leadership and educational goals.

Students learn to build “bomber” anchors in an alpine environment. -Bryan Hinderberger

SAFETY: Safety is our top priority. We have had no major incidents or accidents in nearly 20 years of operating courses around the world. We have a perfect safety record. This is a function of the professionalism, risk management experience and competency of the staff of IWLS and Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School, Inc. (AMGCSI) staff. IWLS plays a leading role in industry risk management practices and supports incident response efforts around the world. IWLS offers students the safest and highest quality outdoor leadership training available. Elements of risk management and emergency protocols are taught on all of our courses.

INDUSTRY LEADERS: IWLS was the first leadership program to carry satellite phones on all courses. We continue to raise the standard for outdoor leaders in regards to first aid training, risk management, and incident response. We were the first wilderness school to carry pulse oximeters on all treks and climbs that go to altitude. In addition to using satellite phones, IWLS maintains tight communication with courses in the field through SPOT satellite messengers, emergency position indicating radiobeacons (EPIRBS), and ground to air radios. Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School Inc has been recognized as one of the best adventure travel companies on earth for 2008 and 2009 by National Geographic Adventure.

RISK MANAGEMENT EXPERTS: The International Wilderness Leadership School and AMGCSI family of companies take over 60,000 guests annually on trips and courses ranging from rock climbing and sea kayaking, to helicopter skiing and whitewater rafting. IWLS leads professional seminars on risk management throughout the world. We have presented risk management courses and consulting services to the government of St. Kitts, Mexican EMS, Alaska EMS, East African outfitters, and tour companies in Alaska and Mexico.

RANGE OF PROGRAMS: We offer comprehensive leadership programs in some of the world’s most remote and fascinating areas including: Mexico, Alaska, Tanzania, Chile, Utah, The Yukon, Argentina, British Columbia, Nepal, Kenya and more. IWLS course locations provide valuable practical experience for outdoor leaders interested in working in the international guiding industry.

QUALITY OF SERVICE: Customer Service and attention to detail are what set us apart! The following is a partial list of our satisfied customers: Putney Student Travel, Sheldon Jackson College, Princess Cruise Lines, Colorado State University, Adventure Treks, Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, Southern Georgia University, Rowland Hall Academy, The Boy Scouts of America, Cornerstone Wilderness Therapy, Patagonia, Kelty, Central Michigan University, Holland America Lines, and the Canadian Heart Association (choose IWLS staff to lead their fundraising Kilimanjaro climb in 2005 and Aconcagua Expedition in 2006)

Sea Kayaking in Glacier Bay National Park, Haines, AK. -Nathaniel Stephens

EQUIPMENT: IWLS uses only the best outdoor gear available. To this end we have formed corporate partnerships with Patagonia, Kelty, Mammut, Sealine, MSR, Thermarest, and Black Diamond Equipment to supply all of our climbing and camping gear. This guarantees that any gear you get from us will be of the highest quality.

OUTCOME: IWLS students develop successful career opportunities, earn college credit, and finish their IWLS course with certifications that prove invaluable for future opportunities. Our experiential approach to developing leadership skills, produces competent, confident, positive and engaged leaders, whether they are leading in a wilderness environment, academia or a corporate setting. In today’s rapidly growing outdoor industry, certifications are necessary to communicate a standardized skill level to potential employers and represent the quality of education you have received. IWLS certifications are great tools to advance your professional development. These certifications incorporate internationally recognized standards and practices.

No other program will do as much to prepare a student for employment as an outdoor leader.

COLLEGE CREDIT: All IWLS programs are available for college credit. We work with over 40 colleges and universities to offer undergraduate and graduate students internship opportunities and credits that are directly transferrable to their school. With a series of consortium agreements in place, we are able to structure your credit to easily fit into your existing major or credit structure. Students who enroll in IWLS semester programs can earn between 16 and 20 credit hours for their 80 day wilderness leadership course.

GUIDE TRAINING & CAREER DEVELOPMENT: IWLS leadership and guide training courses give students the skill set and leadership experience to pursue jobs and careers in the outdoor industry, academia, emergency medicine, and the corporate world. The skills and experience, along with the corresponding certifications, equip our students to seek professional leadership positions.

PERMITTED & INSURED: The International Wilderness Leadership School is permitted and insured in: Glacier Bay National Park, North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Great Basin National Park, Klondike Historic National Park, BLM, State of Alaska Division of Lands, The Tongass National Forest, and Department of Natural Resources. Internationally, IWLS is permitted and insured for Ixtaccihuatl and Popocateptl National Park, Cotopaxi National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Torres del Paines National Park, Sagarmatha National Park. IWLS is also registered and permitted to operate in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory in Canada.

SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITMENT: IWLS is dedicated to preserving and protecting our invaluable natural environment through education. Understanding the world around us, recognizing its beauty and minimizing our impact within it, are the necessary steps toward a healthy planet and sustainable society. Students on our leadership and guide training courses develop an understanding and respect for the natural environment. Dedication to minimum impact ethics and environmental education goes with IWLS students beyond our courses.