Alaska Semester

Leadership & Guide Training Courses
(48+ days)





2020 Alaska Semester Schedule:

Most of these courses depart from our expedition center in Haines, AK, however some may begin in either Skagway or Gustavus, AK. Below we’ve outlined sample course combinations. Please contact us with any questions or to customize a semester!

Option 1

  • March 21, 2020 – Alaska Heliski/Snowboard Guide Training – 12 day
  • April 4, 2020 – Alaska Ski/Snowboard Mountaineering – 20 day
  • Semester Cost $9,925 + tax

Option 2

  • May 9, 2020 – Alaska Mountaineering – 12 day
  • May 23, 2020 – Alaska Sea Kayaking – 12 day
  • Semester Cost $5,025 + tax

Option 3

  • May 23, 2020 – Sea Kayak – 12 day
  • June 4, 2020 – Alaska Wilderness First Responder (WFR) – 10 day
  • Semester Cost $3,250 + tax

Option 4

  • May 23, 2020 – Alaska Ski Snowboard Mountaineering – 20 day
  • June 14, 2020 – Alaska Mountaineering – 12 day
  • June 27, 2020 – Yukon Backpacking – 12 Day
  • Semester Cost $8,880 + tax

Option 5

  • June 14, 2020 – Mountaineering – 12 day
  • June 27, 2020 – Yukon Backpacking – 12 Day
  • July 11, 2020 – Yukon Whitewater – 12 Day
  • Semester Cost $7,775 + tax
Contact us for details!

The vast expanse of wilderness , mighty mountain ranges, and abundant wildlife give credence to Alaska’s nickname as ‘The Last Frontier’. The IWLS Alaska semester explores this land of towering peaks, massive glaciers, extensive boreal forests, and rich marine ecosystems. Alaska is the epitome of the term ‘wilderness’.

Our expedition center in Haines, Alaska is the ideal location for accessing these amazing areas. Your 48+ day Alaska semester will include exploring remote coastlines by kayak, climbing high alpine peaks, traversing massive ice fields, white water rafting in the Yukon Territory, and trekking into the largest protected wilderness area in the world.

Sea Kayaking – The Inside Passage offers some of the best sea kayaking found in North America. An abundance of wildlife, the dramatic glacially carved fjord, and a pristine wilderness setting make this locations perfect for developing backcountry sea kayaking skills.

The sea kayaking portion of the Alaska semester is based out of Haines offering access to some of the best wilderness paddling in the world.  Renowned for its wildlife and geology, the area teems with porpoises, seals, whales and other marine mammals. Bears, moose, and other land mammals are a common sight.

Mountaineering – The mountains of Alaska have captivated the imagination of the world’s skiers and climbers for decades. The extensive glaciation, vast wilderness setting, and extreme rugged nature of Alaskan peaks are unmatched anywhere in the world. Mountaineering courses are based in Haines and Skagway, both are small Southeast Alaska communities located along the northern end of the Inside Passage.

IWLS is based in Haines, Alaska, a small town located near the top of the Inside Passage. Haines borders Glacier Bay National Park. The park and the adjacent 27 million acres, including Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, comprise the largest protected wilderness area in the world. It is an extremely jagged and glaciated mountain landscape that includes the world’s largest non-polar ice caps, pristine fjords, and wilderness rivers. Peak elevations in this region range up to 20,000 feet.  Our expedition center will be your “home base” for the duration of your Alaska semester.

Backpacking & Whitewater Programs – Taught in the Yukon Territory, this portion of the semester features whitewater rafting on the Tatshenshini River, a Class III run, where you’ll get raft guiding and swift water rescue certifications. Dressed in dry suits, you’ll learn how to swim through rapids, paddle captain a raft and use safety equipment for extracting rafts and people from hazards. Then you’ll put these skills to use, descending any number of rivers in the Yukon, including the Hess River and the Primrose River. These premier wilderness rivers make this course a substantial expedition into some of the wildest country complete with abundant wildlife and class IV rapids.

The backpacking portion of the course visits the myriad terrains of the boreal forests and alpine country of Yukon’s interior. Navigation, risk management and backcountry skills will be used while traveling across rocky alpine terrain, hiking up glaciated river drainages and selecting camp sites alongside lakes, rivers and ridges.

After each course  you will have a few days to unpack, clean up, reconnect with your friends and family, and prepare for the next portion of the program.

If your first aid isn’t current, consider adding our 10-day Wilderness First Responder course to your Alaska semester. This course is available for additional university credit and is the minimum standard for instructors and guides in the outdoor industry.

Upon completion of your Alaska semester, you will be a competent and confident leader in a variety of terrains and techniques. Qualified students may have the opportunity for employment as a guide or instructor with IWLS.

THE INSTRUCTORS AND GUIDES OF IWLS are widely recognized as some of the very best in their field and have practical leadership experience from around the globe. They are well trained and have an uncommon enthusiasm for sharing their skill and knowledge, borne out of a passion for outdoor exploration.

The International Wilderness Leadership Schools’ educational model nurtures leadership development and creates an awareness of the guiding mentality that is essential for leading safe, fun adventures in the mountains. The combination of technical skills training, experiential education and practical leadership experience make the IWLS curriculum world class.

THE IWLS GENERAL CURRICULUM outlines the essential components for effective outdoor leadership. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Equipment/Clothing Selection and Use: You’ll learn to choose the right gear for the correct application, whether enjoying a sunny afternoon on a snow slope or trekking through a tropical rainforest.
  • Leadership: You’ll have the opportunity to lead the group in a variety of activities and objectives.
  • Environmental Ethics: As adventurers in some of the most pristine environments on the planet, it is our duty to respect the natural landscape. All of our courses practice and teach Leave No Trace® principles.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Safety is always the #1 consideration. As the course progresses, you’ll develop an awareness to appropriately asses risk and make safe decisions.
  • Wilderness Emergency Procedures and Treatment: Learn how to effectively manage safe, efficient, and timely backcountry rescues.

IWLS KAYAKING CURRICULUM is oriented to providing students with a solid skill set of paddling techniques to be safe and confident in a coastal environment. Here are a few of the topics students will learn on the course.

  • Braces: Paddling in rough conditions requires solid bracing skills. We’ll learn and practice the low brace, high brace and sculling brace in a fun, controlled environment.
  • Rescues: What happens when you’re paddling with clients in the frigid waters of Southeast Alaska and a boat capsizes? We’ll learn everything from the paddle-float rescue to the assisted bow rescue to kayak rolling.
  • Towing: Whether you are pulling an injured kayaker away from booming surf or lending a helping hand to a seasick client, you’ll learn the finer points of a towing system and the criteria for towing.
  • Tides and Currents: Southeast Alaska is home to some of the largest tidal changes in North America. We’ll learn about tide charts, the”Rule of 12’s”, and how to identify and avoid strong currents.

IWLS MOUNTAINEERING CURRICULUM is built from countless expeditions in Alaska and around the world. You’ll learn how to be a competent and proficient mountaineer in a variety of different environments. Below are some topics we’ll cover.

  • Self-Arrest: What happens if you fall on a steep now slope? Learn, through hands on experience, how to stop a fall quickly and efficiently.
  • Anchors: Anchor building is a fun, yet intricate subject. We’ll examine single, double, triple and complex anchors, and their different applications. Learn how to place anchors in snow, rock, and ice.
  • Crevasse Rescue: Traveling in glaciated terrain requires that every member of the team be proficient in crevasse rescue. We’ll learn how to get a team mate out of a crevasse quickly and efficiently.
  • Technical Climbing: Rock climbing, ice climbing and steep snow climbing are all included in the IWLS’ curriculum.

-Ted Roxbury

IWLS AVALANCHE CURRICULUM is a nationally recognized progression of material that prepares students to be safe backcountry travelers.

  • Avalanche Characteristics: We’ll examine loose snow, wet snow, soft slab, and hard slab avalanches along with some potential triggers. You’ll learn the definition of terms such as stauchwall, alpha angle, and bed surface.
  • Snow Stability Evaluation: Is this snow capable of avalanching? Learn tests such as compression test and rutschblock test that will help you evaluate layers within the snowpack. Develop your documentation skills for accurate recording and analysis of information.
  • Safe Winter Travel: As a group, we will travel safely through avalanche terrain. Considerations will include cornices, equipment selection, route finding, campsite selection, and effective communication.
  • Avalanche Rescue: Someone buried in an avalanche has an 87% chance of survival if found within the first fifteen minutes. We’ll practice using probes, beacons, and effective search patterns in order to quickly and efficiently find a buried person.

IWLS BACKPACKING & RIVER SKILLS CURRICULUM prepares students for exploration into remote, backcountry settings. Here are some points we’ll cover on your course:

  • Swiftwater Rescue: You’ll learn the skills necessary to descend a river safely and how to correct things if problems occur. From learning how to pluck swimmers from rapids to righting flipped rafts, this comprehensive course sets the standard for river rescue.
  • Stoves and Campfires: The ability to repair a broken stove, make an emergency fire after being submerged in an icy river, and melt snow efficiently for water are key components for leading a group in the wilderness.
  • River and Stream Crossings: In river crossings, attention to detail and safety are #1. You’ll learn and practice safe techniques for wading across a small stream or doing a Tyrolean traverse across a raging river.
  • Geology: From plate tectonics to granitic batholiths, you’ll learn the history of the land you are exploring and how these forces create and influence the environment around you.

CERTIFICATIONS Upon completion of the semester, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

ACA Certificates of Completion
American Canoe Association


_ACA Assessment Levels 1-5
American Canoe Association


Level 1 Avalanche Certification*
International Wilderness Leadership School


Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Level 1
Rescue III International

Swift Water Rescue Technician
International Wilderness Leadership School

Guide Training Certificates of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School

*Dependent on weather and season

DATES & PRICES Please see our schedule for current dates and price information.