What Makes IWLS A World-Class Outdoor School?

At IWLS, we derive our passion, our professionalism, and our leadership from the collective experience of our directors, instructors, support staff, and administrative team. Our variety of programs, highly-developed curriculum, educational model, and dedication to the highest standards make our courses the best 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 collective decades of experience, paired 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. Our guides’ dedication ensures that each student will receive an educational experience that will exceed their expectations!

In addition to the hard technical skills, IWLS instructors are experts in the critical soft skills of risk management, client care, and group dynamics. They will not only implement and exemplify these skills in every course, but will also work to impart this judgment into each student’s decision making process.

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 66 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 defining standard in the field of outdoor leadership education. A low instructor-to-student ratio supports an active learning process, whether you are stepping into leadership roles or practicing technical skills.

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 30 years of operating courses around the world, providing us with a top-notch safety record as. We owe this to the professionalism, risk management experience, and competency of the staff of IWLS and Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School, Inc. (AMGCSI). Since the International Wilderness Leadership School and AMGCSI family of companies safely take over 60,000 guests annually on trips and courses ranging from rock climbing and sea kayaking, to helicopter skiing and whitewater rafting, we are in a unique position to present risk management courses and provide consulting services for other professional outdoor industry and emergency service partners.

IWLS plays a leading role in industry risk management practices and supports incident response efforts around the world. IWLS was the first leadership program to carry satellite phones on all courses, and the first wilderness school to parry pulse oximeters on high-altitude treks and climbs. In addition to using satellite phones, IWLS maintains tight communication with courses in the field through SPOT satellite messengers, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBS), and ground-to-air radios. We continue to raise the standard for outdoor leaders in regards to first aid training, risk management, and incident response, and teach risk management and emergency protocols on all of our courses.

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, while also accounting for the safety of each individual. 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.

SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITMENT: As safety and high standards dictate our professional approach to outdoor leadership and education, we feel strongly that outdoor professionals should adhere to a strict standard of skills and safety. 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 and prove your level of experience. 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.

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 stays with IWLS students beyond our courses.

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