PA Wilds Outdoor Industry Exploration Series: Outdoor Recreation Roundup starts March 5th!
BY ALLEGHENY OUTFITTERS
The PA Wilds Outdoor Recreation Industry Exploration series is geared toward freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors (in Warren and McKean counties) interested in working in the region’s growing outdoor recreation industry, those interested in professional backpacking, climbing, and kayak instruction, or those interested in learning more about local history, geography, health and safety, and ecosystems through a hands-on experience dabbling in each of the three disciplines.
The outdoor recreation economy is an $887 billion annual industry in the United States, accounting for more than 7.6 million jobs in fields that include everything from guide and outfitting services to developing and manufacturing outdoor products such as kayaks, backpacks, tents and cook stoves. Public lands are at the heart of the outdoor recreation economy. For the last 15 years, local partners from the public and private sectors have been working to grow this sector of the economy in the Pennsylvania Wilds. The region is uniquely positioned to do this as it is home to more than 2 million acres of public land – more than Yellowstone National Park — and 16,000 miles of waterways.
Outfitters and guides are a linchpin businesses in this economic development effort. They help visitors safely access and experience the region’s biggest draw — its public lands and waterways — often passing their foot traffic to other businesses such as restaurants, lodges and retail stores, which helps these businesses grow and rural communities thrive.
Just as in the other vibrant niche industries, not just anyone can start or buy and operate a successful outfitting business. Not only are these lifestyle businesses they are also highly technical, requiring a deep understanding of the activities and gear at hand, the landscape on which these things are operated and the customer service and risk assessments that go with each.
The PA Wilds Outdoor Industry Exploration Series helps support and grow the outfitter and guide sector in the Pennsylvania Wilds by building awareness for the industry among the next generation, who may want to work at, start or one day purchase and operate such a business. At the very least, students will get a better understanding for the unique role such businesses play in their communities, the importance of safety and preparation on wilderness trips, and stewardship of the natural resources utilized.
What is the time commitment for this course?
This course is open to a maximum of eight participants, offering a low instructor/student ratio for a better learning environment. Our instructors have experience in each discipline, and hold relevant certifications. (American Canoe Association (ACA) Level I and II Kayak Instructor and Leave No Trace Master Educator.) Participants can expect a relaxed, professional atmosphere that encourages questions and open conversation, while covering a lot of ground over its duration.
What topics will be discussed during this course?
A complete schedule will be sent one week prior to course start date. Each class will have breaks where we’ll cover a 10-minute interactive discussion about an industry topic. Topics may include: Challenges to operating an outfitter/guide/gym business; Age, skills, certifications and other requirements for getting hired at an outfitting/guide/gym operation; Pay and perks of working in the industry; How each reaches customers; Importance of Stewardship/real life ways we engage in this; Ways we impress the importance of safety on customers; And how our company passes foot traffic to other businesses.
We’ve broken down each of the three disciplines:
Our backpacking session will cover everything from choosing a trail to necessary gear to get out there. Topics include how to use maps to plan – identifying shelters, campsites, water sources, resupply points; and discuss transportation to and from the trail. We’ll review trail markings, and discuss basics of a first aid kit and how to avoid having to use one. Discuss a gear list including the big four items: shelter, pack, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and learn how to properly pack them. Discussions will be had about where to obtain water and learn how to make water drinkable, to include water filtration systems, chemical treatment, UV treatment and boiling parameters. We’ll cover the seven Leave No Trace principles and how to apply them to the trail. The backpacking portion will end with a hike around downtown Warren with packs, utilizing map and compass.
This class will introduce participants to the fantastic and diverse world of recreational climbing. Topics include proper utilization of an indoor climbing facility, climbing wall safety, effective climbing movements, wellness and recreation activities, a general history of rock climbing, and career opportunities. After completing the course, students will be able to understand: basic rock climbing terminology; the difference between climbing grading scales; the difference between climbing disciplines, styles and ascent types; characteristics of various climbing terrain (features/rock types); and the health and wellness benefits of climbing. Students will also be able to identify and demonstrate: basic hold types; climbing techniques; the proper use of safety equipment, knots, communication; and techniques necessary for bouldering and top rope climbing indoors.
This course will give participants an in-depth overview of kayaking. We’ll tackle a complete breakdown of personal equipment including basic terminology and different types of kayaks, paddles, along with all types of Personal Flotation Devices (PFD), properly fitting them, and laws and regulations pertaining to their use on the federal and state levels. We’ll talk about land and water etiquette, and learn about the seven Leave No Trace principles and how to apply them to the water.
We’ll identify and discuss water monitoring tools available on our local waterways, covering US Geological Survey (USGS) water level monitoring devices and Kinzua Dam outflow. We’ll utilize online resources to monitor water levels in real-time and extended forecast. We’ll discuss how these levels affect the paddling experience, while also discussing weather, wind, and water.
Utilizing our “river in a bag”, we’ll have a hands-on discussion covering how water reacts to river features (downstream and upstream V, eddy, eddy lines, hydraulics, holes, seams and standing waves, etc); and hazards – both natural (sweepers, deadheads, strainers), and man-made (bridges, low-head dams). We’ll focus on how these affect the paddling experience and how they change at different water levels.
The kayaking portion of our session will end with on-water kayak training. We’ll cover the importance of knowing your kayaks features, and launching/landing solo from land and dock. Strokes we’ll learn include forward, back, draw, sculling draw, sweep, reverse sweep, rudder and low brace. Maneuvers include spin, abeam, forward and stopping. We’ll be spending most of our on-water time learning technique, breaking it up with a few games to help fine tune your form. On-water training will eventually take us to paddle safety signals in different scenarios, controlled capsize/wet exit, and re-entry – both solo and with a group.
(Please note, on-water time is limited. Our goal is to take our time and cover a lot of ground. Please plan to arrive with enough time to change if needed, before class start time.)
Do you need to have outdoor experience to sign up?
You do not need prior experience to sign up, but you must bring a willingness to learn. This series is geared toward freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in working in the region’s growing outdoor recreation industry, or those interested in learning more about local history, geography, health and safety, and ecosystems through a hands-on experience.
What equipment are you responsible for providing?
All equipment is provided.
Is there a fee?
This course is free to all participants. It is funded by generous corporate donations made possible through the Department of Community and Economic Development Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. Learn more about the Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center) state-approved Educational Improvement Organization (EIO) program offerings here.
What are the course dates and times?
There are two separate sessions this course is being offered. March 5-7th; and March 12-14th
Course Session #1:
Saturday, March 5th: Kayaking classroom portion at AO, 8:30am – 1:30pm; On-water training at Warren YMCA 2:00pm – 4:00pm; Return to AO
Sunday, March 6th: Climbing at Goat Fort Indoor Climbing Gym, 8:30am – 11:30am; Backpacking at AO, 12:30-4:30
Monday, March 7th: Climbing at Goat Fort Indoor Climbing Gym, 8:30am – 11:30am; Backpacking and Leave No Trace at AO, 12:30-4:30
Course Session #2:
Saturday, March 12th: Kayaking classroom portion at AO, 8:30am – 1:30pm; On-water training at Warren YMCA 2:00pm – 4:00pm; Return to AO
Sunday, March 13th: Climbing at Goat Fort Indoor Climbing Gym, 8:30am – 11:30am; Backpacking at AO, 12:30-4:30
Monday, March 14th: Climbing at Goat Fort Indoor Climbing Gym, 8:30am – 11:30am; Backpacking and Leave No Trace at AO, 12:30-4:30
READY TO LEARN MORE?
Get all the details, including answers to FAQs, and register here (scroll down to “How do I register”). For more, follow the Allegheny Outfitter’s Facebook page.
Information for this article was written by the staff at Allegheny Outfitters and originally published at www.AlleghenyOutfitters.com.
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