One organization I’ve become very involved with over the past few years the Outdoor Council of Canada . After our trip to Aster Lake I realized that an upgrade to my outdoor skills was in order and decided to sign up for the Outdoor Field Leader (Hiking) course offered by the University of Calgary’s Outdoor Center.
That class was my first introduction to the OCC and I found that their vision of a Canada that is confident and capable of getting active in the outdoors really spoke to me. I completed my Field Leader (Hiking) certification, and within several months decided to join the board.
The event that would lead to the eventual creation of the OCC occurred in 2003 when a tragic avalanche killed 7 high school students during a backcountry ski trip in Glacier National Park (10 years later). The aftermath of this accident sent shockwaves through outdoor community. Many school districts cancelled their outdoor programs in response and while there was a definite need to improve standards and training there was a real fear that school boards, insurance companies, and the parks would over rotate and implement onerous rules that would all but put an end to outdoor education in our schools. So in 2008, a group of outdoor leaders representing K-12, universities, summer camps, outdoor education, certification bodies, land managers and outdoor enthusiasts came together in Calgary to discuss these challenges and propose solutions. The result was the OCC.
One observation concerned a gap which existed around educating and certifying outdoor leaders. Today (as then), the gold standard of outdoor leadership certification in Canada is the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). They provide a globally recognized series of certifications in Mountaineering, Climbing, Skiing and Hiking. While a word class program, these certifications are targeted towards professional guides and those developing careers in the outdoor industry. For teachers, hiking clubs, and Scout groups, these certifications were simply overkill (and as one would expect they required a substantial investment of time and effort to earn). In 2010 the 2 day Field Leader (Hiking) certification was introduced to give a solid grounding in planning, risk management, group dynamics and how to deliver safe, high quality outdoor events. Since then over 1200 Canadian’s have been certified and new courses have been introduced covering Paddling, Equine, Winter, Map & Compass, and Overnight activities.
Today the OCC is working to expand their impact, supporting research on the economic benefits of outdoor activity, lobbying governments to support the outdoor spaces we love and working with school boards to develop robust and effective risk mitigation models allowing them to get more kids outdoors.
I strongly encourage you to check out the OCC, become a member, and check out the great courses they offer across the county.