Professional Development

We pack more into a semester

More experiences than you could have on your own. More access to the wild places of this country. More opportunities to lead others, grow both personally and in your technical skill sets and more opportunities to learn from those who have done what you desire to do. All at a lower cost and in less time than it would take for you to do this on your own.

Developing The Guide Mindset

The guide mindset is a way of thinking characterized by ongoing mental evaluation of risk management, assessing terrain, caring for clients, balancing goals versus potential risks and applying critical thinking skills across activities. Guiding you to develop this mindset is arguably the most valuable benefit of our semesters.

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adventure picture
adventure picture

Gaining Technical Skills

Participants learn new technical skills across various disciplines, systematically practice those skills and ultimately apply them in real world situations. To ensure a high level of knowledge retention, students’ skills and performance will be assessed regularly by instructors and during certification exams.

Ministry Focus

As Christians, the mission field is everywhere. Whether that is the middle of a city, the top of a mountain or the bottom of a canyon. Through this program we seek to raise up qualified and capable Christian men and women to live in vocational ministry in the outdoor industry. You have a passion for the outdoors and a desire to work in God’s creation for a reason. Paul was a tentmaker by trade, but his work was missions. As Christians, saved by God’s grace, we have a responsibility to be missionaries in the places God takes us, and that includes the outdoors.

Learning Instructional Technique

It is one thing to learn technical skills, but it is another to be able to break those skills down and teach them to novices. Throughout our semesters we help students transform into teachers by incorporating multiple opportunities for participants to teach others and receive constructive feedback. We want students to leave this program more than just qualified outdoor recreationalists; we equip them to be instructors, educators and guides.

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Semester Components

Throughout our semesters participants will learn risk evaluation and management, technical skills, and the appropriate application of those skills. This is an ongoing process that is reflected in all the various learning components undertaken throughout our semesters.

Whitewater Rafting Guide School - This section includes extensive time on the river guiding technical class II-III rapids, swiftwater rescue training, an overnight commercial river trip, and experience packing and rowing gear boats.

Backpacking - Expedition style backpacking trips where students learn first hand about route selection, campsite selection, backpacking specific information and considerations, bulk ration food planning, group and time management on trail, and gain experience guiding their peers under instructor supervision.

Canyoneering - Multiple days spent descending technical slot canyons where participants will learn slot canyon specific technical skills and anchoring. We will also discuss Canyoneering specific hazards and considerations.

Rock Climbing - Learn traditional climbing from the ground up during our intensive climbing ground school. After students demonstrate appropriate proficiency in their understanding of technical skills they are sequenced through mock leading in a top rope setting. After completing a number of practice leads students are moved on to leading traditional climbs of appropriate difficulty grades.

Navigational Skills - Participants learn about topographical maps, how they are constructed, and how to use them. We will also discuss the UTM coordinate system, the use of GPS devices and special considerations when using a map and GPS device together. The use of compasses, both with maps and on their own will also be covered in this section.

Trip Planning - In this phase students will work together to create trip objectives, map route options, communicate with appropriate land managers to determine what conditions to expect in the field, research any location specific regulations, and be shown available resources to be used in mapping routes, navigating, and weather forecasting.

Instructional Technique Development - Participants are given multiple opportunities to teach their peers, as well as outside individuals, during our semesters. After these opportunities students will receive both peer and instructor feedback on their teaching performance. Additionally, students will learn about and create simple lesson plans prior to delivering their teaching topics and lessons. This will enable participants in our semester to grow in their abilities as instructors and educators in the outdoor industry.

What are the differences between the Fall and Spring Semester?

The Fall and Spring semester are composed of the same major training’s, types of trips, and certifications. They also equally share an emphasis on the development of the guide mindset, instructional skill, and experience building. They will differ in various ways such as; trip locations, conditions during specific trainings, and weather. The choice of semester usually becomes a question of what semester works best with your schedule.

Fall Semester


  • Great opportunity for college students graduating in May to get experience, training, and certifications before seeking a career in the outdoor industry.
  • Backpacking will be done at higher elevation in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.
  • Perfect for graduating high school students to get experience and training, prior to starting college, which can open up great summer job possibilities.
  • Warmer weather in Northern New Mexico where the program is based.
  • College credit is available making it a viable option for current college students.

Spring Semester


  • Great opportunity for college students graduating in December to get experience, training, and certifications before seeking a career in the outdoor industry.
  • Course ends closer to the beginning of the summer guiding season when employers are looking for guides.
  • Higher flow levels on the Rio Grande lead to a more forgiving environment when learning whitewater rafting.
  • College credit is available making it a viable option for current college students.


  • Lower flow levels on the Rio Grande lead to a more technical style of whitewater rafting and smaller water.
  • Course ends farther from the beginning of the summer guiding season.


  • Colder and wetter weather in Northern New Mexico where the program is based.

Wilderness Professional Semester Dates & Rates

Fall Semester: August - November, 2018

Program Tuition: $9,000

Spring Semester: January - May, 2018

Program Tuition: $8,000

Click here for more details.

Wilderness Director