Building an Outdoor Foundation Through FOOT

Before coming to Colorado College, I had never met someone who had gone backpacking. I had no idea NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) or HMI (High Mountain Institute) existed. I had been car camping, and I thought that was as extreme as it got. When I arrived on campus, this illusion changed. During my Priddy trip, I realized how woefully behind I was when it came to truly experiencing the outdoors as fellow trippees discussed the adventures they had gone on and the experiences they had had. I felt that I could not become truly involved in the outdoor culture surrounding CC when I couldn’t even understand the jargon many students use. Other classmates expressed similar concerns. 

Luckily, the ORC exists. The Outdoor Recreation Committee strives to allow any and all students of Colorado College to explore and enjoy the outdoors. This process begins when every incoming first-year arrives on campus and is sent out a few days later on a Priddy trip, meant to kick-start the development of their sense of place and community. Many students are placed in situations that are new and different, forcing them to develop new skills and consider new ways of looking at the world. Trippees learn everything from how to put a sleeping bag back in a stuff sack, to how to cook on a Whisper Lite stove. For some, the trip is a full introduction to camping.

Many first-years then continue on and participate in a FOOT trip during First Block break. Standing for First-year Outdoor Orientation Trip, FOOT trips are typically backpacking-focused, though there is also a rafting trip this year. FOOT trips provide an opportunity for first-years to learn and experience new things, while sharing what they already know. This creates a base of knowledge for the new class to work from as they move through the ORC and the outdoor community. This knowledge base greatly increases the chances that, on any given trip, at least a few of the trippees will have some idea of what is happening. In turn, this makes future trips much easier to execute.

FOOT trips also serve as a microcosm of ORC culture where trippees act as both students and teachers, collaborating as they work to make the trips a great experience. This collaboration is reflected in ORC leader trainings where everyone contributes from their own experience. Leaders with less of a background in the outdoors offer perspective and insight on how to make trips more approachable and inclusive for less-experienced trippees. Leaders with more experience teach skills and offer their expertise. This approach promotes inclusivity. Regardless of where you are coming from, you have something to contribute.

The ORC allows students with no prior outdoor knowledge to delve into the outdoors and learn the skills they need so they can eventually create trips of their own. The ORC asks that participants engage with and help each other, because everyone knows something of value. By providing scholarships and reasonable prices for gear rentals, the ORC aims to reduce the financial burden that playing in the outdoors can present, thus furthering their goal to be come more inclusive. They know you’ve got to start somewhere, and they’re there to help when you do. First-years: sign up for FOOT and see where it takes you.

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