Participation fund aims to help lower-income students enjoy the outdoors

Participation fund aims to help lower-income students enjoy the outdoors

Nearly 19 percent of non-outdoor participants ages 6 and up said they don’t engage with outdoor recreation activities because the equipment is “too expensive,” according to the 2017 Outdoor Participation Report.  

With the price of tuition, textbooks, housing and other expenses, the cost of a trip could be the last thing on a student’s mind. But the Outdoor Program’s Participation Fund at Westminster College looks to change that by working with students who love nature and the outdoors but may not have the financial resources to embark on a trip.

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Student mountain bikers say e-bikes should be allowed on non-motorized trails

Student mountain bikers say e-bikes should be allowed on non-motorized trails

E-bikes are one of the newest sources of controversy in the mountain bike community today because some people see them as motorcycles and others say they’re still bikes. But students at Westminster College said e-bikes may have a bad reputation but should still be allowed on non-motorized trails.

E-bikes are just like normal bicycles but with an electric motor added to make pedaling easier, and — in some cases — completely unnecessary.

That means they’re “often considered cheating by traditional mountain bikers because of the assistance the motor gives when climbing, and the ability to travel faster,” wrote Travis Poulin in an article for Outdoor Magazine.

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The Forum’s guide to taking your education outside

The Forum’s guide to taking your education outside

Ever dream of spending the day outside, breathing fresh air and getting school credit at the same time? If so, Westminster College’s Outdoor Education and Leadership major and minor have skills classes open to all students, regardless of major or outdoor experience, that provide those opportunities.

For students preparing to register for spring semester, The Forum combed through the college’s course offerings to find alternative ways they can earn credits toward graduation while having fun and learning new skills.

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Cracks dividing climbing culture

Cracks dividing climbing culture

Some students at Westminster College said Bishop’s Wall, located in the Health, Wellness and Athletics Center, can be an intimidating place to begin climbing.

Newcomers said the wall is often full of better climbers and groups of people who already know each other. And when people aren't climbing, they’re situated on one bench facing the wall — watching whoever is climbing at the time.

“My biggest fear with trying climbing is that I won’t be good enough,” said Maddy Dobkin, a senior public health major. “I’m always worried that there will be a pro there and I’ll feel insecure about starting.”

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Packrafting eases access to remote locations for Westminster students

Packrafting eases access to remote locations for Westminster students

In 2011, Westminster College became the first college or university in the lower 48 states to have a fleet of packrafts — a way to maximize space in the Outdoor Program’s small, 35 foot long, 8 foot high and 15 foot wide office.

“We are sort of stuffed in a few different closets here on campus,” said Tiana White, director of the Outdoor Program.

Packrafts are one-person inflatable boats that resemble small kayaks or duckies, but because they weigh just four to five pounds they take up less space and allow the user to access locations a large raft or hardshell kayak could not. They take up a fraction of the space larger rafts or hardshell kayaks do because they are about the size of a rolled-up sleeping bag and can fit in a person’s backpack when deflated.

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Outdoor Experience orientation may ease incoming students’ transition to college

Outdoor Experience orientation may ease incoming students’ transition to college

Westminster College’s Outdoor Experience orientation may give first-year students the opportunity to make friends, overcome fears and get outside before classes start.

It may also help retention. Statistics for 2015 from the Outdoor Program show 89 percent of students who attended Outdoor Experience orientation returned their second year, compared to the college average of 82 percent.

“To go on a trip with a bunch of people who are in the same stage of life as you with all the same uncertainties is really nice,” said Bridger Layton, a senior Outdoor Experience leader who participated in the trip his first year of college. “You’ve got this perfect setting to start making new friends and connections. Then, when you get back to campus when everyone else is trying to connect with people and trying to make new friends, you’ve already got some familiar faces.”

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Westminster aims to reduce financial barriers to outdoor recreation

Westminster aims to reduce financial barriers to outdoor recreation

Outdoor sports and recreation are often known for being expensive—a stigma Westminster College's Outdoor Program is working to break. 

The Outdoor Program offers activities ranging from climbing in Moab to backpacking through the Uinta mountains. The trips are typically all-inclusive and affordable for college students, according to those involved with the program. 

“It has been a goal of many of the outdoor groups in the United States to make the outdoors more accessible to groups that may or may not have had those privileges,” said Tyler Price, a senior at Westminster College studying environmental science and outdoor education and leadership. 

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Technology and physical activities collide: the good, the bad and the ugly

Technology and physical activities collide: the good, the bad and the ugly

Innovations in software, hardware and application have led technology to root itself within natural things like the outdoors and physical activity, which has had both positive and negative effects on its users

Individuals in these fields use technology for a variety of purposes—to enhance their career, personal wellness or connection with others—but they say each use is full of some good, some bad and some ugly.

Leven's take on technology

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Living outside Westminster's 'ski culture'

Living outside Westminster's 'ski culture'

It’s no secret that many Westminster College students are avid skiers and snowboarders. But for those students who don't participate in the college's ski and snowboard culture, connecting with their peers can sometimes feel difficult.

Bailey Sill, a sophomore dance major, has never skied before and said she feels that creates a social disadvantage.

“You feel left out because everybody’s first question is, ‘What’s your major?’ and then right afterwards, ‘Do you ski?’” Sill said.

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Westminster and University of Utah outdoor communities wrestle with public land issues

Westminster and University of Utah outdoor communities wrestle with public land issues

Some members of the outdoor communities at Westminster College and the University of Utah feel the state’s attempts at a public lands resolution could end up causing more harm than good, potentially damaging both the environment and Native American history.

Before former President Barack Obama left office, he declared Bears Ears in southeastern Utah a national monument—a polarizing decision that Utah's politicians have largely opposed, citing federal overreach.

To fight the designation, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution to petition President Donald Trump to rescind the national monument, which led the Outdoor Industry Association to leave Utah in protest of the state's public lands policies.

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Outdoors Program emphasizes student-led trips

Outdoors Program emphasizes student-led trips

Westminster College's Outdoor Program employs students to lead its trips—an aspect of the program that is uncommon among outdoor recreation programs at other colleges across the country.

The program is designed to give students the opportunity to learn and lead in the field. Students with any level of experience are welcome to become trip leaders, with certifications preferred but not required, according to Tiana White, director of the Outdoor Program.

“Most of our trips for the Outdoor Program are student led," White said. "Our student leaders are all in different stages of developing their leadership. Some people just started [and] some people have been doing it for years. And usually on any one trip, there is a combination of people.”

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Westminster's winter athletes retire from competitive skiing and snowboarding: some by choice, others by fate

Westminster's winter athletes retire from competitive skiing and snowboarding: some by choice, others by fate

Westminster College had 23 students compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but many other skiers and snowboarders have retired from competition altogether since coming to college. 

Many factors contribute to winter athletes’ decision to leave the competitive ski and snowboard scenes. Some athletes leave by choice and others leave by fate. 

Jess Breda, a junior neuroscience major and chemistry minor, began skiing in a competitive program when she was 10 years old and stopped only after injuring herself in 2013. 

“I was training for my first Olympic qualifier in 2013 and unfortunately took a bad fall and hit my head,” Breda said. “I didn’t think it was that bad of a concussion, but eventually all of the symptoms displayed themselves.” 

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Mountain Accord seeks student input for future of Central Wasatch Mountains

Mountain Accord seeks student input for future of Central Wasatch Mountains

Many students at Westminster College enjoy recreational activities in the Central Wasatch Mountains but some aren't aware of the Mountain Accord and how the future planning will affect transportation, resources and recreation in the range.  

According to Mountain Accord's website, planning will benefit current and future generations by establishing an in-depth framework that provides long-term protection of the region’s water, lands, recreational opportunities and economic prosperity.  

Despite the impact Mountain Accord would have on the Wasatch, not all students are aware of what the agreement does to their backyard. 

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Powder days affect students’ schoolwork

Powder days affect students’ schoolwork

For some students at Westminster College, the desire to ski prioritizes what classes they register for. Those students who look forward to skiing “the greatest snow on earth” said they try to stack their classes to create school-free days.

“During the winter semester, I stack my schedule two days a week,” said Aiden Ulrich, a 20-year-old communication major. “I’m going [to have classes] on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 in the morning to seven at night.”

Students who spend half the year thinking of snow said the process of picking classes is important. Taking fewer classes and stacking them on one day helps them spend more time in the mountains while still getting good grades.

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After injuries, Westminster's climbing wall plans to improve its facilities

After injuries, Westminster's climbing wall plans to improve its facilities

Staff at the climbing wall located in Westminster College's Health, Wellness and Athletic Center, known as Bishop’s Wall, look to improve facilities after some students have been injured.  

Bishop’s Wall is always improving, said Josh Schmidt, a senior biology major and the wall's staff supervisor. The newest area of improvement at Bishop’s Wall is its bouldering pads. The college is looking into purchasing new pads that would provide more protection from injuries than the current foam-composite flooring with additional smaller pads on top, according to Westminster's Outdoor Recreation Coordinator Andy Tankersley.  

Bouldering is a style of climbing where a climber ascends the wall a short distance—around 10 feet at Bishop’s Wall, according to Schmidt. If a climber falls while ascending or lets go at the top, the individual lands on a foam pad.  

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Some Westminster skiers and snowboarders lack backcountry knowledge

Some Westminster skiers and snowboarders lack backcountry knowledge

Utah avalanches have killed 116 skiers and snowboarders since 1958—an average of two deaths per year. Around 20 percent of those killed in avalanches are between the ages of 18 and 25—the typical age of a traditional college student. 

Many students are drawn to Westminster College because of its proximity to the mountains but are unaware of the dangers that come with the winter sports. 

“A lot of students that come here from the East coast don’t understand the danger of backcountry skiing [and snowboarding],” said Jeremy Collett, a junior and backcountry snowboarder from Maine. “My first year here, my friend thought avalanches were a myth.”

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New Outdoor Recreation major to offer experience-based curriculum

New Outdoor Recreation major to offer experience-based curriculum

Many Westminster College students come to Utah for the unique outdoor experience both the state and the college have to offer. Due to the popularity of Westminster’s outdoor education and leadership minor, the college is tentatively offering the program as a major beginning in the fall 2017 semester.

“[Environmental education] is an increasingly viable field with more and more people wanting to get outside,” said Tiana White, the assistant director of outdoor programs, fitness, wellness and recreation. “There will still be an outdoor education leadership minor. It is really popular because it takes full advantage of our location, so we decided to make it a major.”

White said one of the highlights of the major is the chance for students to spend an immersive semester out in the field.

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Small spaces, great outdoors

Small spaces, great outdoors

One of the most popular programs on campus operates in a space no larger than a family food storage area.

Located in the basement of the Health, Wellness, and Athletics Center (HWAC), Westminster College’s Outdoor Recreation Program helps students explore the vast Utah landscape—all from the confines of a 35 foot long, 8 foot high and 15 foot wide storage space.

“We’re packed to the gills,” said Tiana White, director of the Outdoor Recreation Program.  “There’s something in every little nook and cranny; it becomes challenging when we can’t spread out to the gym.”

Camping cookware fills the east wall of the room, while the caged off west wall contains camping backpacks, tents and survival equipment. A cramped desk is where the director and assistants manage the program.

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Westminster’s outdoor women

Westminster’s outdoor women

In a world that’s traditionally been dominated by men, Westminster acts as a refuge for women in the world of outdoor recreation and showcases how quickly the field is changing.

“Professionally, I find myself working with very few women,” said Tiana White, director of Westminster’s Outdoor Recreation Program. “I think Westminster is actually a really cool exception, and we have a lot of women instructors in our program—a lot of female trip leaders and staff. At Westminster, we’re in a little bit of a bubble. It feels really awesome to be a woman involved in the outdoors.”

White said this could be because so many students are drawn to Westminster due to the outdoor recreation opportunities Utah provides, but she said that gender equity isn’t the case everywhere.

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Students fly high at the 2016 Freestyle Skiing World Cup

Students fly high at the 2016 Freestyle Skiing World Cup

Several Westminster students showcased their alpine aerial talents at Deer Valley during the 2016 Visa Freestyle Skiing World Cup (FIS World Cup). 

The competition kicked off on Feb. 3 with fireworks and a concert. The event continued with three days of aerial competitions, single and dual mogul races, food, vendors and an afternoon tribute dedicated to the late Stein Eriksen, a pioneer of aerial skiing who helped create the Park City resort and worked as director of skiing at Deer Valley for much of his life.

U.S. Freestyle Ski Team athletes Alex Bowen, Avery Driscoll and Madison Olsen all competed in the aerial skiing events that took place Feb. 4–5.

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