Snow, Ice and Safety: Outdoor Leadership Experience Team Geared up for Winter

Winter may have taken its time coming to us this season, but when it did finally land with the first big blast of white and cold, our staff team in the Outdoor Leadership (OLE) was, as always, prepared.

Home for our students in Stage 1 at this time of year is in the Almaguin Highlands, outside of Algonquin Park.

The OLE team in the woods is supported and supplied by our base headquarters on the outskirts of Sundridge, Ontario.

For a glimpse of our prep space there, and for a peak into one of our hot-tents, check out the short video of OLE Program Coordinator Tony Seward.

In the winter wilderness therapy season, daily wood gathering is key. “We’ve been running the stoves in our canvas tents, there are three and keeping them going is a group team-building task,” said Jake MacPherson, PRI’s Wilderness Program Manager.  “The terrain is a lot of up and down, deciduous forest with a bit of pine mixed in,” said Jake. “The snow has been soft and fluffy, powdery, so we’ve been doing lots of snowshoeing.”

See Jake and a glimpse of our OLE program:

The full OLE staff and management team recently completed a two-day intensive to complete/renew their ice-safety and rescue certification with Boreal River Rescue.

“We all trained in how to do proper ice rescues and how to utilize safe travel skills in the winter,” said Jake.

Wearing full submersion suits, the staff team practiced experiential skills building in self-rescue and rescuing others who fall through the ice – as well as valuable knowledge to assess ice conditions to work and lead safely in winter wilderness conditions.

“The staff out here are hardworking, extremely caring, and extremely patient, sometimes it gets chaotic out here.  There’s a lot of different layers to this,” said Jake. “You’re looking after the students. You’re looking after group dynamics and individual processes but you also have to worry about safety and everything else you have to consider on a wilderness trip. It’s also extremely challenging, in a good way.  I’ve grown so much here and I can point to all of my staff team and say the same thing.”