Outdoor Leadership

Emergency Rescue

Outdoor Leadership

Program Overview

Develop leadership skills that will take you to new heights.


Outdoor Leadership training is a step toward a lifestyle of adventure and learning. Through experiential learning, the Outdoor Leadership program at Columbia seeks to train people to their highest level of potential in Christian ministry, leadership, outdoor skills, and industry accreditation.

Set in the heart of the Fraser Valley, Columbia’s campus is perfectly located to provide access to the incredible opportunities for recreational adventures and experiences students require as they develop as outdoor professionals. During their time of study, students are moments away from world-class skiing/snowboarding, ski-touring, rock-climbing, mountaineering, sea kayaking, white water rafting and more.

At the center of the Outdoor Leadership program is experiential education. Experiential education, defined as "learning by doing, combined with reflection", is at the heart of the Outdoor Leadership program. Degree students will spend approximately 12 months engaged in modular skills training, field courses, internships and certification programs. This hands-on experience will ensure that graduates are fully prepared to excel in the outdoor tourism or adventure careers.


Watch Jessica's Story


Called to Lead

Jessica has a passion for people. Her infectious smile and welcoming spirit make her relatable to a variety of personality types. After contemplating nursing and other helping professions, Jessica felt called to the Outdoor Leadership program at Columbia. Here she is able to combine her love for the outdoors and her desire to help people and lead them effectively.


Watch Jessica's Story »

Sean H Alum

Meet Sean

BA Outdoor Leadership 2013
South Africa Site Leader, Outtatown

"The Outdoor Leadership program instructed me not just how to be a wilderness guide, but how to lead like Christ whatever the situation. The knowledge and practical elements within the program helped to shape my passion and competency for educating others about those things I hold dear. For that I am truly thankful."

Joel B Alum

Meet Joel

BA Outdoor Leadership 2005
Camp Operations Director

"Outdoor leadership was a transformational experience for me; not only did I learn the necessary technical skills to pursue a career in the outdoor industry, but I also learned how to lead a group in a changing environment and often in adverse conditions. Those experiences created resiliency and developed character, something that has been foundational in all areas of my life."

Certification & Technical Skills


In Canada all certifications are issued through external, national or provincial certifying bodies. Organizations do not self-certify, which keeps standards high and transferability simple between employment opportunities in Canada and abroad. Canadian certifications are regarded as having some of the highest standards in the world. During the course of the program at Columbia, students are required to complete selected certifications in our Continuing Professional Development program. These certifications are completed through, and awarded by, national certifying bodies such as the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides), the CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association), the SKGA (Sea Kayak Guides Alliance), PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), and the BCROA (British Columbia River Outfitters Association).

The Outdoor Leadership program is actively involved in the implementation of core curriculum standards for Adventure Tourism in British Columbia. Columbia is a member school of the BC Adventure Tourism Programs Articulation Committee, which is a collaborative effort of provincial and private colleges and universities, whose goal is to simplify the transfer of credit between our institutions in order to serve our students and industry better.

The following organizations support the BC Adventure Tourism Certificate Core Curriculum:

  • Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
  • Association of Canadian Sea Kayak Guides
  • Canadian Avalanche Association
  • Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC
  • Canadian Ski Guides Association
  • Sea Kayak Association of BC
  • Federation of BC Mountain Clubs
  • Recreational Canoeing Association of BC
  • Wilderness Tourism Association
  • Heli-Cat Canada

Technical Skills

The following is a breakdown of the technical skills taught in each level of the program:

Year 1

As of September 2017, incoming Outdoor Leadership students will complete the new Emergency Rescue Technician certificate in their first year. This set of courses equips students with core skills required for any type of outdoor leadership work: emergency medical response, navigation, search and rescue, radio operation, hazard and emergency management, GPS and digital mapping technology. First-year students are also introduced to technical environments: alpine backpacking, backcountry skiing/avalanche safety, and high-angle rope rescue.

Year 2

In the second year the complete fall semester is dedicated to modular skills training units where students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in professional preparation. Participants will work on rock climbing, mountaineering, rope rescue, sea kayaking and river kayaking/rafting, first aid, and swift-water rescue. At the end of this semester time has been set aside to allow students to travel and practice their skills as they prepare for the certification process of 3rd and 4th year.

Year 3

In the third year students continue to advance their skills in chosen disciplines, furthering their professional resumes. Students at this level are required to complete selected certifications, in a discipline of their choosing, in a process called Continuing Professional Development (CPD). In the spring semester students begin preparing for their field internship where they will gain work related experience in the Adventure Tourism or Outdoor Ministry sectors.

Year 4

In the fourth year students wrap up their field internships and focus on graduating with the prestigious Bachelor of Arts degree in Outdoor Leadership. This year students will again be engaged in CPD completing professional industry certifications of their choice.

Training Calendars

First Year: Fall 2017 | Winter 2018

Second Year: Fall 2017


Outdoor Leadership is a complex program that requires additional equipment and clothing. Below are the equipment, clothing and course requirements for first and second year. Please note that second year students will have the opportunity to buy used or borrow equipment from the upper-level class. A gear swap will be arranged in the spring.

Year One

Year Two

Rock & Mountain Course Requirements

  • Climbing Helmet (8 can be provided by CBC)
  • Sit harness (Adjustable leg loops & gear racking loops)
  • Belay/rappel devide; ATC type (no figure 8's)
  • Carabiners
    • 2 standard locking
    • 1 large locking (suitable for Munter hitch)
    • 1 "locksafe" 3 way locking action (for glacier travel)
  • Climbing shoes (can be rented from MEC, reserve early)
  • Chalk bag Mountaineering axe & crampons (can be rented from MEC, reserve early)
  • Mountaineering boots
    • Plastics (can be rented from MEC) or
    • Full leather (crampon compatible) are preferred
    • Leather gloves (snug fit for rope handling)
    • 5m of 1" tubular webbing
    • 10m of 7mm cord (to be cut to specified lengths on course)

River & Ocean Requirements

  • Paddling Helmet (8 can be provided by Columbia)
  • PFD (whitewater kayaking)
  • Wetsuit (farmer john/jane style)
  • Dry top (whitewater kayaking)
  • Neoprene or "fuzzy rubber" skull cap
  • Neoprene socks
  • Neoprene gloves with curved fingers, or kayaking pogies

Academic Info

Diploma in Outdoor Leadership

The two-year diploma program in Outdoor Leadership is ideal for students who want to develop the basic skills and competencies for leading others in wilderness environments and adventure sports. Students in their first year will complete the Emergency Rescue Technician certificate, which provides training in emergency medical response, search and rescue operations, emergency management, first aid, land navigation, wilderness travel, rope rescue, avalanche safety and risk management. Additionally, students will be introduced to alpine backpacking as well as winter travel and camping. In their second year students will receive training in rock climbing, mountaineering, ocean and river kayaking,and group management. Throughout this training students will also take courses that challenge and foster growth in their spiritual lives. Graduates have gone on to pursue a degree in Outdoor Leadership at Columbia or have secured employment in the adventure tourism sector; international relief and development work; and outdoor ministry positions in camping and youth work.

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Outdoor Leadership

The Bachelor of Arts degree program in Outdoor Leadership is designed to prepare students for careers in adventure sports guiding and outdoor related ministries. Students at this level self select and pursue higher level certifications in their chosen disciplines with national certifying bodies such as the Canadian Avalanche Association, the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC., and Professional Association of Diving Instructors to name a few. Graduates have gone on to secure careers in guiding, outdoor related ministries, international relief and development, or gone on to achieve Masters Degrees in related fields.

Outdoor Leadership Minors

Each degree student at Columbia has the option to select a minor in a variety of fields. Typically, minors are chosen in a student's third year of study and will inform the type of internship placement they choose. Learn more about available minors.


Biblical Studies
Social Entrepreneurship
Counselling & Human Services
Church Ministry
Intercultural Studies
Ministry to Children
Practical Ministry
Worship Arts
Youth Work


Practical, hands-on experience is an integral part of education. That's why Columbia requires all degree students to complete an internship in their third or fourth year. Outdoor Leadership internships are typically selected based on the area of a student's interest/primary outdoor discipline. Internships can take place in a variety of contexts including adventure tourism providers, ski areas, overseas non-profit organizations, high school outdoor education programs, summer camps, etc. The internship program is designed to provide a rich learning experience with practical skill development. For more information about Columbia's internship program, including application forms and placement options, visit Service Learning.