Resident goes on wilderness expedition

Sam Cannella, 21, of Fairfield recently completed a wilderness expedition traveling in the Teton Valley, Wyo., with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

This past winter, Cannella and 10 other students set out on a NOLS backcountry skiing course, during which they did not have access to modern conveniences and were challenged to step outside their comfort zones.

On this expedition, students were accompanied by three instructors who are experts in the field. The first two days were spent refining ski techniques at Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Then the group headed into the backcountry of Wyoming’s Snake River Range and all members of this expedition traveled on skis, pulling sleds of 60 to
70 pounds.

After traveling for three days and gaining 2,400 feet, the group established one snow shelter camp. In this environment of snowy days with high winds, students learned to practice tolerance for adversity and uncertainty.

Instructors emphasized avalanche curriculum and taught a Recreational Level One avalanche course. There was a strong emphasis on the NOLS leadership model that included four leadership roles, seven leadership skills and one signature leadership style. Students were each given a turn to serve as leader of the day and they were given feedback during end-of-day debriefs.

All students on this course had a sense of community and high motivation. Highlights of this course included skiing fresh powder near Mud Pass, an extended avalanche scenario and love of the mountains.

In the backcountry skiing, students learned risk management, judgment, outdoor living and environmental studies lessons not taught in a traditional classroom setting. Cannella graduated from the NOLS course competent and responsible wilderness travelers and leaders.

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