COLT is a 100-day outdoor leadership and skills school based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. This is a wild playground of mountains, rivers, ocean and forest. It’s an ideal setting for learning outdoor leadership, adventure skills and wilderness self-reliance.

Many take COLT as a fast track to becoming an outdoor guide, instructor or educator. It’s a great way to earn outdoor guide certifications and a path into the wilderness tourism industry. It’s also ideal as a GAP year, sabbatical, retraining or life transition.

Over three months you will explore one of the most rugged and beautiful parts of the world while learning to backpack and sea kayak, rock climb and kayak surf, mountaineer and whitewater paddle. No prior experience required.


Challenge is constant. Growth is inevitable

You will graduate with certifications in canoe instruction, sea kayak guiding, first aid and more. Along the way, our world-class instructors teach soft skills that you will use for the rest of your life: personal development, leadership, group dynamics, cooperation, perseverance and determination. In three months you will graduate ready for a variety of adventure jobs in Canada and around the world.

Ready to do something amazing?

Ask any graduate: COLT was one of the most memorable and important three months of their life. We hope you’ll join us!

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Why pick Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training?

Because it’s the best! At least we think so, for a number of reasons, including the variety of skills, employability, community, cost and instruction. Whether you’re doing it to get a job in the outdoor guiding world, to build your own skills, or as a break from the daily grind, COLT is a rewarding, and life-changing experience.

  • Variety: No other outdoor semester program offers as diverse a curriculum of water and mountain skills
  • Employability: With an on-site practicum, the program’s sterling reputation in the outdoor industry and a handful of certifications, COLTies are employable right after graduating
  • Unique focus: Where other programs focus just on training wilderness guides, COLT is about training outdoor educators. It’s a subtle difference but one that opens up more job opportunities beyond guiding
  • Community: The COLT program is based at Strathcona Park Lodge, one of Canada’s oldest and most respected outdoor education centres. During COLT you join a unique off-the-grid community and eat dinner with future colleagues
  • Cost: When you do the math it costs less. Other programs may sound cheaper, but they often don’t factor in accommodation or food. The cost of COLT includes everything during the 100 days
  • Condensed: Because COLT is experience focused, we cover in three months what other courses do in eight months or even two years. Compressing learning also reduces costs. You’ll be out working and earning sooner
  • Instruction: We hire great instructors. More than gifted paddlers or climbers, they’re inspiring educators who know how to empower students to learn and lead

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Who should do COLT?

As long as you love the outdoors, can hike 15-kilometres (10-miles) and have a little camping experience you are ready to start. You don’t need any specific paddling, climbing or wilderness skills. But you do need to be 19 years old at the start of the program and you must be ready to have fun, live in a tight group, rise to a challenge, and learn a ton.

The Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training program was originally developed to train outdoor educators and guides. It’s still set up with that purpose, but it works just as well as a sabbatical between jobs, a cord-cutting break from busy careers, part of a GAP year or transition out of the military and other professions.

We’ve had everyone from chiropractors to high school graduates, 19-year-olds to 50-somethings enjoy the program. There’s no such thing as a typical student, but an average might be in their mid-20s with some recreational outdoor experiences under their harness or spray skirt.

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Where is it?

The Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training is based out of Strathcona Park Lodge, a wilderness resort and outdoor education centre on Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island is on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, where the Pacific Ocean meets the mighty coastal mountains. The closest town to the outdoor school is Campbell River, B.C.

Read more about Strathcona Park Lodge.

Most of the program takes place within a couple hours of the lodge. We kayak surf in Tofino, Canada’s surf capital. For sea kayaking, we head to the rugged west coast and the spectacular Inside Passage, both famous for sea kayaking and rich with marine life. We wander among the rainforest giants and snow-capped mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park. And the local rivers are crystal clear and full of migrating salmon. We also spend a week rock climbing in Squamish, a world-class climbing area on the B.C. mainland.

When does it run?

There are two COLT semesters each a year. Both are 100 days. A Spring program from April to August and a Fall program from August to November. To find out more about applying for the program, including financial assistance and important dates, go to our Application Page.

Upcoming programs

  • Spring 2019: April 26 to August 3
  • Fall 2019: August 9 to November 16

How much does it cost?

Tuition: $9,000
Accommodation and food: $7,500
Total: CAD $16,500 (US $12,610, Eur €10,925)

It sounds like a lot, but on a per day basis that’s $165 per day for three healthy meals, accommodation, guiding and equipment.

Read more about costs and financial assistance.

Included in the COLT cost are all accommodation, meals, transportation, park and camping fees, instruction, group and technical gear. Students are responsible for their travel costs getting to COLT, all personal gear and any personal expenses.

We think it’s a great value. Just hiring a guide typically costs more. In addition, COLT is a compressed education. In three months you’ll be out working again. With some college programs, it could be two years, all the while paying living expenses.

How do I apply?

To apply for the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training program fill out the online application form. We will contact you for a short interview. When you’re accepted into the program you will need to fill out a couple more forms and pay a $2,000 deposit.

Important dates: We encourage you to get your application in two months before the start of the semester.

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