About COLT


Originally developed by Strathcona Park Lodge in 1977, the COLT program is one of the most respected outdoor semesters in the world. Today, two three-month COLT programs run each year – a 93 day semester from May to August and a 93 day semester from August until November – covering land and water based activities on Vancouver Island and in Squamish. COLT is accredited with the Private Career Training Institutions Agency of British Columbia, which means students are eligible for student loans and/or other training finances through their provincial governments.

The program is based at Strathcona Park Lodge, one of the first outdoor education centres in Canada and still a leader in the field, introducing more than 5,000 school aged students, families and travellers from around the world to the wilderness each year. In the 1970s it was hard to find qualified guides, so in 1977 Jim and Myrna Boulding, the Lodge founders, started the Apprenticeship Program (now known as COLT) to train employees into the leaders they needed. More on the history of Strathcona and COLT.

COLT is now recognized as one of the leading guide and instructor training programs. Students come from all over the world to learn from world-class instructors. The reputation of COLT precedes graduates when they pursue jobs and further education. COLT alumni work around the world as wilderness guides, outdoor educators and leaders in adventure travel companies, guide bureaus and schools.


If you want to pursue a career in sea kayaking, mountaineering, river running, general wilderness guiding or any kind of outdoor and experiential education, the COLT program is an excellent place to start. COLT provides alumni with life-long skills in leadership, group management and personal understanding, and delivers a fun, instructive and supportive learning environment.

Over the semester, students build leadership skills and confidence in both land and water based activities. Emphasis is placed on experiential learning, and most of the program is out-trip based. While living amongst their peers, students will learn to work as a team, and will be given opportunities to both lead and follow on a daily basis. Regular group debriefs encourage growth and constructive learning opportunities as students develop both hard and soft skills needed to be a good leaders. Wilderness stewardship is a focus throughout the program.

Skills learned

Hard skills:

  • no trace camping
  • wilderness first aid
  • navigation on land and water
  • sea kayaking
  • canoe tripping
  • whitewater canoeing and kayaking
  • rock climbing – sport and multi-pitch climbing
  • mountaineering
  • backpacking

Soft skills:

  • leadership
  • group dynamics
  • communications
  • teaching and mentoring
  • organization
  • logistic coordination

Mission Statement

Strathcona Park Lodge’s mission is to teach the wonder, spirit and worth of people and the natural world through outdoor pursuits.