Playing around in the tidal surf in Surge Narrows.

About COLT


Originally developed by Strathcona Park Lodge in 1977, the 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.


The program is ideal if you want to pursue a career in sea kayaking, mountaineering, river running, general wilderness guiding or any kind of outdoor and experiential education. Those looking for an unforgettable gap year, time-out or year-off opportunity that will leave them with life long skills in leadership, group management and personal understanding will find COLT valuable. And for those looking to improve their ocean, lake, river and mountain skills quickly and in a fun, instructive and supportive environment will also enjoy the program.

The semester is based around the idea of building leadership skills and confidence. Instructors and students practice the principle of ‘learn by doing’ as classes are almost exclusively in the field. Living in a group of peers throughout the semester, each student will lead and follow on a daily basis, while developing hard skills and, the crucial, soft skills needed to be a good leader. Regular group debriefs encourages growth and constructive learning opportunities. 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.