By Craig Gabrielson
From a backpacking trip in Utah to basic bike repair, Whatcom students have full access to adventure through the Outdoor Center, located on the bottom floor of the Viking Union at Western.
As a program of the Associated Students of Western Washington University, the Outdoor Center is broken down into three categories: excursions, equipment rental, and bike repair.
The excursions program is seasonally based and has a number of trips lined up for the 2017 winter and spring months.
Skiing in the Mt. Baker backcountry, rock climbing in Oregon, and a weeklong backpacking trip in Utah, which is scheduled for March 18-26, are a few of many excursions available in the upcoming months. According to their website, groups of six or more who have an excursion in mind that is not listed, can have staff at the Outdoor Center help with logistics to make it happen.
“It’s really cool to watch students go on one trip and return multiple times,” said Stephen Magnuson, the Outdoor Center’s Program Manager.
The Outdoor Center’s rental program signs out multiple types of bikes, camping equipment, climbing and mountaineering, snow sports, and water sports. They offer their rental equipment by day, weekend, or week. For example, renting a snowboard for one week costs $49.28.
In the Outdoor Center’s bike shop, the acronym BIKE stands for bike, instruction, knowledge, and education. It does not operate as a drop-off service, but rather a full service bike shop that, for a $2 tool rental fee, provides the equipment and assistance needed to fix bikes.
The Outdoor Center also has a number of other programs for student and community outreach, in addition to wilderness education.
“A big piece of outdoor recreation is community development,” Magnuson said.
The Lakewood Watersports Facility is run by the Outdoor Center and is located on the south side of Lake Whatcom. Kayak and sailboat rentals are available to both Whatcom and Western students. Lakewood also hosts the Outdoor Center Challenge Program. According to Outdoor Center’s website, “the Challenge Program includes a variety of team building and communication activities that lead to problem solving, trust, group roles, and personal confidence.” The program is open to all students both current and former, and the public.
Outdoor and wilderness safety are also a part of what the Outdoor Center programs offer.
With the December death of Bellingham local, 31-year-old, Adam Roberts, avalanche safety is concern of many. On Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. the Outdoor Center is offering a free avalanche awareness course in Fraser Hall, room 101. According to the Outdoor Center, “our avalanche awareness class introduces the concepts of avalanche danger recognition and how to reduce risk.”
For a more in-depth experience with avalanche knowledge and safety, the Outdoor Center has collaborated with the American Alpine Institute to give students a $50 discount on avalanche safety training. AAI, located in Fairhaven, offers multi-level avalanche training based in both the classroom and the backcountry.
“It can save your life. That’s it in a nutshell. It can save your buddy’s life. It’s how to make good decisions in the backcountry,” said James Pierson, AAI’s Cascades Program Coordinator and guide.
When enrolled through the Outdoor Center, both Whatcom and Western students also can receive discounts on wilderness medical training courses such as Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder initial certification as well as recertification.
For Whatcom students who are transferring to Western, the Outdoor Center offers a program called WOOT, or Western Outdoor Orientation Trips. WOOT acts as an alternative to traditional campus orientation for first-year students. Participating students spend a week backpacking and exploring the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest prior to their first quarter at Western.
According to the Outdoor Center website, WOOT leads to “stronger and more meaningful connections that can contribute to an impactful and fulfilling Western experience, boosting student’s academic success.”
“Students end up having a greater sense of purpose and connectivity with the school,” Magnuson said.
Charlie Lynch, a student at Western and trip leader at Outdoor Center, said “people who meet on the trip end up being friends years later, sometimes even getting houses together. It’s amazing the bonding that happens. The nervousness you see in students coming in compared to afterward is huge.”
Outdoor Center is open year-round, and offers both Whatcom and Western students the opportunity to get outside and go on an adventure.
Additional information on courses, rentals and excursions is available online or at (360)-650-3112.