Adventure Tourism At WCCC

By Susan Gardner

Kevin Neal displays advance winter skills as he scales the sheer face of an ice cliff during this semesters winter excursion. (Photo by Susan Gardner).

Can you imagine a job actually paying you to play outdoors all of the time? Have you ever dreamed of doing what you love for a living? That is exactly what the students at Washington County Community College (WCCC) are on their way to achieving through the Adventure Tourism Department. 

First year students receive a course in Winter Expedition that includes a four day camping trip during winter break. Students gather specific winter gear not to be limited to ice axes, climbing harnesses, belay systems, four season tents, insulated sleeping bags, sleds for carrying food, hardware and equipment, mountaineer boots with metal crampons, helmets, and of course polypropylene synthetic clothing with below zero temperature ratings. 

WCCC students learn first hand how to build “Quinzy Huts” out of packed snow for warmth. These are based on huts the First Nations invented for vital hunting trips during winter to gather meat for their families. This temporary winter shelter is advanced in its survival benefit. It is made by locating a flat area of accumulated snow load and lying on the ground while kicking your feet and rotating 360* simultaneously.  The result is a huge dome of snow that solidifies against ice particles which give the dome shape and form. Students then add two feet of branches stuck one foot into the shelter while it is solidifying. After selecting the wind free side of the structure, students hollow out an entry while digging out a cold sink that traps the freezing air from entering the structure.  In essence, you climb up into the hut while the cold air is stuck in the carved out section beneath the entry. Students learn these effective strategies which result in making all the difference when survival camping in winter conditions is vital. 

Second year WCCC students get to experience Advanced Winter Skills training. This season, students attempted to hike Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park; however, weather conditions were not favorable for such an undertaking. Instead students opted for ice climbing in Acadia National Park. Students snow shoed a half mile into their campsite in the Blackwood’s campground in Acadia near Northeast Harbor. Simple amenities such as having warm food are an interesting feat when camping in below zero temperatures. Students had to carry the propane-butane gas cylinders inside their jacket pockets while hiking into their campsite in order to keep the material from freezing. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Adventure Recreation & Tourism Degree Program at WCCC, please visit www.wccc.me.edu and click on ACADEMICS, Programs of Study for information.

For all season outdoor equipment rentals go to the WCCC home page under the “Community & Beyond” tab and hit “Outdoor Adventure Center” Or Email: oac@wccc.me.edu. Or call 207.454.1060.