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    DownWest Semesters

    DownWest Semesters


    • Listing Type: Gap Year Programs
    • Destinations: United States
    • Program Delivery: Residential
    • Credit Awarded: None
    • Program Length: Two Weeks, Three Weeks, Five Weeks
    • Start Month: January, March, April, July, August, September, October, November
    • Category: Outdoor Adventure
    • Selective: No
    • Gender: Coed
    • Ages: 17, 18, 19+, 19
    • Housing: Tents
    • Affiliation: Gap Year Association
    • Financial Aid: Grants/Scholarships
    • Minimum Cost: $3,000 - $4,999
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    DownWest offers 14- to 34-day backpacking, hiking and biking gap and summer programs for 17-22 year olds in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Alaska, with a focus on leadership, engagement, and fun. Learn and grow through our Sense-of-Place and Leadership Curriculum, while trying new activities like rock climbing and rafting. We strive to inspire and educate the next generation of leaders through thoughtful adventures rooted in the stories, mountains, rivers and deserts of the West.

     - Backpack or bike tour through the American West or Alaska.

    - Learn how to travel responsibly in the backcountry, carrying everything you need and setting up camp at night during five-to-ten-day backcountry sections.

    - Try something new, like rafting, sea kayaking, or rock climbing.

    - Earn a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification and learn Leave no Trace (LNT) principles.

    - Be an integral member of a team-first group.

    - Experience the West under the guidance and instruction of inspirational & caring leaders.

    - Learn about the history, people, landscapes and issues facing the West today through interesting readings & small-group discussions.

    - Immerse yourself in the deserts, canyons, mountains and waterways of Colorado, Utah & Arizona, and Alaska. 

    Reviews (3)

    • Early Fall Backpacking 2020
      stars stars stars stars stars
      Reviewed on Nov/04/2020 by Eliza

      I had an amazing experience with DownWest Semesters. Alec & Howie (the founders) put so much love and thought into the program and sent us to some of the most beautiful places in their respective states. They combine the kind of backpacking that you would find on a NOLS or Outward Bound course with readings that give you an appreciation and intellectual understanding of the places you travel (e.g. Wildfire season in the mountain west, controversies about filling Lake Powell, local Native American tribes...). We got to explore very remote and beautiful places but our instructors and Alex & Howie always made sure we were as comfortable as possible (like bringing our favorite foods in the food re-ration period and making sure everyone had warm enough gear). Couldn't recommend it enough!

    • Early Fall Backpacking Trip (CO & UT) - 2020
      stars stars stars stars stars
      Reviewed on Nov/03/2020 by Nicole

      I can't say enough good things about the 5-week backpacking trip my daughter took with Downwest Semesters this Fall. It exceeded my expectations! From my perspective as a parent, I found the folks at Downwest to be 100% responsive to my questions before, during and after the trip, appropriately cautious about Covid safety, and concerned about my daughter's well-being specifically (e.g., loaning her a different sleeping bag mid-trip when she was cold, buying her new socks mid-trip, etc.). From my daughter's perspective, not only did she have an amazing time, but she clearly gained confidence in herself and her leadership skills along the way. I love that the Downwest folks intentionally infused the trip with not only wilderness education skills (e.g., Wilderness First Aid certification and orienteering) but also with activities and structure that focused on leadership skills, personal growth and reflection. I feel like Emily, Howie & Alec -- the owners of Downwest Semesters -- have brought together the very best components of trips led by NOLS, Outward Bound, and other similar organizations into the Downwest Semesters experience. I am so grateful to them for giving my daughter this life-changing experience shortly after her 18th birthday! - Nicole

    • DownWest Early Fall Backpacking
      stars stars stars stars stars
      Reviewed on Nov/02/2020 by Lilah

      I had a really great experience with DownWest Semesters. Alec and Howie, the founders were very helpful in helping me prepare for the trip, and did a great job planning out our trip and executing it! The leaders of my trip, Adam, Hilary and Emily were a perfect fit for the program, as they were great role models, passionate about the outdoors, and very experienced. I learned so much about myself on this trip and I think I grew a lot as a person. I highly recommend this trip to anyone considering it.