Embrace the Cold with Northern Tier Cold Weather Training Opportunities

By Blake Ferree, Northern Tier Digital Media Specialist  

Okpik programs are the crown jewel of winter camping in the BSA and are experiences you cannot get anywhere else. From sleeping on a frozen lake to skiing through towering spruce forest, winter magic is everywhere…just waiting for you to explore!  

Many Scouts know about Northern Tier’s Okpik program. Very few, however, know about the roots of the Okpik program: starting in the ’70s as cold-weather training for adult leaders …and Scouts weren’t even invited! The training was established to give adult leaders the experience they needed to run their own winter camping programs in their home troops. After a few years, the demand for youth involvement grew and Okpik opened its doors to give Scouts a winter adventure as well. Fifty years later, Okpik has grown significantly, but training is still a key component of our winter program. This year we are excited to be offering training opportunities for both youth and adults for the first time! 

Okpik programs focus on education around winter camping in extreme cold and how to thrive in winter environments. We understand the idea of thriving in the cold better than anyone else in the BSA and each year teach crews from all climates the fundamentals of winter travel. Whether crews are from the southeast, out west, or just down the road, winter is something most people are used to avoiding. We might throw on a big heavy jacket to get to the heated car or to school and then stay inside all day. That sort of behavior is common in our modern world, and necessary when we live in heated buildings. However, at Okpik we teach people how to embrace the cold and live with it rather than just avoiding it, and it is typical for Okpik treks to spend 48+ hours outside of any heated building. Okpik is not a survival course through. We believe in using our knowledge of cold weather to stay comfortably cool in the winter and not cold. You can’t have fun and enjoy winter when cold and misery set in. Learning to thrive in the cold is not exclusive to our treks though and there is always more to learn. Our training programs offer an experience where both youth and adults can come to Okpik while receiving further training and pushing their own boundaries beyond that of a regular trek. 

Our Cold Weather Leadership Training (CWLT) has been at the core of Okpik since the very beginning and is the premier BSA training for Scouters interested in developing Safe and Exciting winter programs for councils, districts, and units. If your council is looking to develop more opportunities for Scouts to get out and enjoy the winter, then consider sending adults to this course held at Northern Tier National High Adventure Base to learn the tricks of the trade and network with other Scouters who are passionate about winter camping. Participants will spend the first 2 days learning all the intricacies of cold weather camping and how to run their own program before the practical portion of the training where the participants go on a 2-night trek. During the 2-night trek, participants get to practice the skills they learned.  

New this year, (and in addition to our CWLT), we are offering a youth training experience through our Kodiak Challenge course! The goal of the BSA Kodiak program is to provide leadership training centered around high adventure trekking. By offering a Kodiak Challenge at Northern Tier, we are creating an opportunity for Scouts to gain valuable leadership skills by working with a team of other scouts to complete an Okpik trek. Participants in our Kodiak Challenge will experience winter camping at the BSA’s premier cold-weather camping center, adding another layer of adventure as Scouts pit themselves against the Minnesota winter in this 5-day course.  

 We still have openings this winter in both Cold Weather Leadership Training and Kodiak Challenge and encourage all who are interested to register now or pass this along to someone who might be interested! We look forward to seeing you up North! For more information, contact Northern Tier at: (218) -365- 4811 and visit https://www.ntier.org/individual-programs/winter-individual-programs/

Cold Weather Leadership Training – January 6-11 

Kodiak Challenge at Northern Tier – January 6-11