COVID-19 Updates

“When NOLS was founded, mountains were its heart and soul. But as the school has grown, so has our understanding of that heart and soul and what it can teach us. In addition to mountains, wilderness is also embodied in gravel coastlines reached only by a few hardy paddlers, or winding desert canyons, or sweltering jungles. Leadership doesn’t only mean attaining a summit in good style; it also means forging relationships across cultures and acting decisively in an emergency.” 

- Molly Herber, in A Worthy Expedition: the History of NOLS

Latest Course Updates as of May 14, 2020

NOLS is committed to providing our community with timely updates during this period of uncertainty and change. Please find the most recent course impacts due to COVID-19 here:

  • Additional Expedition field courses scheduled for July and August have been cancelled including Adventure courses (for ages 14 and 15), as well as whitewater and rock climbing courses. NOLS campuses in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, River Base, and Teton Valley have suspended summer operations in addition to the previously announced closures in Scandinavia and Yukon. 
  • Currently, select July and August Expedition and Custom Education field courses at NOLS Rocky Mountain and NOLS Alaska are enrolling and scheduled to run.
  • The school will assess our ability to conduct class-room based courses for Wilderness Medicine, Risk Servics, and Custom Education starting after July 1 on a rolling basis 30-45 days prior to scheduled start date.

View the May 12 President's Letter for complete announcement.

If you are a student on an impacted course, NOLS is committed to taking care of you. We are providing opportunities to transfer to future courses, tuition refunds, and available staff to support your needs. Please refer to the FAQ section below for more information or contact your Admissions Officer from Monday to Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm MDT.


Practicing Tolerance for Adversity and Uncertainty

NOLS has been actively monitoring and responding to the evolving situation around COVID-19. The school’s leadership has been in close consultation with federal and state public health experts, peer organizations, and our educational partners since January. 

For 55 years, NOLS has helped over 350,000 students learn the lessons of the wilderness: self-reliance, judgment, risk management, and the skills to thrive in a changing world. The current environment of uncertainty speaks directly to the NOLS curriculum and our values as a school. This is truly a time for leadership and judgment, given the unpredictable trajectory of the pandemic. We thank you for your support, patience, and understanding as we navigate the rapidly changing landscape. 

We will continue to assess the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on escalating travel, health, and safety restrictions and proactively communicate any impacts on future courses. Please check this page for the latest updates.


Community Notices


Archived Course Updates

April 1:

  • Expedition courses, Custom Education field courses, and Alumni trips are cancelled through June 30.
  • Wilderness Medicine, Risk Services, and Custom Education classroom-based courses are suspended through June 30.

March 25:

  • NOLS Wilderness Medicine, Custom Education, and Risk Services extended the suspension of all classroom courses through May 11.

March 17:

  • NOLS Expedition, Custom Education and Alumni Trips announced the cancellation of all field courses through May 11.

March 16:

  • NOLS Expeditions made the decision to suspend courses in the field and implemented a separation plan to bring students back to campuses and facilitate their return home.

March 12:

  • NOLS Wilderness Medicine, Custom Education and Risk Services announced the suspension of all classroom courses through April 23.
  • NOLS Expedition and Alumni Trips announced the cancellation of international field courses through April 23.

General FAQ

  • What is NOLS’ pandemic plan?

    We have a COVID-19 response plan and use a decision matrix to guide the school’s response to a pandemic or other major event that might affect our programming. This matrix is a tool we have used in the past for natural disasters such as a tsunami, earthquakes, or volcanoes as well as political unrest and other events. The plan includes:

    1. Actively monitoring the situation as it evolves
    2. Following government guidance on on travel risks when making course cancellation decisions
    3. Being prepared to respond to students or staff who show symptoms of flu-like illness
    4. Following government guidance on methods to prevent illness
    5. Planning for possibility of widespread illness and program disruption
  • What resources are you using to make decisions?

    While there are many sources for coronavirus information, our primary resources include:


    We are also monitoring updates from:

    • The U.S. State Department including travel and other information
    • U.S. Embassies in our operational countries
    • Specific country government health websites (i.e. NZ Ministry of Health)
  • What will NOLS do if someone on a course has COVID-19 symptoms?

    NOLS staff and instructors are on alert monitoring flu-like symptoms and administering responsible self-care practices with students and following best practices as identified by the CDC.

    NOLS is also actively monitoring staff at our campuses. Anyone with reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 will be isolated from others and health care providers will be contacted.

  • What factors is NOLS considering when making operational decisions?

    NOLS courses will resume when travel restrictions, social (physical) distancing recommendations and orders, and community stay-in-place or quarantine orders are no longer in effect. We are also assessing the ability of local jurisdictions where we operate and their ability to support our students and classroom needs such as available medical care and emergency response. These are the primary factors as the school analyzes the evolving COVID-19 environment and the potential for resuming courses.

  • What is NOLS doing to limit the spread of COVID-19 on courses?

    NOLS has created a task force to support the decision-making criteria for resuming operations. The group represents members from risk management, fieeld and classroom programs, admissions, and field staffing. Their charge is to identify and develop program and risk management practices for operating during the pandemic.  

    In addition, the school places a strong emphasis on personal hygiene and illness prevention. In our current world situation this is just as important now as it has always been. We follow guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for preventing the spread of illness. 

    These practices will be emphasized on courses and include:

    • Frequent handwashing with soap and water and when that is not available, using alcohol-based sanitizer with greater than 60% alcohol.
    • Using the crook of your arm (inner elbow) to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Carry disinfectant wipes to wipe surfaces before touching.
    • Cleaning and disinfecting  surfaces in classrooms and buildings.
  • Can I enroll on a NOLS course at this time?

    We encourage you to do so and will provide flexibility so that you can have the time and information you need to complete your application. In the event your course cancels, we are providing full tuition refunds, opportunities to transfer to a future course, and other student support. 

    At this time, you can apply for courses with start dates after July 1. Please bear in mind that right now we are monitoring COVID-19 impacts closely and although we are hopeful that the school will resume some course types, if external indicators, the CDC and governing authorities are providing guidance that would not allow NOLS to operate, this schedule may change. Please check this page often for updates. We invite you to view courses online.

Wilderness Medicine FAQ

  • Does NOLS Wilderness Medicine have educational resources for students?

    On May 8, Wilderness Medicine released a free online platform to support students in keeping their knowledge up to date while in-person training opportunities are limited. You can access the platform via the Wilderness Medicine Resources page.

  • How is NOLS Wilderness Medicine helping people whose certification has been impacted by the temporary suspension of courses?

    NOLS Wilderness Medicine offers a two year certification with a one year re-entry period. We have taken the following measure to support students who may be affected by our temporary suspension of courses.

    If your certification expires between 9/13/2020 and 3/12/2022, there is no change in your certification period or re-entry year.

    If your certification expired/expires between 3/13/2019 and 9/12/2020 we are automatically adding 9 months to your certification length. Your twelve month re-entry period begins at the end of your new expiration date.

    This applies to all NOLS Wilderness Medicine certifications including wilderness medicine, CPR, and epinephrine auto-injector. If your certification was issued by another training provider, please contact them directly. It is our understanding that other programs are considering a similar plan.

    We are beginning work on a process to make these changes in our data system and to reissue new certification cards.  This will take some time and we ask for your patience while we work with our database programmers to institute this change.

Expeditions / Field Course FAQ

  • Why has NOLS cancelled certain Expedition courses scheduled in July and August?

    NOLS has been actively monitoring the evolving situation around COVID-19 and making course suspension and cancellation decisions based on available information. In May, we have been tracking policies issued by federal, state and local authorities in our operating areas based on factors such as shelter-in-place advisories, group size limits, business reopening guidelines, and travel restrictions. We are also prioritizing the school’s ability to manage required physical distancing.

    Based on our decision-making matrix, the school determined that offering a smaller volume of courses this summer would allow faculty and staff to focus on consistent implementation of protocols to support student health and wellbeing. To achieve this, NOLS suspended summer operations at four campuses (NOLS Northeast, NOLS Pacific Northwest, NOLS River Base, and NOLS Teton Valley) and cancelled Adventure Courses, which serve students ages 14 and 15.

  • Why has NOLS suspended programming at certain campuses?

    As of May 12, NOLS announced that it will suspend operations at the following campuses: Northeast, Pacific Nothwest, River Base (UT), and Teton Valley (ID).

    NOLS utilized a number of factors to determine upcoming operational schedules for this summer.  A dedicated task force reviewed policies and recommendations issued by state and local authorities in our operating areas to help inform the school’s decision-making matrix. The task force also reviewed business re-opening and travel guidelines and restrictions in local areas. 

    As the school developed a plan to move forward, we determined that narrowing summer operations would support consistent implementation of our risk management protocols to support the health and wellbeing of students, faculty and staff. This would also allow our faculty and staff to be more efficient when enacting NOLS’ field protocols.

  • Why is NOLS cancelling Adventure courses?

    NOLS has been offering expedition courses specifically developed for 14 and 15 year old students since 1967. The school supports these students with dedicated instructors, age-appropriate curriculum, and thoughtfully selected routes and activities best suited for their developmental needs. After careful consideration and a review of potential COVID-19 impacts on travel and risk management protocols, the school decided the most responsible course of action would be to suspend Adventure Courses for this season.

  • Which NOLS field courses are scheduled to run in July and August?

    Currently, NOLS is planning to run Expedition, Custom Education field courses, and Alumni trips with start dates after July 1 at NOLS Rocky Mountain and NOLS Alaska, with the exception of Adventure courses (for ages 14 and 15), rock climbing courses, and single-section mountaineering courses.

    Please bear in mind that although we are hopeful that the school will continue with certain summer expeditions, this may change if external indicators such as the CDC, permitting agencies and governing authorities do not shift to allow NOLS to run courses. We appreciate your understanding, patience, and flexibility.

    If you would like further support, we encourage you to contact your Admissions Officer. We can provide options for providing deadline extensions, transfering to a future course, initiating a tuition credit or refund, and answer additional questions that you may have given the fluidity of the current environment. Thank you for your support, and we look forward to seeing you on your course later this summer.

  • If I’m enrolled on an upcoming course that is scheduled to run and concerned about COVID-19 impacts, what are my options?

    NOLS is fully committed to providing you a refund if you have concerns about taking an expedition during the current pandemic. As additional options, we encourage enrolled students to transfer their 2020 tuition to the same course for the 2021 summer season. By doing so, you hold a spot and you lock in 2020 tuition rates for next year. If you prefer more flexibility, we can also hold your tuition payments as credit that you can apply to a future course before August 31, 2021. If a refund makes the most sense at this time, your Admissions Officer can help you facilitate this transaction.

  • Why did NOLS cancel expedition field courses through June 30?

    NOLS has been actively monitoring the environment around COVID-19 in close consultation with federal and state public health experts, peer organizations, and our educational partners since January. This has been an evolving situation and through this process, the school sees continued uncertainty around domestic and international travel with the potential of new restrictions. We also see indications that the school would be unable to offer routine or emergency support to our courses while they are in the field or on campuses. Lastly, the school is committed to supporting CDC recommendations, state-level orders for stay-at-home, and local health advisories. For these reasons, NOLS made the difficult decision to cancel Expedition courses, Custom Education field courses, and Alumni trips through the end of June. The school will continue to monitor the situation and update our community proactively of any changes.

  • I signed up for a future Expedition course or Alumni trip. Will my course run as scheduled?

    At this time, NOLS is planning to run scheduled Expedition courses and Alumni Trips in the fall season and beyond. Please bear in mind that right now we are monitoring COVID-19 impacts closely and although we are hopeful that the school will resume courses, this schedule may change if external indicators, the CDC, and governing authorities provide guidance that would not allow NOLS to operate. We appreciate your understanding, patience, and flexibility. 

  • My course was cancelled due to COVID-19, what is the school doing to support me?

    NOLS is working with enrolled students whose course was cancelled on an individual basis to provide a 100% tuition refund, opportunities to transfer to a future course or choose tuition credit, and support with other aspects of your enrollment. Please contact your Admissions Officer (contact info available in your student dashboard) to facilitate these changes.