Updated November 2019
Summers at Open Sky are spent in the high country of southwest Colorado, amongst the aspen groves and mountain peaks of the San Juan National Forest. As the season changes from summer to fall, so does our location. In early October, we make the annual move to our winter base camp and course area, where the magic of the canyon country in southeast Utah.
Our southeastern Utah location boasts a dry and hospitable climate; a welcomed alternative to the more harsh and snowy landscapes of Colorado winters. In the weeks leading up to the move, our Operations team remains hard at work in our Utah course area preparing team sites and base camp structures.
One significant enhancement to base camp in recent years is the creation of gravel pathways to, from, and within each team site. Why does this matter? Historically, one of the biggest challenges in winter is the clay and mud build-up inherent to the land. “Putting gravel down on trails and in the camps vastly improves the student experience,” said Doug Maxwell, Operations Director. “When students return to base camp each week, they’ll spend less time cleaning and drying themselves and their gear. This allows for more time to engage in the deeper therapeutic work, practice skills, and build relationships with the team.”
Camp shelters are also an important aspect of each team site. “Camp shelters give students and guides an organized, permanent, and sheltered space to prepare food, and organize cookware as well as group and personal gear ” Doug noted.
All team sites also have canvas wall tents furnished with potbelly stoves. The canvas tents are used for sleeping, drying gear after expedition, and for group yoga. When the stove is utilized, it will provide enough warmth for students to be comfortable in T-shirts while inside the tent even if temperatures are colder outside.
Each team site has a permanent shower stall structures to allow for warm showers while at base camp.
As always, tipis (a defining feature of Open Sky’s winter base camp) provide shelter during the winter. Tipis are a great place to gather around the fire, hold group sessions, and eat meals if there is inclement weather. Tipis are also used to host graduation ceremonies for our families and students.
A large pavilion was constructed to host weekly Community Meditation, graduations, and seasonal Talent Shows. Nearby, Family Services sites contain tipis for families who participate in the 3-day/2-night Family QuestTM intensives.
Infrastructure at our winter base camp is a crucial way we prioritize the safety of our students and enhance the therapeutic wilderness experience for adolescents and young adults. To learn more about winter weather-related protocols, procedures, training, and gear, visit our Winter Safety page.