Wilderness expeditions are the backbone of the HMI Semester

The Rocky Mountain backpacking expedition takes place during the fall semester

At HMI, wilderness expeditions help our students reach their full potential. Each semester, students participate in three extended backpacking/backcountry ski trips in the mountains of Colorado and canyons of Utah. Each trip lasts 10-16 days. Early expeditions focus on building a foundation of camping, risk management, and leadership skills. As the semester progresses, students are given more autonomy, working up to the point where they might travel and make decisions independently of instructors. Small expedition groups of 8-10 students and 3-4 instructors guarantee a powerful community and team dynamic. The wilderness offers a chance for our students to unplug from technology and the typical stresses of high school life and connect with their peers and instructors.

The backcountry ski expedition takes place during the spring semester

No previous outdoor experience is required to participate

We welcome students of all skill levels, from the expert outdoorsperson to the novice who has never spent a night in the woods. Most important is an adventurous spirit and an excitement about stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. All necessary outdoor gear can be rented at HMI and free outdoor gear rental is included in most financial aid packages. 

Fall Semester Expeditions

1st Expedition (16-days): In the Colorado Rockies surrounding the Leadville campus, learn the basics of backpacking from setting up a tarp to cooking calzones on a one-burner stove to reading a topographic map.

2nd Expedition (10-days): In the canyons of Utah, navigate through slot canyons, find water sources, and investigate an entirely different ecosystem.

3rd Expedition (10-days): Returning to the canyons of Utah, learn wilderness first aid and get certified to travel independently of instructors.

Spring Semester Expeditions

1st Expedition (12-days): In the canyons of Utah, learn the basics of backpacking in the canyons from navigational skills to cooking cinnamon rolls on a one-burner stove.

2nd Expedition (12-days): On telemark skis in the snowy Colorado Rockies, build a comfortable quigloo (snow shelter), ski through fresh powder, and study the science of snow.

3rd Expedition (12-days): Back in the canyons of Utah, choose between a technical route that rappels into steeper sections of the canyons or a mellower route with more Independent Student Travel.

Academics on Expedition

Academics at HMI do not come to a halt when we leave campus for an expedition. Instead, they are an integral part of our wilderness experience. All of our classes are placed-based in nature; students participate in discussions and complete assignments that connect them to Colorado, Utah, and the American West.

Furthermore, our faculty not only teach classes on campus but lead our wilderness expeditions. As a result, our teachers have the chance to mentor our students in myriad settings–in the classroom, the residential setting on our campus, and the backcountry.

Student-made expedition videos