28. NOLS

Outdoor-education nonprofit

BEST PERKS: Travel, Flex time, Swag
HIRING? YES! nols.edu

Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS is the leader in wilderness education, providing awe-inspiring, transformative experiences to more than 15,000 students each year. These students, ages 14 to 70, learn outdoor skills, life skills, leadership, environmental ethics, and risk management in the wildest and most remote classrooms worldwide. Outdoor skills we teach include: wilderness medicine, mountaineering, sea kayaking, canoeing, rafting, backpacking, whitewater canoeing, mountaineering, rock climbing, sailing, and more. The Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS is the leading teacher of wilderness medicine worldwide, providing medical training for circumstances when resources are scarce or help is not immediately available.


We are a values-driven organization, and our employees have great passion for our values: leadership, wilderness, the environment, and education. We have an amazing quality of life. NOLS faculty work all over the world, and administrative staff can have flexible schedules, work remotely, and teach in the field part-time. We also enjoy a laid-back and comfortable atmosphere. Employees are encouraged to spend time outside. In fact, business meetings might happen on the saddle of a bicycle or skiing. Dogs are permitted to come to work with employees at several locations (including Rocky Mountain and Teton Valley). Footwear is sometimes optional. You will find Alaskan employees spending a couple of hours of their day working in the garden. And some offices are equipped with rock rings and sofas. (Exercise or relax, you choose!)


Our full-time faculty receive a bonus of $875 to $1,155 per year. Ten percent of our top-performing faculty receive a bonus each season along with a letter recognizing their exceptional talents. All current employees who have worked a minimum of 25 days during the fiscal year, including our hard-working interns, are eligible to receive a “gainshare” check at the end of the year based on the school’s and their performance. This past year, we made gainshare distributions to 700 staff worldwide, the second-largest distribution in NOLS’s history. The 2009 gainshare was the equivalent of 8 percent of employees’ wages. Last year employees received more that a 5 percent gainshare.

Staff members who have served for more than 20 years are recognized publicly in awards ceremonies. We also recognize faculty with more than 400 weeks in the field instructing NOLS courses with Masters of Outdoor Education awards. Yearly, we recognize six of our top-performing staff at our October board meeting and celebration. They receive a gift certificate and plaque.

Various departments at NOLS’s headquarters have Friday afternoon happy hours, which might include food and beverages. During the holiday season, a party cart replete with food and beverages (and a host of groupies) spends an entire afternoon making the rounds of NOLS’s headquarters. NOLS Teton Valley hosts themed dance parties during the winter season. NOLS Mexico has regular BBQs on the beach with Mariachi bands.

We have full gyms or rock-climbing walls at a few locations worldwide, several of our locations have running or mountain-bike trails, and all of our branches provided free gear for employees to use. For example, Spectrum, one of NOLS Pacific Northwest’s keelboats, is available for qualified faculty to take on personal sailing trips. NOLS New Zealand has staff surfboards. NOLS Australia and Alaska have staff mountain bikes. NOLS Alaska has sea kayaks that staff can use on Prince William Sound. At our Rocky Mountain location and at our headquarters, we offer discounted weekly yoga classes.

Pick-up games and exercise during work hours are encouraged. NOLS Pacific Northwest has volleyball, kickball, cricket, or Wiffle Ball games on Tuesdays. NOLS New Zealand plays croquet in the evenings. NOLS Rocky Mountain and our headquarters employees spend time rock climbing on bluebird days, on our road bikes, or cross-country skiing. NOLS Teton Valley has a gnarly 15-minute core-workout session at 3:15 every day.

A few of our locations offer discounts to employees to participate in local outdoor activities. NOLS Southwest has a discount at the local climbing gym. NOLS Teton Valley and Rocky Mountain have discounts at ski resorts. One of our most successful programs is an employee discount of up to 75 percent off a NOLS course.

Although we do not have formal policies, we informally encourage employees to spend time outdoors and make up their hours either in the mornings, evenings, or weekends. Employees have even taken entire days to go on more epic outdoor adventures such as climbing Grand Teton or backcountry skiing a big peak. Early-out Fridays are common during the summer, with the executive director closing up shop midafternoon.

Although we do not have a formal sabbatical program, high-performing senior employees historically have been granted three-to-four-month sabbaticals upon request.

Our employees are active members of local ambulance crews, fire departments, and search-and-rescue teams, where they apply their NOLS skills to help handle crises. For example, during the summer 2010 flooding of the river in NOLS’s hometown, employees spent hours bagging sand and helping protect homes in the community from being ravaged by the flood. NOLS’s worldwide bases individually organize and support community events and organizations in their respective locations, including river-bank or beach clean-ups, trail building and maintenance, and free outdoor-skills classes for local community members.

Almost all NOLS locations including Alaska, Mexico, Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, and our headquarters use composting as a method of reducing waste. Grounds waste, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and filters, and returned field rations are turned into nutrient-rich soil used to fertilize our gardens and landscaping. At NOLS Rocky Mountain, since composting began we estimate a garbage-collection savings of $2,500 annually. Even more, we’ve cut our trash collection by 66 percent and use far fewer trash bags.

With a goal of reducing our carbon footprint by 30 percent before 2020, we are slowly retrofitting all of our buildings to be more energy efficient with CFLs, high-efficiency windows, and insulation. Solar panels produce 40 percent of NOLS Rocky Mountain’s energy use, nearly all of NOLS Mexico’s energy use, and 75 percent of NOLS Patagonia’s energy use, and will produce 10 percent of the Noble Hotel’s needs.

NOLS purchases environmentally preferable products wherever possible. We require paper containing at least 50 percent postconsumer recycled paper fiber. NOLS also purchases a significant amount of outdoor gear, and we support companies with strong environmental practices. We are developing protocols that our staff can use to make sustainable purchasing decisions, no matter where in the world they are or what department they are working in.

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