Clinging to the face of a cliff. Riding through forests on a mountain bike. Activities like these can teach you the importance of personal responsibility, leadership, integrity, and teamwork. And when you experience thrilling moments like these, the lessons tend to stick.
Excursions led by Mercersburg Outdoor Education (MOE) faculty and staff range from daylong local events to multi-week global adventures. Through activities such as rock and ice climbing, biking, and backpacking, beginners and advanced students grapple with physical experiences as well as larger life lessons.
MOE is dedicated to safely introducing students to activities that stretch their potential. The Masinter Outdoor Education Center, a renovated 10,000-square-foot timber-frame barn on campus, houses the MOE program, and with a little help from our sponsors, we’re able to provide the high-caliber gear that a budding outdoor enthusiast needs. That means we’re able to outfit a group of students for a day of rock climbing, a two-week mountaineering expedition, multi-day biking trips, or any other adventure.
The Climbing program aims to empower participants to climb outside by exposing them to the fundamentals of technical rock climbing. This includes belaying, anchor building, sport and traditional lead climbing, rappelling, and route finding.
Students in Climbing meet every weekday afternoon with extended trips off campus taking place on Tuesdays and Saturdays. This program takes advantage of our indoor climbing facility and the local crags, as well as more distant locations like Seneca Rocks and the New River Gorge.
Downhill Ski and Snowboard
The Downhill Ski and Snowboard program allows students to improve their skills at Whitetail, our local ski resort. Both beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders are welcome in this program. While beginners will learn the basics, more experienced participants will take part in instructor clinics in order to improve their own skills and help beginners improve as well. All participants will work to meet specific benchmarks in their personal skiing or snowboarding skills while engaging in lessons and clinics as a group. When weather prevents the group from utilizing the mountain, participants stay well conditioned with dry-land training and learn equipment-maintenance skills such as tuning and waxing.
Mountain Biking focuses on advancing students’ cycling skills to enable two-wheeled travel on backcountry single tracks. The Mountain Biking curriculum covers cycling techniques as well as bike maintenance. From patching tires and adjusting brakes to replacing derailleurs, cables, and housing, our crew is exposed to it all. Daily practice makes use of Mercersburg’s beautiful 300-acre campus, which includes our single-track skills course and grass track, as well as local scenic roadways. On weekends, trips venture further afield. The season kicks off with a flat ride on the C&O Canal and progresses quickly to nearby Cowans Gap State Park, Michaux State Forest, and Antrim Township Community Park, followed by the Allegrippis Trails of Raystown Lake. The program utilizes our fleet of cyclocross and hardtail mountain bikes.
Rivers and Trails
The Rivers and Trails program, which is run in both the fall and spring seasons, exposes students to the necessary skills for traveling on both water and land. Utilizing area creeks, rivers, and lakes, participants will learn how to navigate and wet-exit a kayak, work together to paddle and maneuver canoes, and read moving water. When not on the water, this group will master the fundamentals of orienteering, hiking, and backcountry biking as they take advantage of local trail systems. Students will learn how to operate stoves, pitch tents, plan backpacking trips, and maintain bike tires and brakes. In addition to daily practice Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, this program runs extended trips on Tuesdays and Saturdays as well as overnight trips.
The Ski Mountaineering program focuses on a variety of skills geared toward freeing up skiers and snowboarders from the lift-served resort experience. Although we utilize our local ski resort, Whitetail, in order to do this, we try to get off piste whenever the weather allows for it. Some days are spent honing uphill travel skills on skis or a splitboard using Alpine Touring bindings and climbing skins provided by the school, while other days are spent focusing on downhill skiing and snowboarding abilities (using the chairlifts). The curriculum also focuses on backcountry mountaineering skills such as rappelling and avalanche safety and equipment-maintenance such as tuning and waxing. This program is for experienced skiers and snowboarders who are excited about advancing their backcountry abilities.
Interim Director of Outdoor Education
Sarah Bozzi has taught mathematics and worked with Mercersburg Outdoor Education (MOE) since her arrival at Mercersburg in 2014. She and her husband, Jay (who is the head of the history department), previously served on the faculty at schools in New England and abroad. Her various roles at Mercersburg have included coaching girls’ lacrosse and serving on the Conduct Review Committee. She is an avid skier and traveler who has led student trips in India, Jordan, Ecuador, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Wyoming, and the Grand Canyon. Sarah graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, with a major in mathematics and a minor in communications. She is affiliated with Keil Hall.
Assistant Director of Outdoor Education
Pete Gunkelman, a native of North Dakota, has served as director of Mercersburg Outdoor Education (MOE) since 2013. He arrived at Mercersburg in 2006 as MOE’s assistant director. Pete began his outdoor career as a subzero winter camper; during his undergraduate years at the University of Richmond, he took a job at an indoor climbing gym and quickly developed a passion for the sport. Today, Pete guides trips from West Virginia to Peru and enjoys sharing his love for the natural world with students, and has also team-taught 3D Design, which has been one of the offerings in Mercersburg’s Springboard capstone program for members of the senior class. When he’s not in the office making sure that permits are current and gear is in working order, Pete can be found surfing, climbing, cycling, or passing those passions on to his two daughters.
Adventure awaits you.