2017 Annual Report

In the Field

Sawatch Alpine Backpacking for Girls

This past summer COBS ran two all-girls Alpine Backpacking courses. Read this blog post from some of our field staff about the benefits of all-girls courses and how COBS is striving to get more women and girls on course.


The legacy of our scholarship program dates back to our first courses out of Marble, Colorado, and is rooted in our belief that all people can discover their full potential through challenging experiences in the wilderness. COBS supports partial scholarship to help students close the gap and get themselves on course through our Student Opportunity Fund, as well as several named scholarships for youth, thanks to the generosity of supporters and partners.

COBS also provides full scholarships through our ASCEND program for students with financial need (eligible for free and reduced lunch). COBS is proud to partner with local and national youth-serving organizations to put on ASCEND. Through the work of our scholarship coordinator and these partners, and thanks to our many generous scholarship supporters, students are connected to, and prepared for, the best course for them. In 2017, COBS served 170 students through ASCEND, and 20 students through partial scholarships from the Student Opportunity Fund.

“Because of this course I now know who I really am and who I want to become.”
-Ximena, 15, CCYA-744 Rocky Mountain Alpine Backpacking
In Our Communities

 Black Tie & Tennis Shoes

Thanks to our many amazing sponsors, attendees, speakers, volunteers and staff, 2017’s Black Tie & Tennis Shoes gala was a huge success! Peter Metcalf, founder and long-time former CEO of Black Diamond Equipment, delivered a keynote speech on “Choosing to Lead” and what that mentality has meant to him, personally, professionally, and in his work in protecting our public lands. Hosted by COBS alumni Sydney Gart, the event also included student speaker Nizhooni Hurd, who delivered an empowering and passionate speech about her course experience as a scholarship student, and the ways that she has learned to choose love and leadership through the outdoors. Together, we raised $200,000 in support of our students and our mission.

2017 Black Tie & Tennis Shoes Gala from Colorado Outward Bound School on Vimeo.

Lake County Engagement

COBS takes great pride in giving back to our vibrant communities. Home to our Leadville Mountain Center and operational hub for our Rocky Mountain Program, Lake County is a critical part of that community, and we work to ensure that more area students have access to the pristine peaks and wilderness around them. In 2017, through a partnership with Get Outdoors Leadville! (GOL!), COBS served more than 70 Lake County middle schoolers, high schoolers and educators right in our own backyard in 2017.

photo by Jared Fehr

“I was impatient when I began this trip, but through reflection and realization, I’ve been able to step down from anticipation and step up to leadership.”
- Isaac, 16, CUXR-721 Southwest Rafting


A huge thank you to the Kahlert Foundation, whose 2017 support was instrumental in completing the activation and long-term landscaping of our Moab base to house both our operational and administrative staff. University of Colorado students from the Design-Build Architecture program completed construction on a multi-use common area, they dubbed “Confluence Hall.” Confluence is bridging the gap between our warehouse and a 2016 housing gift from Shell Corporation, and providing staff and students a classroom, kitchen area, washrooms, and outdoor meeting space. 


We are thrilled to have celebrated our 55th season in 2017. With an open house at our Denver office, and a service weekend and celebration in Marble, 2017 was overflowing with COBS love! Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate and serve, and to every member of the COBS community that made the last 55 years possible.


Crowdfunding empowers supporters of an organization to raise money on its behalf. As a nonprofit, we depend on the support of our community members, like you, to continue connecting students of all backgrounds to opportunities for transformation through the wilderness. (Click here for more information on fundraising for COBS.) We are so grateful to all of our supporters who took their passion for COBS to the streets in 2017 to activate their networks and fundraise for COBS. A special thank you to Ella Hartley and Elsie Humes, who carried COBS and our students in their hearts and minds on their epic 2017 adventures.  

Ella Hartley, COBS instructor, through-hiked Te Araroa in New Zealand, using her feat to raise awareness and funds for the Gruffie Scholarship, which sponsors women between the ages of 16 and 25 on a COBS course, raising more than $9,000.

Elsie Humes, COBS intern, ran a 50k race in Crested Butte. As part of her race preparation and inspiration, she raised over $5,000 to support a scholarship for a deserving young woman to attend a transformational 22-day backcountry course.

Thank you Elsie and Ella, and all of our amazing supporters!

Best Places to Work

COBS is proud to be recognized in Outside Magazine's Best Places to Work! We know COBS is a great place to work, but this highly-regarded award acknowledges how great our community and our mission is to the industry at large.

2017 Financials

Note that COBS is in the quiet phase of a comprehensive fundraising campaign focused on scholarships, capital, and staff development. The financial surplus is a result of commitments for the campaign. We are beyond grateful for all of our supporters that make our day to day work possible!

Our 2017 Supporters

A huge thanks to all of the friends, family, and partners who made it possible for us to change lives through challenge and discovery in 2017. We couldn't do it without our supportive community. 


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