2022 Impact Report



Rebounding from the pandemic has proven to be a greater challenge than anticipated, and we’re still climbing out two years later. Thanks to generous support from our crew, COBS made steady progress toward these rebuilding efforts in 2022, and will be stronger for the path ahead. Some of the highlights from the year include: 

  • We are reaching a growing number of students. Despite labor shortages, in 2022 we served almost double the students we served in 2021, and operated at 75% of our pre-pandemic volume. 
  • Our community-based programming is poised for growth. Despite a slower-than-anticipated reintroduction of our group programs after COVID, we have increased staff, improved essential infrastructure, and made culturally responsive program modifications to serve an increased number of local and diverse students. 
  • Our courses are providing needed social and emotional support for youth. Students gained social-emotional support on course, a critical need coming out of the pandemic. Our Domains of Thriving curriculum focuses on enhancing social and emotional well-being through lessons designed to cultivate greater self-efficacy, teamwork, and sense of belonging.  
  • We are seeing positive outcomes from investing in staff. Our admin team is fully staffed with skilled and experienced leaders. The program teams are guided by seasoned COBS leaders and have been restructured to operate more efficiently. In 2022, we intentionally over-hired our instructor roles and accelerated their growth to build back our lead instructor bench. As a result, our seasonal staff roster is shaping up to be strong in 2023. 
Highlights from the Rockies

Students on an Alpine Backpacking for Girls course celebrate at the summit.

Colorado Rockies Pathfinder student pushes towards the top of a climb.

An ASCEND Scholarship Alpine Backpacking crew during a day of hiking.

Social and Emotional Learning

Students gain confidence while learning invaluable teamwork and leadership skills through shared group experiences. Outward Bound’s Domains of Thriving (DoT) framework helps us teach and measure the cognitive, social, and emotional progress that each individual achieves through our courses. The DoT allows us to create the conditions youth need to increase their resilience and empowers them to contribute positively to their communities. 

What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. 

The more educators and leaders understand how students learn, the more they are looking for the kinds of skills that our expeditionary programs teach. 

This trip has not only taught me that I am beyond physically capable, but I am also mentally capable, to learn, laugh, love, and forgive. I was not prepared for how this experience would truly change my way of thinking. I feel like I have more adopted the growth mindset as a direct result of this journey.
-2022 Southwest Pathfinder Student

Social and Emotional Learning at Outward Bound

It is true that Outward Bound's internationally renowned expeditions have always taught participants so-called “technical or hard skills” like navigating with or without a map, how to manage and mitigate risk in the wilderness, and tying the most secure rock climbing knots. We have also always excelled in the far more difficult task of teaching “inter/intra-personal or soft skills” like resilience, compassion, and leadership, referred to today as social-emotional skills. We find ourselves at the center of, and leading, a much-needed shift within the U.S. educational paradigm. Schools and teachers, as well as parents and students, are realizing that academic outcomes are fundamentally dependent on these social and emotional skills, which have always been at the center of Outward Bound courses.

In 2017, with the support of a generous investment from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Outward Bound launched the Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab to continuously improve our student experience, enhance training and professional development for staff and add rigor to our evaluation techniques. At the center of the Lab’s work is defining and measuring the social and emotional skills that students develop on an Outward Bound course and the practices staff use to support this growth. In 2019, Outward Bound saw statistically significant changes in all 12 social-emotional outcomes measured by the Outward Bound Outcomes Survey, including perseverance, self-awareness, and teamwork. The Lab continues to lead the Outward Bound system to implement effective SEL practices and use data to evaluate and improve our impact on SEL outcomes for students.

2022 Student Outcomes 

The Outward Bound Outcomes Survey (OBOS), designed and validated by the Partnerships for Education and Resilience (PEAR), measures student change in 12 areas. Students take the survey at the end of their course, and report on each area. In 2022, all COBS students aged 12 - 23 were asked to complete the OBOS.  

This course has allowed me to grow so much emotionally and physically, I now feel so much more confident in myself as a person and my path moving forward. As I overcame challenges in the wilderness and adapted to the new environment, I realized how much I am capable of.
-2022 Rock Climbing & Alpine Backpacking Student


Our Strengths

Empowering Young Women

While our outcomes are strong in learning interest, assertiveness, self-regulation, and perseverance for the majority of our students, they are even stronger among female students. We are helping prepare young women as they make some of their most important decisions about school, careers, and the lives they wish to lead. 

Outcomes for Female Students

Student Spotlight: Riya's Story 

Riya Chandra’s two-week expedition with COBS in 2021 inspired her to hike Mount Kilimanjaro and start a non-profit serving girls of color – all before graduating high school!  

Backpacking through the Rockies sparked Riya’s passion for the outdoors. This motivated her to start the non-profit, HYPE Girls, to build community for girls of color who want to get outside.  

Her COBS experience also inspired Riya to accomplish the incredible feat of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. She proudly claimed to be one of the youngest hikers on the mountain. Learn more.

From left to right: HYPE girls enjoying a picnic, Riya atop Mount Kilimanjaro, HYPE girls on a hike. 

When I get home I believe I will be more thoughtful, patient and brave. I will be eager to seek thrill, adventure, and challenge, but I can also appreciate the little things. I’m coming out of outward bound with a stronger sense of self and my values. I’ve always been a person who cares a lot, but now I know ways to act on my feelings. I learned the true value of communication, trust, and community. I am so incredibly grateful that I have gotten this opportunity. My action out in the real world will prove that I deserved to be here and I really learned.
-2022 Alpine Backpacking Student


Where we need to grow

Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

People of color and individuals with other marginalized identities have been systematically excluded from the outdoors. Discrimination in the outdoor industry and barriers to accessing natural spaces persist today. We believe that everyone deserves equitable access to nature. That’s why we are committed to leveraging the power of our community and programs to increase access to the outdoors for everyone.  

The journey to equitable access takes time. Although we are working hard to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and justice strategic initiatives at all levels of the organization, a majority of our open enrollment students in 2022 identified as white and male. These demographics indicate that we need to continue investing in programmatic and cultural changes to meet the needs of a larger diversity of individuals. 

We are committed to making our programs and school more equitable. To achieve this, we are working to: 

  • Expand access to our programs through partnership and philanthropy 
  • Increase staff compensation and benefits 
  • Improve the cultural responsiveness of staff and programs to enhance the student experience
  • Reduce barriers to pursuing a career in outdoors through our Fellowship for Emerging Leaders Program 
  • And increase representation within our staff and board  

2022 Student Demographics

592 students surveyed, ages 12-23 

Program Spotlight: Expeditions for First-Generation, College-Bound Students 

In 2022, COBS and Mile High 360 kicked off the first year of a long-term partnership. Mile High 360 students are first-generation college-bound students from the Denver Metro area. Through this partnership, COBS provides courses for Mile High 360 6th, 9th, and eventually 12th grade students. These courses are designed to become incrementally more challenging for the students as they progress through their time with Mile High 360. The 6th grade students experience course at our Leadville Mountain Center base camp and have the comforts of staying in the dorms. When students come back to COBS in 9th grade, they again are at our base camp, but camp outdoors. In a few years when we welcome their 12th grade students, they will embark on an expeditionary course. This progressive approach allows students to deepen their social-emotional skills over time and build upon each Domain of Thriving with each course. 

Mile High 360 students reaching new heights at the Leadville Mountain Center.

Planning For the Future

In 2022, the COBS team made progress on objectives outlined in our three-year strategic plan: 

  • Implementing a holistic diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) strategy. At any organization, this is a journey that is never complete. In 2022, COBS continued to invest our DEIJ working group, comprised of staff from all levels and Board of Directors representatives. Staff participants receive a stipend to demonstrate the value of their time. Implementing a stipend was the first outcome of the formation of this working group. Members are defining our DEIJ objectives and charting critical action steps for the organization. Members are finalizing a review of the Field Staff Manual with a DEIJ lens and compiling a quick reference guide of DEIJ tools and resources. 
  • Investing in our field staff by implementing the second of three consecutive wage increases. We continued to work toward our goal to meet and maintain industry median wages. COBS also saw a robust staff development season. We intentionally invested in rebuilding our staff bench and accelerated growth to enable COBS to build back to pre-pandemic capacity. Many seasonal staff completed their Single Pitch Instructor certification, along with an increase in Swift Water Rescue training. Staff also completed their AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Level 2 and many took advantage of expedition opportunities. 
  • Improved and refined communications with students and families, with scale to meet seasonal volume. After implementing major changes in 2020 and 2021 to the pre-course experience for students and families, the COBS team is learning and adjusting to better meet the needs of staff, students, and families. In 2022, the Student Services team audited all communications sent to students. The revamped email communications are now more concise, informative, and interactive. The pre-course interview process has also been shortened, benefiting both families and Course Advisors. As the team looks to 2023, goals include implementing an orientation course that adds further automation to the process. These systems allow our Course Advisors to spend less time sending routine messages and more time communicating with students and their families one-on-one. 
  • Caring for our base camps. Our base camps are one of our most critical and beautiful assets. In 2022, COBS performed necessary maintenance at our base camps. This includes replacing the South Campus well system at the Leadville Mountain Center (LMC), with a plan in place for 2023 to replace the North Campus system and kicking off a remodel of the Chinchilla dorm at the LMC. Our facilities need more love in 2023, and staff is hard at work to fund these needs. 
Highlights from the Southwest

Southwest Leadership Semester students taking in canyon views.

Pathfnder Canyoneering and Canoeing student enjoying a sunny day of canyon backpacking.

CO Rockies to SW Rivers Leadership Semester student navigating the river.

Campaigns and Events

Contribute to Your Crew

During COBS’s inaugural Contribute To Your Crew campaign our incredible donors, students and families, staff, and many others showed up in a big way. Together, the COBS crew raised more than $100,000 to support our scholarship program and ensure that students from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic status can experience a COBS course. We want to share a special shout out to our Support Crew that rallied together to contribute a collective $60,000 matching fund in honor of our 60th anniversary. Thank you, COBS crew! 

Save the date for the 2023 online campaign, April 17-30th, that will include a peer-to-peer campaign, auction, and matching fund. 

COBS 60th Anniversary Gala

After over a decade of celebrating our mission and students through the Black Tie and Tennis Shoes gala, in 2022 we took a new trail by celebrating 60 years of COBS. Over the course of a multi-week online campaign culminating in an in-person event, the COBS community celebrated and reflected on our 60-year history.  

During our 60th Anniversary Celebration and online campaign, together we raised an impressive total of $345,021 to continue cultivating compassionate and resilient leaders for many more years to come. 

The sentiment we hear most often from students is that participating in a COBS course changed their lives. It’s an honor to be a pivotal part of so many people’s journeys. Thanks to your overwhelming and generous support of our 60th anniversary, we can continue to change student lives for years to come. For a glimpse into the meaningful impact you will make on our students, check out this reflection on our 60-year journey featuring a hearty thank you from members of our community: 

Watch: Reflecting On Our 60-year Journey

Presenting Sponsor


Summit Sponsors

Brian and Rachel Corbett + COBS Alumni Greyson and Grant*
Elan Greenberg and Erin Lester
Sarah & Lucas Hartley*


Expedition Sponsors


Marie Logsden and Buckstein
 Bryan and Cynthia Mix
Peter O'Neil and Kim Reynolds
 Bob and Joan O'Rourke*
Tarn Udall and Alex DeGolia


Ascent Sponsors


Jennifer & Mark Bales*

Louis and Erica Bissette

Gruffie Clough

El Pomar Foundation

The Farley Family

Ben Fickett and Jess d'Arbonne

Ron Gager

GFM | CenterTable


Ross Aviation / Atlantic Aviation

Lauren Schmidt and Eric Olson

Alex Sugahara

Rebecca Grant Zarret & Scott Zarret

*Denotes digital campaign sponsors

COBS 2022 Supporters

From all of us at COBS, we want to thank all our 2022 donors. You make changing lives through challenge and discovery possible. Add your name to this list by making a donation to COBS today. 

Discover More

Explore our 2023 Expeditions

Course Finder

Impact Reports from previous years: 20212020 2019 | 2018 | 2017

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