Explore Land, Snow and Water Through the U


Rachel Rydalch

A runner using the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the Salt Lake City foothills on April 21, 2022. (Photo by Rachel Rydalch | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jacob Freeman, News Writer


2.5 million Utahns participate in outdoor recreation each year, according to researchers from Utah State University. This interest in the outdoors is present in the University of Utah community as well. Whether they are skiing at one of Salt Lake City’s resorts or exploring one of Utah’s five national parks, U students have access to a variety of outdoor experiences. 

Out and About at the U

The U offers several ways to help students get out and explore the state, from equipment rentals to outdoor instructional classes.

“I like being able to show people these beautiful places and spaces, and do it safely,” said Eric Gardner, an academic advisor and trip leader for the department of parks, recreation and tourism at the U.

The PRT department offers outdoor classes divided into the categories land, snow and water, including options such as backpacking, avalanche preparedness and canoeing, respectively. 

“If you look at the amount of variety of classes that we have — everything from stand-up paddleboard yoga to avalanche one and two, canyoneering one and two to backpack fly fishing — you’re gonna find something that almost anybody would want to do,” Gardner said.

The U also provides students with gear rentals for almost any outdoor activity they could imagine, in most cases for much cheaper than they could get elsewhere.

Outdoor Adventures, located on the ground floor of the Student Life Center, is the campus hub for outdoor equipment rentals. They also offer outdoor trips for students including climbing, bikepacking and bouldering excursions, to name a few. 

“Any outdoors activity that you might not want to do by yourself, we have a trip for it,” said Ethan Feucht, a sophomore at the U who leads trips for Outdoor Adventures.

Feucht said OA offers students advice on everything from what sleeping bag one needs to what tent to get. 

“Students get 25% off all prices — that’s a lot cheaper than REI,” Feucht said. 

To try out gear, Feucht said people can go anywhere in the state. 

Snowshoes are pictured at the University of Utah’s Outdoor Adventure’s retail space on April 21, 2022. (Photo by Rachel Rydalch | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Rachel Rydalch)

Another aspect of accessing the outdoors is the ability to get there in the first place. With the U’s proximity to some natural destinations, people do not need a car to get there, Feucht said.

“You can take the bus to the base of the [Big and Little Cottonwood] canyons with U cards,” Feucht said. “And you can always carpool.”

This idea was echoed by Gardner about outdoor PRT classes.

“Even if a student doesn’t have a vehicle, thats ok,” Gardner said. “It really is possible for any student.”

Like the gear rentals, students can get deals when signing up for PRT classes — the courses also count for college credit.

“You’re getting credits towards graduation, which is awesome,” Gardner said. “They all have a small fee, but for instance sea kayaking was $75. My hiking and snowshoeing courses are between $15 and $25.”

Natural Resource Learning 

Getting students outside to experience Utah’s natural landscapes is a lot of fun, Gardner said. However, PRT courses have other functions than recreation.

“It’s really called natural resource learning — we’re wanting folks to learn about these landscapes, learn about ‘leave no trace’ ethics,” Gardner said. “That’s a part of any course: how we can go out as recreators and we can have the most minimal impact on the environment.”

To Gardner, letting students experience some of Utah’s natural resources is a good way to protect them.

“We want them to learn about these ecosystems, have an appreciation for them,” Gardner said. “At a basic level, we feel that folks are going to want to protect those natural landscapes if they’ve been out in them, they’ve seen how beautiful it is. Then they’ve also seen how fragile it can be.”

The PRT department offers degree programs as well — students can study commercial, community and sports management, sustainable tourism and hospitality or outdoor recreation studies.

Gardner sees students graduate with these emphases progress in a wide variety of careers.

“We have graduates doing everything from midlevel management at Hotel Monaco to folks who are working for the Utah Jazz in sports management positions,” Gardner said. “We have folks in outdoor recreation studies that go on to be park rangers, land managers, guides.”

Whatever outdoor experience U students might be seeking, Gardner is confident they can find it here.

“Really just look at the different land, water and snow courses,” Gardner said. “It’s probably for you — just read the description and go for it.”


[email protected]