One of the quintessential Cottonwood Institute experiences is learning to build a quinzhee, a simple snow shelter that can be useful in winter survival scenarios. It’s a technique Executive Director Ford Church brings from his survival school days, and one that endures as a winter field day staple (see pictures from our recent Instructor Training for evidence that the tradition is alive and well). We recently caught up with CI alumnus Ivan Goldberg, who recalled his quinzhee-building experience and reflected about how his time with CI influenced his path as a personal trainer and coach.
What CI program(s) did you take and when?
I believe it was an overnight backpacking and snow shelter building trip with New Vista High School in 2005 or 2006.
What do you remember most about your CI experience?
I remember going backpacking into the beautiful backwoods of Colorado with a group of New Vista HS students led by our gracious guide and mentor Ford Church. We hiked until we found a snowy spot deep enough to start digging in order to create our snow huts [quinzhees]. And dig we did. As a group, we made several gigantic piles of snow, hollowed them out, and created our very own snow huts. This was certainly a first for me and an awesome experience!
What are you up to these days?
I’m a personal trainer and youth soccer coach in the Boulder, CO area.
Are there any skills or things you learned from CI that have come in handy in your life?
For one, I learned how to create a safe and sustainable snow shelter in the backwoods of Colorado. Secondly, I learned how important teamwork and cooperation is whether you’re in a survival situation on the side of a mountain or otherwise. There were times when I wanted to quit and go home (possible frozen tears) but others rallied around me, we persevered, and had an unforgettable time together.
Looking back now, how has your CI experience impacted you long term?
I gained a confidence in being outdoors, in elements, and a belief in myself that I could do more than I thought I was capable of. I use those values to this day when I face adversity in nature and/or in everyday life.
How has your CI experience helped you create positive change in your community?
In my work with youths and adults alike I am constantly encouraging people to learn, grow, and push themselves both physically and mentally. I love to help people realize their potential and push their limits. Cottonwood Institute helped me in the same way and for that I’m grateful!
Based on your CI experience, what advice would you give to other students?
Go for it! If you’re unsure, as I was, step out of your comfort zone, try something new, and believe in yourself. Cottonwood has a great team that provides both support and guidance, you’re in good hands.
Thank you to Ivan Goldberg for his contributions!
Get involved with our Cottonwood Institute alumni community!