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The Ropes Challenge Course - The Ideal Tool for Convenient,
Dependable, Adventurous Experiential Learning

In merely thirty years since its conception, the challenge course industry has become many different things.  According to Wikipedia, a ropes course is:  a challenging outdoor personal development and team building activity which usually consists of low and/or high elements. Low elements take place on the ground or only a few feet above the ground. High elements are usually constructed in trees or made of utility poles and require a belay for safety."


Due to the popularity and effectiveness of ropes courses, that general concept has now grown to mean everything from powerful, dynamic and engaging learning experiences to poorly run, insufficiently maintained, unsafe playgrounds with inadequately trained staff.


What you will experience during a well-facilitated ropes challenge course program…

  • Challenge – the difficulty in an undertaking that is stimulating to one or ones engaged in it
  • Adventure – undertaking that difficult engagement when the outcome, success or failure, is yet to be determined
  • Fun – activity which is intrinsically enjoyable
  • Opportunity a chance to see oneself or group with a different, more positive perspective
  • Support – the environment (physical, social, emotional) is structured to make the undertaking a productive risk

What is going on behind the scene of a well-facilitated ropes challenge course program…

  • A well researched knowledge (physical condition of the participants, their objectives, their level of commitment) of the group and their reasons for coming to a program
  • A well-planned sequence of activity and processing based on the knowledge of the group and of the group’s objectives
  • Several years of experience with the type of group and level of learning the group is seeking to enable the facilitator to finesse the activities and group discussions to bring about the learning objectives
  • A facilitator with the ability to quickly build a productive, supportive, motivating relationship with the individuals and the group as a whole
  • A knowledge that the whole process a group is undergoing is far more important than the activity and whether a group “got it” or not
  •  A confidence in knowing that the experiential learning process is dynamic (changing with perhaps unexpected results), highly relevant to the goals and actions of the participants, and that this dynamic aspect of adventure based learning is precisely what makes it so powerful

Yes, a ropes challenge course CAN be a straightforward recreational activity, provided with minimal instruction and program structure…if pure recreation is what you are seeking.  Good results may happen from such an experience, but the outcome is left to chance and to the perhaps, healthy or not-so-healthy dynamics of the group.


The more you hope to accomplish…the shorter the amount of time you have to devote…the more sophisticated the group interactions are…the more unresolved conflict that exists between team members…all situations which beg the need for a well-facilitated ropes challenge course program.  Organizations using a recreational ropes course experience when seeking a training or intervention level of program is akin to seeking good healthy nutrition at a fast-food restaurant.


What should one look for when searching for a provider of a ropes course experience...

  • Maybe more than any other one thing...Look for an experienced, qualified staff with a solid background working with the type of group, objectives and level of programming that you are seeking.  Even if a person has the outdoor, rope and safety skills needed for a ropes course facilitator...a camp counselor doesn't necessarily make a corporate trainer...who does not necessarily make a group therapist...who does not necessarily make a teacher...who does not necessarily make a Recreation Therapist...who does not necessarily make a camp counselor!  Be aware of programs which are primarily facilitated by short-term annual staff or college interns.
  • An association with industry groups committed to maintaining standards of the industry; the Association of Challenge Course Technologies (ACCT), the Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA), and the Association of Experiential Education (AEE) are three of the best known and credible.
  •  An annual inspection of the challenge course by a qualified vendor/builder of challenge courses
  • When you make an inquiry to a ropes course program, does the person you are speaking to seem interested in learning about your group or organization and in what you hope to accomplish?  If they primarily ask you to simply schedule a date and then tell you about the cost...keep looking!

How Horizons Makes a Ropes Course Experience Superior...

  • Horizons begins each program with a discussion of specifically what the client is seeking to accomplish from a challenge course program.  Those objectives may be: simple recreation, or enhancing relationships to increase work productivity and workplace satisfaction, perhaps increasing ability to solve problems and think creatively, or to build an open, transparent trustworthy team, or perhaps even intervening in a conflicted and troubled group
  • Horizons will then help an organization determine how the whole team sees the situation and then to help build consensus and motivation for change
  • Horizons maintains some of the most experienced and talented team facilitators in this region
  • Horizons forte is making the most of the program time through sequencing activities, goal setting, setting the productive environment, assessing and monitoring a groups status and progress, debriefing the experience in a meaningful way and finally, in helping a group transfer their learning from the training back to their work or home environment
Please give us a call.  We'd love to talk more about helping you make your experience what is should be!





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"The staff of New Horizons are exceptionally well
prepared, are creative in their approach to experiential
adventure education and extremely safety conscious. There are several experiential adventure based programs in our area and the only one that I can recommend with
confidence is New Horizons. This group is very professional and the staff always maintain their skill level, knowledge,and concern for the participants on a 'first rate' basis.  Their 'soft skills' and 'hard skills' are
among the best in the business."
Dr. Gene Hayes, Department Chair
Dept. of Recreation and Leisure Studies
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville



  "I thought the group had some of the best discussions
leadership on the ropes course that I've ever seen."

Amy Cathey
Director, Executive MBA Program
The University of Tennesse

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"You all have a wonderful course. I believe the students benefited a great deal from this learning experience."

Tom Brown, Program Coordinator
The University of Tennessee
Physician Executive MBA Program

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