June 13, 2014 at 1:42 PM ET
Bear Grylls, the British adventurer best known for his Discovery Channel series, “Man vs. Wild,” is expanding his survival academy program to the United States.
The Bear Grylls Survival Academy is opening in three sites around the country: The program at the Frost Valley YMCA in New York’s Catskill Mountains began last month; the program at Glacier View Ranch in the Rocky Mountains in Ward, Colorado, will begin June 13; and the program at Calvin Crest in Oakhurst, California, just outside Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada, will begin July 16. The academy offered its first course off the coast of northwest Scotland in late 2012, and has since expanded to other sites in the United Kingdom and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Both the Catskills and California sites will offer three courses: a 24-hour course geared to families that teaches survival skills to up to two kids at least 9 years old and one parent per family; a similar 24-hour course for adults only; and a five-day extreme course, for adults, involving several days of training and three days in a difficult survival situation in the wild. Both 24-hour courses will be offered in Colorado.
Fees for the courses — which will also be offered near Austin, Texas, next year — are $678 for a family of two for the 24-hour family course; $579 per person for the 24-hour adult survival course; and $3,215 for the five-day extreme course. There are two instructors for 12 participants in the 24-hour courses, and two instructors and one assistant instructor for 12 participants in the extreme course. The academy lends participants all equipment.
“It would be great if we encourage outdoor people to continue to go into the mountains for adventures, but what I’m hoping is that we will also encourage people who don’t venture out in the back country to head out with their families, leave the tablets and game consoles at home, and come away from the courses with a great experience and a real taste for the outdoors.”
Grylls said the academy’s courses in the U.K. were particularly popular with families. “The vast majority of the participants have watched shows such as ‘Man vs. Wild’ and ‘Get Out Alive,’ and I am very aware of the popularity of these programs in the U.S. With this in mind, I wanted to move our U.K. model across to the U.S. as soon as possible, and give people the chance to get out in the back country Bear Grylls style,” he said.
He said the Catskills, Rockies and Yosemite locations “kind of picked themselves. All of these are iconic, beautiful and challenging mountain ranges which lend themselves perfectly to an adventure.
“It would be great if we encourage outdoor people to continue to go into the mountains for adventures, but what I’m hoping is that we will also encourage people who don’t venture out in the back country to head out with their families, leave the tablets and game consoles at home, and come away from the courses with a great experience and a real taste for the outdoors,” said Grylls.
Sydne Didier, who teaches adults how to swim in Amherst, Massachusetts, joined her 13-year-old son, Aidan, on a 24-hour family course in the Catskills in late May. “He struggled to eat a mealworm,” she said. “We both learned a lot about ourselves and each other.”
Survival skills were a highlight for 10-year-old Cameron Confer of Hopewell, New Jersey, who participated in the same course as Didier and her son with his father and 12-year-old brother.
Confer, a big fan of Grylls’ TV series, called the course “amazing.”
One skill he learned that he said he won’t forget: setting a trap in the wilderness. A guide taught him how to make a sling snare trap with sapling, string and metal wire; it caught a rabbit, which he and the guide skinned and cooked, and which he said was “really good, better than chicken.”