Trip Leader School

Trip Leader School (TLS) is your path to becoming a qualified and successful Trip Leader for the Colorado Mountain Club!

Trip Leader School is your path to become a CMC Trip Leader. As a CMC Trip Leader, you will be qualified to lead hiking, walking, running, backpacking, and snowshoe trips. Please see below on how to become a Specialty or Technical Trip Leader if you want to lead trips doing other types of activities. 


Sign up for CMC Trip Leader School here. Regardless of what CMC group you are affiliated with, this is where you start your CMC leadership journey: 

SIgn up Here

PREREQUISITES TO trip leader school

1. Be a current CMC member.


2. Be at least 18 years of age. Co-leaders 16 years and older are encouraged to apply.

3. Go on at least 3 CMC trips, of which at least one is not a school field trip. Best if the 3 trips are with two different leaders.


4. Have a valid Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certificate or equivalent.

Concurrent enrollment in Trip Leader School and WFA is acceptable.  

Trip Leaders and Leaders-in-Training qualify for the Leadership Scholarship- the CMC will cover the cost of WFA tuition. In exchange for the scholarship, leaders must agree to lead 6 CMC trips over the next 2 years. You must apply to the scholarship before enrolling in the course because a discount code will be given to use at checkout. 


steps of trip LEADER school

1. Coassemble Course

Complete the online TLS course. It is roughly 4 hours of material to be read through at your own pace. 

2. Scenario Session

Complete a Scenario Session field day. The Scenario Session consists of up to 4 hours of discussion where the focus is on dealing with various real-life scenarios potentially encountered when leading trips. Contact your Group Representative (as listed below) for more information on completing a Scenario Session and find upcoming dates for Scenario Sessions here. Scenario Session requirements vary slightly by group (some groups require 2 Scenario Sessions to be completed). 

3. LIT Trip

The LIT trip involves leading a real trip with a Mentor Leader. This person must not be related to you and not your significant other. Mentor Leaders will either "Pass" students with sound leadership skills assessed and the student will become a CMC Trip Leader who can start leading trips OR the student will be assessed as "Having Areas of Improvement" and be asked to complete a second LIT trip with a Mentor Leander to achieve their CMC Trip Leader status.

The potential new trip leader and the Mentor Leader must fill out the LIT Evaluation Form when the trip is completed. LIT requirements vary slightly by group. Please see the graphic in the Steps by Group section below to see your group's LIT requirements. 

A list of Denver Group's Mentor Leaders can be found here: 


If you plan to lead basic hiking and/or snowshoe trips, the second LIT trip may be of any hiking or snowshoeing classification. Hiking trips are allowed to have portions with difficulty up to class 3 scrambling, but cannot have any advanced technical components such as ice climbing or rock climbing, which have additional requirements.

4. Wilderness First Aid (WFA) 

Complete a WFA course. If you already have a WFA certificate which has not yet expired and will not expire within six months of when you are starting TLS, you do not have to retake this course until your expiration date.  If you have evidence of medical competency that you think supersedes WFA, you need to contact the WFA School Director to get an exemption.


Avalanche Terrain Avoidance (ATA) is recommended for all CMC trip leaders (regardless of sport or season) and required for leaders who travel in snow-covered areas but do not travel in avalanche prone terrain. If you only plan on leading trips when there is no snow on the ground, you do not need to take ATA. 

Steps by Group


become a Speciality trip leader

If you want to lead trips other than hiking or snowshoeing trips, you must become a Specialty Trip Leader

  • Fly Fishing Trip Leader
  • Biking Trip Leader
  • Skiing Trip Leader
  • Adventure Travel Leader

No additional steps of Trip Leader School are required to become a Specialty Trip Leader in one of these activities. The only difference is you must lead your LIT trip in your specialty activity of choice, instead of doing an LIT hike. For example, if you plan to mostly lead ski trips as a CMC Trip Leader, do a ski trip as your LIT trip. Choose a Mentor Leader to assess you who is qualified to lead in your chosen specialty activity. 

become a technical trip leader

If you want to lead more technical trips, you must become a Technical Trip Leader:  

  • Top Rope Rock or Ice Climbing
  • Sport Climbing
  • Traditional Rock Climbing
  • Multi-Pitch Rock Climbing
  • Ice Lead Climbing
  • Alpine Climbing

Tls managers by group

The Safety & Leadership Committees of each group will help be responsible for governing existing trip leaders and for processing applications to become trip leaders. If your group doesn't have a liaison of some kind for leadership, your process will go through CMC state via the Trip Leader Coordinator or Education Director. Here are the groups' following contacts for leadership:

  • Denver Trip Leader School Director

Julie Smith:  

  • Denver Group Leadership Committee

Kirsten Tollefson: 

  • Boulder Trip Leader School, Director

Jill Yarger:

    • Pikes Peak Trip Leader School, Director

    Glen Barr:

    • Northern Colorado Safety & Leadership

    Brad Warren:

    • Western Slope Safety & Leadership

    Anne Keil:

    • Gore Range Trip Leader Contact: 

    Candace Winkle:

    • Roaring Fork Safety & Leadership:

    Mike Miller:

    • El Pueblo Safety & Leadership:

    Terry Mccanne:

    The safety and leadership chair for each Group, as listed above, reviews and approves leader applications when all requirements are met and when there are no concerns regarding the applicant. Once an applicant is approved, Membership Services and the applicant are notified. Membership Services then inputs the approved leader’s name into the CMC system and the new leader may begin scheduling and leading trips.