Aaron Ball

Aaron Ball
Operations Coordinator & Lecturer of Adventure Education

Expertise and Interests

  • Snow and avalanche education
  • Risk management
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Wilderness medicine
  • Rock climbing
  • River running
  • Backcountry skiing
  • Mountain biking
  • Alpine mountaineering
  • River and technical rope rescue 
  • Inspiring outdoor leaders


  • Ph.D., Education: Adult, Organizational Learning, and Leadership, University of Idaho, (in progress)
  • M.A., Adventure Education, Prescott College, 2012
  • B.S., Environmental Science, California State University, 1999


Phone Icon 970-247-7585
Email Icon Email
Website Icon Website

Media Contact

Our faculty are available to comment on topics related to areas of interest or expertise. If you need further assistance, call Media Relations at 970-247-6073 or email Media Relations.

About Aaron Ball

Aaron’s interest in the field of adventure education stems, in part, from tragedy. In 2000, while guiding a whitewater river trip on the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, a guest drowned while under his direct supervision. At that point in his career, he had only been a river guide and outdoor leader for three years. Needless to say, he was profoundly impacted by this experience. He harbored many doubts about the risk management related actions that he and his fellow guides performed that fateful day, which raised an equal number of questions about how they may have prevented the incident from happening in the first place. Answers to these questions began to emerge in the subsequent years while he worked for other outdoor leadership and education organizations, such as Outward Bound. Training development in leadership, risk management, technical skills, teaching and facilitation, and interpersonal relationships provided perspectives that he could then apply in his practice as an outdoor professional. The depth of learning he gained from those experiences has continued to evolve through the years, and his understanding of the failures in judgment and decision-making that occurred at that pivotal moment in his career has reached an integrated level of acceptance. 

Aaron has now worked in the adventure education and outdoor leadership field for over 20 years as a guide, instructor, trainer, and supervisor. Currently, he is a senior lecturer and the operations coordinator for Fort Lewis College’s (FLC) Adventure Education (AE) Department. He joined the department in 2008 as an adjunct faculty, and entered his current role in 2013. Aaron fills many roles in addition to those at FLC including being an instructor trainer and pro instructor for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), an instructor and instructor trainer for Rescue 3 International, a senior instructor for the Wilderness Medicine Training Center (WMTC), a guide and instructor for San Juan Mountain Guides, and the founder and owner of Southwest Rescue. He also sits on several boards or committees including the board of directors for the Friends of the San Juan’s, the risk management committee for Open Sky Wilderness, and is the chair for the AE Department’s risk management committee.

Aaron’s interests span the adventure education discipline, but he is particularly focused on the development of judgment, particularly when high risk and uncertainty exist. He is actively engaged in and contributes to the dialogue surrounding adventure education related topics, and regularly presents and instructs at local, regional, and national course and conferences.

Courses taught

  • Foundations of Adventure Education (AE 101)
  • Rock Climbing Fundamentals (AE 121)
  • Telemark Skiing and Backcountry Fundamentals (AE 141)
  • Teaching Methods for Adventure Education (AE 220)
  • Wilderness First Responder (AE 230)
  • Philosophy and Theory of Adventure Education (AE 310)
  • Advanced Rock Climbing (AE 321)
  • Canyoneering (AE 328)
  • Special Topics Adventure Education: Skills (AE 360)
    • Site Management
    • Alpine Site Management
    • Avalanche Technician
  • Adventure Education Practicum (AE 380)
  • Adventure Education Teaching Assistantship (AE 395)
  • Adventure Education Internship (AE 480)

Notable accomplishments

  • Over 20 years of outdoor leadership experience working for organizations such as Outward Bound, San Juan Mountain Guides, and the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE).
  • Currently enrolled in a doctoral degree program in the Adult, Organizational Learning, and Leadership program at the University of Idaho.
  • Serves as one of 20 Instructor Trainers and one in 20 Professional Avalanche Course instructors for AIARE
  • Serves as an Instructor Trainer for Rescue 3 International
  • Founder and owner of Southwest Rescue
  • The longest serving senior instructor for the Wilderness Medicine Training Center (WMTC)
  • Served as one of five Core Trainers for Outward Bound West
  • 6 seasons as a ski patroller at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
  • Nominated for the Outward Bound Josh Miner award

Selected Publications

“Mitigating the negative effects of heuristics and cognitive bias using decision-making tools & decision aids”. Co-presented workshop the annual Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education and Association for Experiential Education joint national conference (Spokane, WA, 2019)

“An effective model for training program staff”. Co-presented workshop at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (Portland, OR, 2018)

“Effective outdoor program design and management”. Co-presented pre-conference workshop presented at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (Portland, OR, 2018; Portland, OR, 2015; Colorado Springs, CO, 2010) and the annual Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education national conference (Keystone, CO, 2010)

“How risk analysis and incident evaluation inform outdoor leadership style and decision-making”. Co-presented workshop presented at the annual Colorado Outdoor Educators Symposium and Association for Experiential Education Rocky Mountain Regional Conference (Durango, CO, 2017)

“Concepts and strategies for developing risk management related decision-making”. Workshop presented at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (Stone Mountain, GA, 2014)

“Decision-making as risk managers”. Workshop presented at the annual Association for Experiential Education Rocky Mountain Regional Conference (Durango, CO, 2012)

“Some white men just don’t get it. Or do they? Exploring privilege and ally building in outdoor recreation and education”. Co-presented workshop presented at annual Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education national conference (Keystone, CO, 2010)

Professional Connections

  • American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE)
  • Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) (Ambassador)
  • American Avalanche Association (AAA)
  • Association for Experiential Education (AEE)
  • Southwest Rescue
  • Wilderness Medicine Training Center (WMTC)
  • Rescue 3 International
  • American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)
  • Outward Bound
  • Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC)
  • Wilderness Medical Society (WMS)
  • Open Sky Wilderness
  • San Juan Mountain Guides (SJMG)
  • Friends of the San Juan’s