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Last spring, MasterClass's celebrity-upholstered e-learning platform attracted $100 million in investment. Lockdown helped: with time to kill and nowhere to go, self-appointed students enrolled in courses on DJing with Questlove and deal making with former FBI negotiator Chris Voss. The course catalog leans toward the theoretical (and entertaining), but one that stands apart is a class on adventure photography taught by climber and photographer Jimmy Chin.
Chin's syllabus leaves the cerebral space where leadership and creativity might bloom and goes into the backcountry. It suggests something after the end of the videos: an adventure (and a decent photo to commemorate it). Now, a host of new MasterClass-like online learning platforms have arrived to do the same.
These new online curricula make a hammer-to-nails promise, whether it's explicit or not: Wanna be a mountain biker? A fly fisher? An adventure photographer? Start here, they say. Secrets of skill and etiquette once guarded by experienced guides and cranky locals are now accessible for a monthly fee. And while we can debate how much one can really expect to learn about the outdoors from a computer, tablet or phone screen, the following three options sure aren’t short on production value — or big-name caché.
Roam was a digital media company before it was an online learning platform, and its roster of founding members is a who's who of A-list adventurers that makes for an impressive faculty. Each lesson's production quality is high, incorporating impressive b-roll from the library of expedition footage Roam has at its disposal. The site itself isn't as polished — there's no way to track which lessons you've already watched, for instance.
Roam's curriculum features snippets of tutorials — Joey Schusler teaches you how to pop a wheelie, and Conrad Anker demonstrates essential climbing knots — but most of the content takes on the preparatory and mindset aspects of activities like surfing, climbing and mountain biking. The standout is Mark Smiley's class on route planning, which incorporates screen recordings highlighting obscure websites and tools only a guide licensed by the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations) would keep in his bookmarks tab.
Price: $15/month or $149/year
Traditionally, knowledge of outdoor activities percolates through communities via coaching, mentorship and partnership. Crux Academy recreates that more than any other program through an easy-to-navigate interface reminiscent of social media; you can publish posts on course feeds and comment on lessons where instructors, called "guides," will respond.
Crux's courses are still limited, though each one is robust, with as many as 50 video lessons that include additional resources like articles and videos for further reading and watching. Participation (via comment) and reflection are encouraged at every step. Course content is all-encompassing, too — Fernanda Maciel's course on trail running, for example, includes discussions on how to manage training while keeping a day job and dealing with post-race depression.
Price: $10/month (billed annually) or $49 per course
Wildist hones in on the intersection of the outdoors and photography with a series of workshops that caters to snapshooters, both amateur and experienced. It recruited the best adventure photographers in the biz to create course content that guarantees you'll up your Instagram game and suggests that you, too, can get paid to take photos around the world.
It's easy to navigate the platform and keep track of your progress, and though the workshops are pricey, they're both varied and comprehensive. Examples include Aaron Brimhall's lessons about automotive photography and Chris Burkard's inside scoop on the business side of the job. In addition to photo content, Wildist is beginning to create outdoor-specific workshops too.
Price: $99 to $299 per course