Tag Archives: UNO Outdoor Venture Center

Leave No Trace

May 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Take a look at 19-year-old Katie Werkmeister scaling an indoor climbing wall, trudging along happily on a backcountry hike, or scrambling along on a bouldering trip, and you’d think she has been adventuring her entire life.

But that’s not the case. “I led a really bland life before college,” she admits.

Growing up in Kearney, she yearned for a “bigger city with more culture.” In Omaha, however, she ended up on a path to some of the nation’s most remote locales.

“College really opened my perspective to get outside,” she says, adding that an outdoor leadership class during her first semester of freshman year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha changed her life.

“We learned about LNT [Leave No Trace] and backpacking to get ready for a trip to the Badlands in South Dakota, where we took turns guiding and leading the group.” 

She learned how to read a map and lead a group through sometimes unforgiving terrain. She also learned that she loved being outside (even when the going gets tough): “Backpacking is sometimes—honestly—not fun, but when you get to where you’re going it makes it all worth it.”

The philosophy of Leave No Trace had a profound impact on Werkmeister. She continues to be amazed and appalled by mankind’s negative consequences on the natural environment—particularly by those people who negatively impact nature while themselves trying to enjoy the outdoors.

Even around the UNO campus, she notices where students create worn walking paths in spots where people are not meant to walk. Werkmeister fully endorses the idea of leaving no trace when out in nature, whether that’s around a college campus or in remote spots only accessible by backpacking for days.

Climbing was a natural next step for this adventurer. She was a complete beginner when she started in 2016.

“Everybody starts at the lowest point. There’s something exciting about being at the lowest point because there’s always somewhere to go from there,” she says.

Werkmeister admits that climbing was not easy in the beginning and didn’t come to her naturally at first. “I went in really weak,” says the young woman who had received a pacemaker in her heart in 2015.

“Sometimes my heart would randomly stop beating and I would pass out,” she says, referring to her health pre-pacemaker. As a result, one side of her body is weaker than the other, which has made climbing difficult. But she’s not the kind of person to give up on something because it’s difficult. Nowadays she’s an active and strong climber, both indoors and out in the wild.    

Currently working at the UNO Outdoor Venture Center, she enjoys helping beginning climbers discover their own strength. “Not many people know it’s open to the public,” she says, urging people to check out the climbing wall even if they aren’t UNO students.

Werkmeister and other staff can help climbing novices learn everything they need, even if they have never climbed before.

As Werkmeister says: when you start from the bottom, you can only go up from there.


Visit unomaha.edu for information about the climbing wall and excursions with the Outdoor Venture Center.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Winter Excursions

December 22, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

Got cabin fever? Make plans to venture into the blistering cold for some fun this winter, but don’t forget to bundle up. Whether you’re an experienced athlete or looking to burn a few of those lingering holiday calories—your winter adventure awaits!

Mt. Crescent
17026 Snowhill Lane
Honey Creek, Iowa
713-545-3850
skicrescent.com

There’s a mountain in the Omaha area? Well, kind of. If your heart yearns for rolling hills covered in a thick blanket of immaculate snow, there is no need to venture more than 15 miles outside of Omaha. Mt. Crescent Ski Area is the perfect place to hone your skiing abilities or learn how to ski and snowboard for the first time.

UNO Outdoor Venture Center Trips
6001 Dodge St.
402-554-2258
unomaha.edu/student-life/wellness/campus-recreation/ovc

Located in the campus wellness center (aka the HPER Building), Outdoor Venture Center hosts an epic Minnesota winter excursion with dogsledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing (Jan. 2-6); a Wyoming snow skiing and snowboarding trip (Jan. 12-15); and wilderness first aid program (Feb. 17-19). The trips are open to UNO students and the general public. Register on the OVC page of the UNO website. The center also rents snowshoes and skis to the public.

Ice Fishing
Visit Nebraska Game and Parks’ website for seasonal ice fishing updates.outdoornebraska.gov/fishing

Grab an ice auger, poles, bait, and a bucket to sit on. If you or a friend have a heated ice hut, then you’re in luck. Ice fishing is fun for the whole family. Just make sure there are 4 inches or more of ice. Ice fishing is the perfect way to spend a cold winter day. The variety and quantity of fish in Standing Bear Lake makes it one of Omaha’s best locations for ice fishing. Other local ice fishing destinations include Lake Manawa, Cunningham Lake, Lake Zorinsky, and any other popular fishing waters.

Top Sledding Hills

Omaha is home to some of the state’s best sledding hills. Take the kids or unleash your own inner child. Memorial Park (go to the north entrance off 56th Street and Underwood Avenue) is one of Omaha’s go-to sledding hills. Alternatively, visit Spring Lake Park in South Omaha and see which of your friends can make it to the bottom of the hill first. If there isn’t enough snow outside for sledding, race down hills of man-made snow at Clemmons Park in Fremont.

Loess Hills Snowshoeing
27792 Ski Hill Loop
Honey Creek, Iowa
712-545-3283
pottcoconservation.com

Stop by Hitchcock Nature Center with your snowshoes and engage in one of winter’s more tranquil outdoor activities. Hitchcock Nature Center consists of 1,268 acres with a trail running through the Loess Hills. Walk through freshly fallen snow and take in the winter wonderland scenery. Register online for winter snowshoe hikes led by Pottawattamie Conservation staff (snowshoe rental included with $5 admission).

Cross-Country Skiing

Did someone say cross-country skiing in Omaha? You don’t have to travel outside of the city to hone your skiing skills. Test your endurance at Elmwood Park’s golf course (situated nearby the UNO Outdoor Venture Center, if you need rental gear). Try cross-country skiing on the 770 acres of Zorinsky Lake Park, or venture out to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park for some of the best snow-covered trails in Omaha area.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.