Situated in the remote woods of Montana, Turning Winds offers young people a purposeful remove to find the self-confidence essential to leading a purposeful life. Here, away from the artifice and relentlessness of our current culture, young people can become free from the perceptions that reinforce negative thinking and instead accept new ideas and skills that will allow them to restore their quality of life and ability to engage joyfully with their world.
The most important aspect of removal from everyday home life is not a temporary escape from negative stimuli but the time and space needed to recognize the things that matter most. To learn how to identify and pursue those aspects of life that truly matter, and to eschew those things that distract from our health and aspirations is to learn how to meaningfully and productively engage in a successful life.
An important element of that purposeful removal are healthy outdoor activities. The outdoors is an essential component of our therapeutic program, and our pristine location is one of the reasons for our success. “Our activities correspond with the seasons,” says chief operations officer Carl Baisden. “We try to stay consistent with the level of activities we provide for our kids—even in the winter which can be fairly harsh up here.” Right now there’s snowshoeing, ice fishing, ice skating, cross-country and downhill skiing.
“During the winter, we ski a lot, at least once a week, up at Schweitzer Mountain,” says operations and activities David Armstrong. “We also do trek outings. We’ve had four-day excursions where we skied Lookout Pass, Silver for two days, and then Schweitzer for another day. Just getting out and engaging these kids in activities that most of them have never experienced is extremely valuable.”
Most of the teenage clients at Turning Winds have never seen mountains like the Montana Rockies. “We take these kids into the backcountry on hikes and to lookout towers, and these kids just get giddy because it’s nothing like they’ve ever really experienced in their life. So, it’s a lot of fun for them to see things that they’ve never seen before.”
“In the spring the kids get to do a lot of biking and backpacking,” says Carl Baisden. The vehicle to connect clients with nature is the TREC (Turning Winds Recreation and Education Connection) program. Through TREC, our students are able to experience first-hand activities such as backcountry hiking, backpacking, mountain bike riding, white water rafting, fishing, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and many other healthy outdoor activities. The healthy outdoor activities aren’t simply a fun outing but also a therapeutic tool we utilize to teach important life lessons such as endurance, teamwork, mental strength, and self-confidence.
“The purpose of these activities is not grind and make people uncomfortable but to get them to have life-changing experiences that they buy into and fall in love with. We give them as many reminders as possible that life is beautiful” says Baisden.
“In the spring and fall, we also have our international trips.” The most recent one in 2022 took Turning Winds clients and their chaperones to a remote village in Guatemala. “The primary purpose of the trips is to put together meaningful opportunities for the kids to get outside of themselves and give to other people,” explains Baisden who organized and supervised the service trip to Central America. The next trip is planned for April.
“We do fishing all year round and many of our kids are really into fishing,” says Baisden. “In the summer, we’re on the water a lot. We just got a brand new pontoon boat—a really big one. We got a slip on the lake, so we’re at the lake multiple times a week in the summer. Once it’s the fall, we can’t really spend too much time in the water anymore, that means it’s time for backpacking and mountain biking again. We also take the kids to sporting events as far away as Spokane in Washington.”
Turning Winds provides a critical resource for adolescents, families, and communities. The
program’s therapeutic work and its ability to help individuals become healthier, happier people,
family and community members yield far-reaching personal and societal benefits.
At Turning Winds, it’s the spectacular landscape and the inspiring people that make the difference. Over the course of more than twenty years, we’ve built a team of some of the world’s finest academic and therapeutic professionals, all of whom share the same goal: to help teens re-engage meaningfully with their lives, their families, and their futures.