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  1. Challenge Course Practitioner Certification Standards


    The intent of the Practitioner Standards is to identify and set a common grouping of minimum skills required for challenge course facilitators to work safely in the ropes course industry.  The intent of the standards is to increase the level of professionalism within the industry and promote best practices through verification of an individual’s level of ability. 


    Levels of Challenge Course Practitioner Certification

    Experiential Systems offers three levels of challenge course practitioner certification. These levels are based on the levels outlined within the ACCT published Practitioner Certification Standards.

    ESI offers open enrollment trainings and certification testing for the following designations:


    Level I Certification

    Level 1 certification is intended for entry level challenge course practitioners who wo

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  2. Understanding Challenge Course Insurance

    How is my premium for liability insurance compiled? Who sets the numbers? What are all the pieces (extra fees, etc.)?

    This will vary slightly with each insurance underwriter. The premium price is determined by several factors.

    1. Insurance Application Form: Your answers to all of the questions on your challenge course insurance application form will have an impact on your final premium.
    2. Your premium will be directly proportional to what your exposure for risk is. Your organizations exposure to risk is determined by many factors including: your payroll totals; the number of “participant days” or clients who go through your challenge course program; the number of facilitators you have trained, the amount of training they have received, who provided it, how recent it was, are they a “certified challenge course practitioner”; product liability is also a consideration if manufacture or sell a item to the general public (ex. Making a portable Spiders
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    Industry Participation


    Program managers and facilitators should consider becoming members of the following organizations. These organizations have been at the forefront of developing and maintaining policies and procedures for challenge courses, climbing gyms and zip line design, construction and installation; equipment use, storage and retirement; as well as staff training and supervision. All of the organizations below maintain a membership and distribute a newsletter or written standards to all members.ESIbuilds, trains and inspects to the standards set by these organizations and many others.


    Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT)

    Challenge Course Builders, Challenge Course Managers and Facilitators

    ACCT is the largest and oldest trade association serving the challenge course community and has been at the forefront in the development of written standards and guidelines f

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  4. 10 Great Ropes Course Elements

    Keith Jacobs

    May 7, 2016

    Ropes courses are used for both personal and organizational goals and benefits like strengthening an individual’s self-confidence and problem solving skills; and increasing small group communication and asking for and receiving help. Below are 10 great activities for ropes course programs

    1. Indiana Jones Bridges

    Named for the famous adventurer and archeologist, the Indiana Jones Bridges are a great activity to tests balance and agility, and eye/foot corrdination.

    2. Balance Beam

    This is one of the most basic ropes course elements you can add to any ropes course. The simplicity is key in challenging the physical endurance and balance of the individual. The balance beam pushes participants to find their center and traverse to the next platform.

    3. Free Fall Device

    Free fall devices push the limits of participants of all ages and sized as they take a trusting leap. This activity promotes s

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    Trolley vs. Pulley - Trolley is a pulley that moves along a cable or rope. A pulley is stationary and the rope or cable moves through or over it. The same device may be a pulley or a trolley depending on how it is used.

    Wheel Size – 1-1/2” wheels or 2” wheels are the most common.  1-1/2” wheels use a smaller bearing than the 2” wheels. 1-1/2” bearings are much like skateboard bearings. They have low resistance and a high efficiency but do not last long under heavy use and heavy loads.  2” wheels have bearings that are bigger and more durable.  They may not have the same efficiency, but will outlast the smaller bearings by a factor of 10. 1-1/2” wheels typically have a efficiency rating of 90+%. Most 2” wheels have an efficiency rating of 85%+. In the short term the smaller wheels will be faster but that will quickly change as the smaller wheel bearings get w

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    Material Selection

    All materials used for outdoor installations must be corrosion resistant and the treatment type must be matched with the environmental conditions and type of lumber treatment used. The minimum diameter for cable shall be 3/8” and all bolts used for belay systems will have a minimum diameter of 5/8” or in some circumstances use multiple 3/8” or ½” bolts in unison to achieve desired strength ratings (such as in platform construction).


    Bolt Strength

    All Through-bolts (eyebolts, thimble eyebolts, angle thimble eyebolts, machine bolts timber bolts and other bolts) that are used for the support of belay cables, foot cables and guy wire cables must have a minimum breaking strength of at least 11,500 lbs (51.2 kN). Staples, shoulder lag eye screws may not be used to replace the bolts in these applications and should never be used a

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  7. What’s a Challenge Course

    Whether looking to build employee morale or get an intact team or group to work together with a new understanding of teamwork and cooperation, a challenge course experience can transform your team or group. Outdoor ropes course and challenge course programs get your team out of the workplace and into an unfamiliar setting to to work together to solve problems. Challenge courses offer a  new way of thinking about professional development because it gets at the heart of the human experience by asking your fellow group members to understand themselves and their peers — and then to use that new insight to solve complex problems, and then to take the newly learned interpersonal skills back into the workplace to apply them to your operations. Done properly, team-building on a challenge course can be a turning point for your group.

    Challenge Courses: An Overview

    In general, a challenge course is like an obstacle course for adults — but one that comes with more than just

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  8. Universal Programming on Challenge Courses

    As challenge course program providers, we have a responsibility to provide an accessible experience for our participants whenever possible. When designing a challenge course, consider universal access and provide as many elements as possible that allow for all to participate. On a course that does not have elements specifically designed for universal access, work with your vendor to design programming and adaptations that will allow you to best meet the abilities of all participants.  


    The approach may vary depending on the ability level of each individual in the group.  

    Therefore, it is important to plan ahead for how your organization will address meeting the needs of participants who have physical or sensory limitations.

    Part of the needs assessment phase should include a question about whether there are any individuals in the group who have a sensory or physical disability. Should this be the case, ask for more specific information:

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  9. The Physical Benefits of a Ropes Course

    No one said exercise had to be boring. “One of the main problems is that people associate exercise with a gym or equipment,” says Dr. Marc Tinsley. “I tell people to think ‘outside the barbell.’” Fitness is about “having enough energy to do your activities of daily living safely and effectively.” The challenge course, also commonly referred to as a ropes course, is a great way to exercise without even realizing you’re exercising.

    Physical Health

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense activity every week. The ropes course can be a fun and engaging way to meet these exercise milestones without setting foot in a boring gym.

    “If outdoor activity encourages more activity, then it is a good thing,” says Jacqueline Kerr, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. After all, “despite the fitness industry boom, we are not seeing changes in n

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  10. Suggested Clothing for Adventure Programs

    The majority of the experiential adventure based activities are held entirely out of doors on warm, dry, cold, wet or even snowy days. Your ability to participate and enjoy your experience may depend upon staying warm and dry. Cold or wet weather will not deter us from programming if participants are properly dressed. Here are some suggestions that might assist you in your choice of attire. Please dress for comfort, not style. Listen to the weather report, but come prepared for the unexpected.



    Proper footwear is critical for a safe enjoyable day. Athletic shoes are not designed to keep feet warm in less than 60 degree weather. Waterproof footwear could make all the difference on a cold wet day. No matter what all shoes must be closed toed. This means that you will not be able to participate if you are wearing sandals or similar shoes that expose parts of your feet.



    Dress in Layers – Bring extra clothing (sw

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