Concordia Outdoors Club organize group activities to build student community.
Back by popular demand, Concordia Outdoors Club held their second trip to skate the trails of Domaine de la forêt perdue, or the “enchanted forest,” in Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel on Feb. 15.
The nonprofit student-run club organizes events in and out of the city for students and Montrealers with the goal of building a sense of community, getting outside and getting active.
“In the past, it was kind of focused on just being outdoors,” said Salar Jaberi, president of Concordia Outdoors. “Now it’s transitioned to be a bit like ‘here’s something to do this weekend if you’re stressed out about school.’ We’re trying to get people outside the city more.”
Jaberi, a fourth year electrical engineering student, runs the club with a team of eight executives who are all Concordia undergraduates. Most participants are also undergraduates, though the events are open to all––non students as well.
Activities vary by season, though the enchanted forest skate trip is winter’s most popular one, said Jaberi. Saturday’s event had 87 participants and was the second of its kind this season, after huge interest in the first.
The club also goes tubing, snowshoeing, hiking, and cross country skiing. They also organize a chalet overnighter once a semester, and trips to Oka Beach in summer. Concordia Outdoors also has a partnership with Allez Up in St-Henri for weekly rock climbing on Wednesdays.
In January, Concordia Outdoors went on a chalet trip to Rawdon with 60 attendees, who participated in team activities such as toboggan building and racing. Vice President of outreach Brandon Poirier said this allows students to “connect with other people you might not usually see yourself connecting with, but also getting more comfortable with the outdoors.”
“Often times there’s a financial barrier to how students and members can get to these places,” said Poirier, a second year recreation and leisure student. He said the group “gives people the potential to be exposed to what’s outside Montreal, or even what’s inside Montreal that is outdoor related.”
Jaberi said they like to connect with and promote other clubs and events within the Concordia community, because “at the end of the day we just want people to have stuff to do,” he said. “We’re trying to build something, so [students] have something to remember once they graduate.”
“That’s the big idea: keeping people busy, keeping people outdoors,” Jaberi added.
Sashka Jones, a first year art education student, went on her first trip with the group to Oka Beach last semester.
“My friend and I stumbled upon the club and having known no one else at Concordia, we decided to take a trip with them,” she said. “We were both really introverted and left the trip feeling so good and full of energy.”
Jones said the group is great even for non-outdoorsy folks because the social aspect makes things easy. “It seems like everyone leaves the trips having known a new person,” she said. “Because you’re doing an activity, it’s really easy to start talking to anyone because you have at least that thing in common.”
This can be particularly beneficial for exchange students to combat loneliness and foster new friendships—the group has a lot of international students participating as a result, said Jaberi.
Though the group is growing in size––it almost quadrupled from two years ago––Jaberi said they don’t get much funding from Concordia’s Student Union; certainly not proportional to their growth. He wishes he didn’t have to rely on charging for tickets, but the trips are very accessible and Concordia Outdoors regularly sells out events.
Of Saturday’s 12 kilometres of enchanted forest trails, Poirier said “you don’t realize where you’re going, you just skate.” Jones said the winding S-shaped trails, lined with trees and dotted with animals and a hot chocolate shack were beautiful.
Concordia Outdoors events can be found on Facebook and on their website. Next up this month are rock climbing Wednesdays, DodgeBow on Feb. 22, and a sugar shack trip to Cap-Saint-Jacques on Feb. 23.