Jenna Gneiski, Marketing Intern

In the spirit of the outdoors, I’d like to start off this blog post with a meaningful quote. 

“It is in the roots, not the branches, that a tree’s greatest strength lies.”

― Matshona Dhliwayo, philosopher and entrepreneur 

Every tree was once planted from a seed and grew roots, including Venture Outdoors almost twenty years ago. 

This is the story of how we came to be.


After traveling and exploring different parts of the country, Mike Schiller, an outdoorsman and native of Western Pennsylvania, returned back to his roots. In the early 2000s, he observed that not many Pittsburghers were engaging in or exploring outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking or rock climbing. Several parks and outdoor spaces are located around the area, yet no one was taking advantage of them. To fulfill his urge to venture outdoors, Mike went on different outings with several other organizations but found that his expectations were not met and the experiences fell short time and time again. 

(Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

That’s when his idea hit: he wanted to create an organization that combined high-quality outdoor recreation with knowledge of the environment. The idea took off after he connected with several influential Pittsburghers, which then led him to pitch the idea to the Richard King Mellon Foundation. In late summer of 2001, Venture Outdoors (previously called The Field Institute of Western Pennsylvania) officially became an organization. 

In an interview with the Post-Gazette back in 2002, Mike said he was thrilled to already see “things changing and happening and people responding,” and said, without wanting to sound schmaltzy, “One could argue that I’ve found my life’s work.” 

One of the major milestones in Venture Outdoor’s history is the opening of Kayak Pittsburgh. In the early days, the Field Institute borrowed kayaks from The Three Rivers Rowing Association on Washington’s Landing. After several newspaper articles had been published, the Field Institute’s small kayak trips had started to gain popularity. Mike saw this as an opportunity and created a business plan for a kayak rental service so that more Pittsburghers could enjoy time on the water. Funding from several organizations made it possible to purchase the first twenty kayaks and paddles for Kayak Pittsburgh. It was also through his connections that Mike was able to secure the spot underneath the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the North Shore for their location. Kayak Pittsburgh has since opened two more convenient locations in the Pittsburgh area, making kayaking a more accessible activity for local residents.


The creation of this organization was pivotal in promoting accessibility to the outdoors in Western Pennsylvania. Venture Outdoors uses its roots to support and strengthen the community around us. Much like a tree, this organization plays a vital role in the environment and strives to continue to do so by educating, equipping, and inspiring people to get outside.



Inspire. Educate. Equip.  We remove barriers and create access to outdoor experiences. 

Written By: Kelly McQueston, Intern

Want to plan your own kayak adventure? You can today, with your very own Venture Outdoors watercraft. Venture Outdoors is selling off a variety of used watercrafts that were used as part of the Kayak Pittsburgh rental fleet. Everything from single kayaks to our ten and twelve-foot paddle boards is up for sale. The watercrafts are all in either good or fair condition, with only small repairs or minor parts missing. They are all ready for a life retired from Kayak Pittsburgh with their new owners :).

We have five Emotion Advant-Edge single kayaks available, all going for $150. This kayak is best suited to exploring calm waterways with its own blend of speed and stability. The foot braces and the seat are all adjustable, and the large cockpit opening makes it very easy to get into this kayak. The minor damages on all five of them include a cracked handle, a crack in the cockpit run, scratches in the hull, and some plastic welding has already been done on the bow and stern of one of them to repair some small holes and spots.

If you are looking for a slightly more advanced kayak, we have two Emotion Edge single kayaks up for $175. These kayaks are more advanced, but still suitable for beginners. They have exceptional secondary stability and tracking. It is meant to be transported by only one kayaker: it is short and lightweight.

If you want to kayak with a buddy, we have two Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 tandem kayaks both up for $250. These kayaks are perfect for two people, yet they can also be adjusted to a solo kayak by a slide-rail system and by foot pegs adjusting to provide maneuverability in solo position. These kayaks are perfect for longer trips, with comfortable seats and easy access to storage. We also have a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 tandem kayak shell (same boat, without the seats) up for sale for $125. This one is missing the seats and the hatch-cover.

We have five Glide SUP 10 foot rental boards for $500 each. These are all in good condition, coming with a leash and a fin. They are extremely durable and are able to stand up to heavy use. This paddleboard is perfect for both beginners, with extremely good stability and experts, because it paddles well.


For someone who is more of a beginner at paddleboarding, there is also a Glide SUP 12 foot rental board available for $600. This one is also in great condition, but it has a minor rip in the foam. This one is the same as the previous board I listed, but the length allows it to have extra stability.

Finally, we have a Future Beach Water Bee pedal boat. It is in good condition except for the fact that it needs one new seat back. This is perfect for a family-friendly event, with four seats and pedals for all four seats.


If you wish to get one of these watercrafts, fill out the interest form!!


When purchasing a watercraft, keep in mind that the kayak paddles, SUP paddles, and kayak light mounts may be available for purchase when you purchase the watercraft. Payment will only be accepted through PayPal, and all sales are final. Arrangements for sales will be made within a week of the form being completed.


Direct link to the form:


Inspire. Educate. Equip.  We remove barriers and create access to outdoor experiences. 

Meet our 2020 Fall Marketing Interns!



Austin: Hello, my name is Austin, from the Harrisburg/Hershey area, an intern from Point Park University majoring in Multimedia. I enjoy anything technology, I love creating photos and conveying the message through photographs.


Kate: My name is Kate Campolieta, and I am a senior at Pitt studying communications. I’m originally from Simsbury, Connecticut, and I enjoy photoshop and videography, as well as journalism and creative writing. I’m also a big sports fan, particularly hockey, and enjoy sports writing specifically.


Kelly: Hey there! My name is Kelly. I am a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Geology and GIS. I enjoy hiking/running, animating and spending time with my cat Fig (pictured). My life goal is to visit all the US and Canadian national parks 🙂.


Jenna: My name is Jenna and I’m a senior at Duquesne University majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Law & Politics. I’m originally from Westmoreland County – near the Murrysville area. In my free time, you can catch me biking around Pittsburgh, taking photos or listening to music while drinking a good cup of coffee.


Are you interested in becoming a marketing intern with Venture Outdoors?  Email your resume and cover letter to

Jenna Gnieski, Communications Intern

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is back on Thursday, October 15, but this year with a twist. Audiences will experience awe-inspiring action films in the comfort of their own car, drive-in movie style at the Carrie Blast Furnaces. Bring some snacks and blankets and get cozied up to watch some of the world’s most accomplished climbers, paddlers, skiers, snowboarders, mountaineers, mountain bikers, explorers and adventure filmmakers alive today.

You might remember in past years, we’ve held this event in the spring, but due to COVID-19, we had to cancel the original date back in April. When we canceled, we struggled because this is our biggest fundraising event of the year, however, we’ve used these past few months to plan ways in which we can still hold the event as safely as possible. Don’t worry, it’s still going to be epic. 

One of the reasons we still wanted to hold this event is because it is so important to our mission of Inspire. These films are not only entertainment, they act as forms of inspiration. Despite the agonizing lows these adventurers have along their journey, they’re able to call on their resiliency and achieve incredible heights. We believe everyone deserves the chance to experience how fun the outdoors can be, and by providing access to these films, we hope to inspire others to make outdoor recreation part of their lives. 

Thanks to you, our first showing is sold out! If you weren’t able to snag any yet, we still have tickets available for the second showing at 10:00 pm. Take a peak (couldn’t pass up on this pun) at the film lineup below!

2020 Film Lineup


Doors open at 6:00pm | Films start at 7:00pm

Disclaimer: Some films may not be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.




Filmmaker: Reed Rickert

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  Yes (in English, from English)

French Skydiver Remi Angeli must face his fears in order to explore new expressions of movement while BASE jumping in Mexico. On the other side of his fear he discovers life in its purest form.


Filmmaker: David Arnaud and Corinna Halloran (Red Bull)

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

Seven days, three rivers, one woman. This is the story of Nouria Newman’s solo kayak adventure in the Indian Himalaya.


Filmmaker: Wondercamp; Tim Kressin, Davis Goslin

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

Founded on the belief that everyone is welcome, Memphis Rox opened a climbing gym to challenge stereotypes and be at the center of the city’s revitalization.


Filmmaker: Pete McBride, Amanda Pollak (Insignia Films)

Advisory:  F-bombs

Subtitles:  None

Pete McBride and Kevin Fedarko tell a story of extreme physical hardship where the bonds of friendship are stretched and the timeless beauty of the Grand Canyon becomes a meditation and ultimately a cautionary tale for our complex relationship with the natural world.


Filmmakers:  Mike Hopkins, Scott Carlson

Film Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

A shortcoming of age film that celebrates childhood and the relationship between siblings.


Filmmaker: Dutch Simpson, Rob Wassmer, Kaki Or (Field Day Studios)

Advisory:  Some coarse language

Subtitles:  None

It’s not always what we achieve that defines us, rather it is why we achieve such things that creates clarity in our existence. In 2018, Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison completed the first ski descent of the 27,940-foot Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world. This is their story.


Filmmaker: Felt Soul Media – Ben Knight, Travis Rummel

Advisory:  Multiple f-bombs

Subtitles:  None

When Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller moved to the tiny, conservative high desert town of Fruita, Colorado almost twenty years ago, it was not on the map as far as mountain biking was concerned and they were on the fringe and a bit ostracized. Now they’re at the very heart and soul of the community.


Filmmaker:  Mike Wilkinson

Advisory:  Swearing, drinking


Subtitles:  None

A bourbon-fueled ride deep into the bushy hollers of Appalachia with a crew of harmless misfits as they race to search out and climb new ice routes before they’re gone.



Doors open at 9:30pm | Films start at 10:00pm

Disclaimer: Some films may not be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.


Filmmaker: PVS Company; Maxime Moulin, Antoine Frioux, Richard Permin

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  Some, English from French

Every day, skier Richard Permin falls into his mundane morning routine. Right after getting out of bed, he clicks on his skis and rides down the snow-covered rooftops of Avoriaz.


Filmmaker: Rockhouse Motion – Aaron Hitchins

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

Filmmaker Aaron Hitchins turns his camera on the person who has motivated him to lead a life connected to the outdoors: his mother, Maureen.


Filmmaker: Hannah Slezacek & Dean Leslie (Producers), Dean Leslie (Director, [Wandering Fever])

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  Some, from local language to English

Thabang Madiba somehow found his way into the world of trail running and in the last few years has become everyone’s favorite in the South African trail scene.


Filmmaker: Ian Durkin and Trevor Gordon

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

Trevor found the hull of an abandoned fishing boat in a field. He brought it home and built it back to a sea-worthy state over the course of a summer. Then, he took it on its maiden voyage to British Columbia in search of waves.


Filmmaker: Alastair Lee, Sender Films, Leo Houlding

Advisory:  Swearing

Subtitles:  Some, from English

1000 miles, 200+ kgs, 65 days, 3 mates, 1 mountain. Unsupported, using snow-kites to travel great distance, with massive loads at speeds up to 60 kmph this is the epic tale of Leo Houlding, Jean Burgun & Mark Sedon’s daring dream to reach the summit of the most remote mountain on Earth; The Spectre, Antarctica.


Filmmaker: Paulius Neverbickas

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

The story of a man who uses every sense he has to travel on thin ice while Nordic skating in the Oslo region of Norway. He tells the story of how the little known sport of Nordic skating came to play a big part in his life.


Filmmaker: Timmy O’Neill, Big Cedar Media – Seth Dahl

Advisory:  War references, could trigger PTSD

Subtitles:  None

US veterans who were injured in war come together for another mission as they guide blind Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, on a 14-day river trip in the Grand Canyon.


Filmmaker: Camp4 Collective, Tim Kemple

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  Yes, throughout from English

Sverri is a local Pastor and avid runner who uses his time on the trails to work through not only his own personal conflicts, but the conflicts of others he often is burdened with.


Filmmaker: Leigh Anne Sides & Andrew Cahill

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

Myrtle Simpson – trailblazer, pioneer, adventurer, mountain climber, polar explorer, writer, and mother. From Spitzbergen to Greenland, from the North Pole to the Highlands of Scotland, from New Zealand to Peru, Myrtle blazed her own trail. She experienced places most people only dream about, all while writing 13 books, collecting specimens for museum botanical collections and raising four children.


Filmmaker: Ecole des Nouvelles Images: Léo BRUNEL, Loris CAVALIER, Camille JALABERT, Oscar MALET

Advisory:  None

Subtitles:  None

The two best mountain rescue workers of the region are ready for their new mission. Despite their professionalism and their determination, it will not go as planned…

Staff Writer, Ebony Montgomery

I would like to introduce you to my puppy, Rye.  I adopted her back in April.  She is a fantastic companion and has endless energy.  If you have ever had a puppy, you certainly understand that they need plenty of exercise.  This works out well for me because I love to take her everywhere that I go. 

One of our favorite activities to do together is hiking.  We go hiking 2-3 days most weeks.  As a new puppy owner, I have learned quite a bit, and I’d like to share some of that with you today.  

Start Slow 

If you are like me and still have a puppy, remember that they are just babies.  They may seem like they have a lot of energy but can quickly become overwhelmed on a long walk.  Take plenty of breaks and be sure to pay attention to their hydration and reaction to the temperature.   

What to Pack 

Here is a shortlist of items that I am always sure to pack every time that Rye and I go hiking.   

  1. Lots of water 
  2. A Portable Bowl 
  3. Treats/Dog Food  
  4. Plastic Bags for well…you know 
  5. A Chew Toy 
  6. A Towel, Rye loves to jump into any water 
  7. Dog Sunscreen 

Whenever I start packing her bag, Rye gets super excited.  She knows that we are about to go on an adventure.  

How does this compare to your checklist?  Let me know if I forgot anything.   

Be Ready to Explore 

This is the best part!  EVERYTHING in the world is still so exciting and new to Rye.  She finds smells, and other animals the most intriguing.  When you take your dog for a hike, be sure to take in the moment with them.  It is important to not be in a rush and to let them discover their surroundings.  Be patient, and soak in everything as if you were in your dogs position.  Nature is a lot more fun that way.