L.L.Bean’s Founder, Leon Leonwood Bean always said, “Being outside brings out the best in all of us.” Leon, who started the company in 1911 and ran it until his death at 94, said, “Outdoor recreation has added years to my lifespan.”

L.L.Bean continues to celebrate the shared joys of the outdoors. It’s the most inclusive club in the world—you don’t need a passport, an invitation or a membership. The Bean team invites everyone to be an “Outsider” by participating in Outdoor Discovery Programs at stores nationwide. Beginning with the first winter clinic in Freeport, Maine in 1979, programs have expanded to include a variety of classes, many of them free, for all ages and abilities.

Getting kids outside isn’t always easy, but L.L.Bean is here to help. Field Operations Manager Steve Johnson says, “If you introduce kids to the wonders of nature when they’re young, they’re more apt to enjoy the outdoors throughout their lifetimes.” Start them early with Tent Tales for Tykes, an onsite story time for ages 3-6. Inside a tent, kids are introduced to nature or outdoor themes, followed by related games or crafts.

Older outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy Survival Strategies, a primer on how to find or build shelters, how to start a fire, how to keep warm and purify water and what items to pack in your car’s emergency kit. Pair that knowledge with a layering or gear workshop to learn about various fabrics and their wicking properties so you’re suited up in fine fashion this winter. Basic Map & Compass Navigation classes teach participants the fundamentals—how to orient maps, how to find true north, and the details of dead-reckoning–so you’ll never lose your bearings again. The Park City store also partners with Trout Unlimited to offer weekly fly-tying classes and winter fly-fishing forays to local blue-ribbon trout streams.

“L.L.Bean’s focus is on building community and creating relationships through a shared love of the outdoors,” says Johnson. “We build on the strength and expertise of our employees, so each store offers a robust curriculum developed by our trusted guides.” Try out your new skills at group outings like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, stargazing, winter camping and wildlife tracking.

And, if your idea of a weekend outing includes sweet treats and a mug of mud, head to the Park City store on Main Street for s’mores on the balcony and coffee tastings every Sunday.

“We have a robust curriculum developed by our trusted guides, both from Maine and regional stores,” says Johnson. All of these activities are free to the public. 

By Corinne Humphrey