Lindsay LaFaro
Executive Director, The Buddy Program, Aspen

For 45 years, the Buddy Program has been serving youth in the Roaring Fork Valley community. The Buddy Program runs four programs primarily serving youth from Aspen to Carbondale. In addition to matching adults, as well as high school students, with youth in one-on-one relationships, the Buddy Program also offers a group mentoring program for teens and many additional services. Our LEAD (Leadership through Exploration, Action and Discovery) Program includes the following components:

Outdoor Leadership – High School Course

Outdoor Leadership at Basalt and Roaring Fork High Schools is a year-long, school-day course designed and taught by Buddy Program staff.  The 300-hour long course allows participants to develop leadership and outdoor travel and exploration skills, and participate in community service projects.  In addition to focused life skills instruction, students develop competency in the areas of wilderness ethics, wilderness first aid, backcountry trip planning, navigation, meal planning, camping, backpacking, non-technical climbing, mountain weather, local land features and management, and group dynamics.  Students participate in single and multi-day trips including hikes, camping trips, hut trips, rock climbing, snow-shoeing, environmental stewardship/trail work projects, and service projects.  Students earn dual high school and college credit via Colorado Mountain College (CMC) as our course instructors are accredited CMC adjunct faculty for the Mountain Orientation and Non-Technical Mountaineering courses.  New this school year, students will also earn CMC credit for the course of Canyon Orientation.

Outdoor Leadership – middle School Course

In addition to the course at the high school level, we also run a middle school version of the course. The course is designed to be a year-long, extracurricular opportunity where thirteen 7th and 8th grade participants engage in nearly 100 hours of leadership skill development and outdoor activity.  Students participate in a 3-day trip in the fall and spring to locations such as backcountry huts, the Colorado National Monument, and Sylvan Lake State Park.  The focus of this course is life skills development through the lens of backcountry travel, teamwork, and individual reflection (“solos”) while in the field, and participants stay connected between trips via monthly meetings at school.

youth camp + dream day camp 

Every June we take a group of 25 high school students to Moab, Utah for a 5-day, 4-night camp. These students may have participated in our Outdoor Leadership course, be Little Buddies or just interested in youth in the community who would like to participate. While at camp, participants camp overnight in the La Sal Mountains and experience “challenge by choice” via rock climbing, canyoneering, hiking, whitewater rafting, team building, and living in a respectful camp community. Each August, Dream Day Camp engages 20 middle school youth for 5 days of exploration around the Roaring Fork Valley.  Activities vary from year to year and include environmental stewardship projects, art projects, outdoor activities such as rock climbing and low and high ropes course initiatives, team-building games, art projects, an overnight camping trip, river rafting, and participating in a respectful camp community.


In addition to the many programs we offer, twice a year we also offer youth in our programs an opportunity to apply for a scholarship for any extracurricular activity they choose. Our funding helps pay for Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club programming, ski passes, ARC passes, ballet classes and martial arts as well as much more. We also understand that sometimes families and youth need additional support and help and have a fund to help pay for counseling and therapy.

Our bilingual staff ensures that our families and youth have everything they need to thrive and we frequently work closely with other youth serving organizations such as Valley Settlement Project, Youth Zone, Aspen Family Connections and Family Resource Centers of the Roaring Fork Valley to ensure those needs are met.