Outdoor enthusiasts should join the AAC

If you are reading the Outdoors section of the Exponent, chances are you do things outside. Becoming a member of organizations that support and are involved with the outdoors allow outdoor enthusiasts many opportunities. While you might be thinking that the American Alpine Club (AAC) doesn’t apply to you if you’re not a climber, I believe it is important for many outdoor enthusiasts, regardless if they climb or not.

There are many benefits of being part of the AAC that may interest you, especially if you are a climber. To begin, there are multiple climbing grants you can apply for, depending on ability and skill level. These range from large grants such as the “Copp-Dash Inspire” grant, to more feasible grants for college students. The “Mountain Fellowship” grant gives up to $800 for young alpinists (25 and younger) to seek out unique, new routes in unfamiliar mountain ranges. The “Live Your Dream” grant awards varying sums of money for climbing and skiing expeditions of all levels. These do not have to be large expeditions or extreme climbs, but they can help you explore a place you have never climbed before, but have always dreamed of. The grants are designed to help inspire and allow for younger climbers to experience and develop greater skills.

In addition to climbing grants, and appealing to a larger audience of outdoor enthusiasts, there are gear discounts that you get by being a member of the AAC. The discounts generally range from 15 – 35 percent off of retail price, which is nice for young, starving ski bums and dirtbags. Any discount is better than paying full price, as it means you can buy more burritos with the money you save. A selection of brands listed in the gear discounts includes: Patagonia, Sierra Designs, Friction Labs, Voke Tab, Outdoor Research, Himali Designs, Adidas, Black Diamond and many, many more.

However, the reasons listed above are not, in my opinion, why outdoor enthusiasts should join the AAC. Sure, they are great, and there are many benefits I didn’t list that are appealing as well. But, the most important benefit offered by the AAC is one that you should hope you never have to use: rescue insurance. By being a member, you get $12,500 in rescue insurance. Let’s face it, helicopter rides are really cool, but also really expensive. They are not something you want to pay for out of pocket. While $12,500 will most likely not cover the entire helicopter ride (yes, they can be that expensive), taking any chunk out of that giant fee is a plus. If you get injured within the United States, all $12,500 can be used. Outside the U.S., $7,500 can be used, which is still a good deal. Ultimately, if things ever go south and you need to get rescued, you are going to want some form of rescue insurance and the AAC provides a pretty good service for that need.

The AAC costs $40 per year for students with the auto-renewal option. If that seems like a large amount of money to you, let me remind you that a helicopter rescue can cost around $1,600 per hour, and those hours add up quickly in a rescue. Forty dollars isn’t so much in comparison to offset that amount. Even if you go your whole life paying for a membership to the AAC and never use your rescue insurance, you are paying only around $4,500 for a lifetime. With gear discounts, you’ll save even more and pay off that $40 in no time. I believe an AAC membership is something all outdoor enthusiasts should consider getting.

Writer’s note: Asking for an AAC membership for a birthday present is always a good call, parents are pretty stoked on the rescue insurance as well.