Slickrock Gathering

The Slickrock Gathering is an annual event that brings the best primitive skills specialists to BOSS for one week each spring. During this week, students enroll in a specific course – called a Pathway – to learn that skill from start to finish, in depth, under truly expert guidance. The 2016 gathering will be held from May 15-21.

About the Course

There are a handful of primitive technology or traditional skills gatherings around the world where people come together to teach and learn. At almost all of these, classes are short (usually several hours) and students attend one or two classes per day. This creates a learning experience that, while worthwhile, is by design limited. Short courses must focus on a very narrow aspect of a skill, something that can be taught and learned in only a few hours. At BOSS, we believe students are better served if a class teaches a skill in its entirety and places it within its context in the natural world.

At the Slickrock Gathering, BOSS offers distinct Pathways for students to study a skill in depth under the expert guidance and supervision of a master teacher.  The instructors at Slickrock are the most expert you will find at any gathering.  Many of the instructors at other gatherings are the students of these teachers.  This is a unique opportunity to spend a whole week with these individuals.

About BOSS

Since 1968, BOSS courses have set the standard for low-technology camping and hiking techniques, where instruction is conducted with minimal intrusion of modern technology in environments that allow course content to be experienced first-hand. Our commitment to quality and to our core philosophies has earned BOSS its reputation as the survival school to go to when you want to learn from the best in the industry.

At the Slickrock Gathering, BOSS offers distinct “Pathways” for learning, giving you the opportunity to focus on a specific interest under the guidance of expert instruction. Our hope is that this makes your time with us more valuable, as you can truly learn something in depth during your week. Pathways are “A to Z” in nature, offering a complete course in each subject from start to finish. Each student is able to collect the raw materials (when feasible), process them into finished materials and then produce usable tools, clothing or food by the end of the Pathway.

For example, on the Pottery Pathway, we don’t just teach you how to shape a piece of clay into a pot… We harvest the clay from the earth together, cleanse it of impurities, add temper, shape it, and then, finally, fire it. The result is more than just a beautifully tanned hide or fired pot but a complete picture of the skill and the ability to achieve mastery.

There are no prerequisites for a Pathway other than the desire to be completely immersed in the process during the Gathering. Pathways will change over the years, offering you the opportunity to refine and build on your skills – so we hope you will keep coming back for this event.

2016 Pathways

We’ll add more pathways as the gathering approaches, so keep checking back!


Instructor: John Olsen
Class Limit: 10 Students

In many villages, cooking, water transport, and food storage could not be done without expertly made clay vessels. On the Primitive Pottery Pathway, master instructor John Olsen will teach students the various aspects of pottery, from collecting the raw clay, to processing the clay, to making clay vessels, to firing them in an open fire. Pre-processed clay will be available for each student to work while the raw clay is being prepared for use. Two firings will be done: one instructor-guided and one student-guided. Each student will complete the Pathway with the tools necessary for producing pottery and products from the two firings.


Instructor: Digger Crist
Class Limit: 10 Students

We’re doing something different with the hide tanning pathway this year. Instead of brain tanning deer hides, Digger will be teaching how to work with hair-on wool hides from sheep. Sheepskins are naturally water, wind, and flame resistant and make luxurious sleeping pads, rugs, clothing, and linings for shoes and clothes. Digger will probably have other skins on hand, like foxes and other small critters.

Like the buckskin class, all the stages of tanning, including bucking, scraping, softening and smoking will be taught.  Also like the buckskin class, be ready to get a workout!


Instructor: Woniya Thibeault
Class Limit: 6 Students

For all of you who have been hide tanning over the years and stockpiling buckskin, we’re excited to bring in someone to help you turn those beautiful skins into beautiful and functional clothing and other items.

Woniya Thibeault has been teaching people to make buckskin clothing for over ten years. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of learning from her knows how passionate she is about buckskin and how difficult it can be to get into her classes. Having five days of personal attention and instruction from Woniya is a rare luxury, and we’re looking forward to seeing all the wonderful creations that students make in this pathway.

If you don’t have your own buckskin, don’t fret – there will be some available at the gathering. Because of the work involved in brain tanning buckskin by hand, be aware that while you can get a skin for less, a really nice skin can cost $250 or more.


Instructor: Bryce Wood
Class Limit: 6 Students

Since we introduced it in 2013, the Primitive Blacksmithing Pathway has been one of our most popular courses, and always fills because of its limited class size. In it, you will explore historical and creative approaches to “primitive” blacksmithing.  Students will be guided through the forging and construction of a steel knife. Simple hand tools will be used to complete all work. The tools, materials, fuels and processes involved in low tech manufacturing of steel and steel tools will be discussed. Theory and practice combine for a fun and accessible introduction to early Iron Age technology.


Evening Entertainment

Evenings provide many opportunities for music, storytelling, trade-blankets, games and other activities. We encourage people to bring instruments, trade items, and unique talents to the Gathering.

Meals and Lodging

The tuition for the Slickrock Gathering includes two meals per day (breakfast and dinner) and the freedom to set up a camp on BOSS’s 40 acres of property. Please note that there are some guidelines for where you can and cannot set up your tent and what type of camping is permissable – no RV campers are allowed on the property. For those with RVs, water & electricity hook-ups are available at an RV parking lot just a few minutes walk from the property (additional fee required). If you have questions or concerns not addressed here, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.