By Kerry McClay

Winter is nearly upon us and that means SnowSchool sites across the country are gearing up to engage thousands of kids in an exploration of snow covered public lands!  And while we often talk about SnowSchool in these big-picture terms, of critical importance are the individual educators and leaders who make these programs happen in dozens of communities across the country. For example, our SnowSchool site in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah- Cottonwood Canyons Foundation– recently brought Katie Burbank onboard as their new Education Director. To highlight the importance of local leadership, I’ve included below an excerpt from my interview with Katie. Her inspiring story illustrates the impact WWA can have on individuals and communities through the combination of our programs.

 

KM- Welcome to SnowSchool Katie! Can you tell us the story of how you got involved?

KB- I had always thought that my love of nature would guide me to a career path protecting our environment.  However, my curiosity of the natural world led me to a PhD program at Montana State University, and subsequently, a position teaching chemistry at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Recently, I found myself re-visiting the notion of focusing my efforts on our public lands.   This past winter I was up in McCall, ID for a ski race and attended the WWA Backcountry Film Festival.  One of the films was about SnowSchool. I was incredibly inspired and thought to myself, “Now, that is something that I would really like to get involved in.”  As luck would have it, a month later, Cottonwood Canyons Foundation advertised that they were seeking a new Education Director who would oversee the Salt Lake City site for SnowSchool.  I wound up getting the position, dove head first into a pretty drastic career change, and am so glad I did.

KM- Why do you think it is important to have programs like CCF’s SnowSchool to get kids outside?

KB- While CCF is a non-political organization, I feel that environmental education is a very important component of advocacy. If we can get kids outside and teach them, I believe that it is more likely that they will feel connected to the outdoors when they grow up. Specifically for CCF, by introducing kids to the unique environment and incredible biodiversity of the Cottonwood Canyons, we hope to cultivate a sense of ownership for these public lands.  Additionally, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons provide 60% of the drinking water for the Salt Lake Valley.  By connecting our local youth to the mountains that are their watershed, we hope that they will become aware of the importance of protecting this area for their community’s health and for future generations to enjoy.

KM- What excites you about CCF’s SnowSchool program?

KB- I grew up in a more urban focused family.  It wasn’t until I attended a sleep away camp in the wilderness of Northern California that I cultivated my own connection to nature.  Many of the students that we take snowshoeing have lived in the Salt Lake Valley their entire lives but have never been up to the Canyons.  I love being the one who introduces them to this new environment.  I hope that their experience with the program gives some of them the same spark that I had when I first discovered the magical world of nature.

KM- What do you personally like to do outdoors?

KB- I pretty much live and breathe backcountry skiing.  I just love it.  So much so that I even wound up marrying my ski partner. It has been a real treat to live next to the Wasatch Mountains. In the summer, I like to mountain bike and trail run, but mostly so that I can be outside in the mountains and stay in shape for skiing. 

 

-Kerry McClay is National SnowSchool Director with Winter Wildlands Alliance

To find out more about SnowSchool and all our amazing sites click here!

 

 

 

Register Here

Winter Wildlands Alliance, with support from SnowSchool at Bogus Basin and Boise REI, will be hosting the 5th annual stewardship project at Mores Mountain. In partnership with US Forest Service’s Mountain Home Ranger District volunteers will gather to give back to a treasured, outdoor space at Mores Mountain. With its close proximity to the Treasure Valley, Mores Mountain is a well-loved and well used recreational area just above Bogus Basin. Mores Mountain offers trails for hikers, bikers, and skiers alike. With its panoramic views, guided nature walks, and designated picnic and camping spots it is a year round destination for multiple users groups.

Winter Wildlands would like to invite you to our 5th annual Stewardship project at Mores Mountain. This is our opportunity to give back to the places we play and love. We will be out on the trails, improving trail features, removing brush and cleaning up from the many months of use.

Project will be Friday June 23rd at 9:00 am at the Mores Mountain Trailhead, past Bogus Basin Ski Area. If you are interested in carpooling please come to the Bogus Basin Main Offices at 2600 Bogus Basin Rd at 8:00am to ride up.
Gather your friends and family and join us for this one day volunteer event.

We will be out on the trails from 9:00am – 3pm. Please bring
• Water
• Layers
• Work Gloves
• Good walking/hiking shoes
• Loads of smiles and high fives
Winter Wildlands will provide work tools, snacks and high fives right back at cha!

We look forward to a great day in the dirt. If you have any questions about the event please contact Kerry McClay at kmcclay@winterwildlands.org

Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Wyoming Wilderness Association, Togwotee Pass Backcountry Alliance, NOLS, and the Beartooth Recreational Trails Association are hosting mapping workshops for skiers and snowshoers in communities surrounding the Shoshone National Forest (in northwest Wyoming) during the weeks of January 19 and February 1.  We will discuss how to use online mapping tools to gather and share information about backcountry skiing areas and provide information on how skiers can get involved in the ongoing Shoshone National Forest winter travel management planning process.  Skiers and snowshoers of all experience levels are welcome to attend.  Refreshments will be provided.

Mapping workshops will take place as follows.  Click the link to RSVP:

Cody: Tuesday, January 19. 6-8pm in the Bighorn Federal community room (1701 Stampede Ave)

Dubois: Wednesday, January 20 at 5:15-7:15 pm in the Dubois library meeting room (202 N 1st St)

LanderThursday, January 21 at 6-8 pm at the Nobel Hotel (288 Main Street)

Red Lodge: Monday, February 1 from 6-8 pm in the Red Lodge Library meeting room (3 8th St W)

The band members of The Swiveltones are getting together and rocking the house at the Visual Arts Collective. Proceeds to benefit Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool Program. Dancing, raffle, drinks. Come down for a good cause and good time!

Visual Arts Collective
Saturday, November 7th
Doors at 8:00pm Show at 9:00pm
Minimum Donation $5
Tickets can be purchased at door or at http://theswiveltones.bpt.me/

SnowSchool is an unforgettable winter adventure that combines hands-on science education with snowshoe-powered outdoor exploration. Learn more about the program at snowschool.org

Please note this is a 21 and older event.

Questions? Contact Brittany Jones at bjones@winterwildlands.org

Like opting to blaze a new trail through un-tracked powder, trying new things at SnowSchool can often lead to unexpectedly positive results. So when Boise State University reached out to Winter Wildlands Alliance in 2015 about engaging first generation college students in SnowSchool, we went into the experience with an open mind.

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LSAMP students calculating snow/water equivalency

Having never before engaged university students in this manner, WWA worked with Bogus Basin to make arrangements for a special day of SnowSchool complete with snowshoeing, a snow pit analysis, a weather station visit, an igloo tour and, of course, belly-sliding. Ten STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students through BSU’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program took part in the adventure.

“I enjoyed going out snowshoeing for the first time in my entire life,” said Daniel Bakyono, a computer science and LSAMP Scholar at BSU. “We learned about water in Idaho and how we get it through snow — something I didn’t know.”

Several months later when WWA needed help writing computer code to fine-tune our new SnowSchool Weather Station, the LSAMP program was a logical connection. Working with Catherine Bates, LSAMP coordinator, the project was circulated as a volunteer opportunity. “The LSAMP program at Boise State strives to connect students to high impact learning experiences that help students stretch their skills and provide deeper context for what they’re learning in the classroom,” shared Bates. “The partnership with WWA provided an awesome experience for students to strengthen their code writing skills and helped build a great resource for WWA.”

In addition to Bakyono, LSAMP student Prince Kannah expressed interest in the project, “I enjoy volunteering, I’ve done it since high school and I want to give back. This project in particular is the first project where I’ve volunteered my code writing skills.”

computer program

Kannah (left) and Bakyono (right) show off their coding skills

Drawn to the opportunity as a way to build their resumes and help the community, Kannah and Bakyono wrote new code over the summer to collect snowpack depth and snow/water equivalent data from the SnowSchool Weather Station and display it (in graph form) over the 2016-17 water year. This winter WWA plans to invite thousands of K-12 students and their teachers to use this new resource when they participate in SnowSchool’s Snowpack Prediction Contest.

“I feel proud of what I did here. If I write some code and I get paid for that, I’m not necessarily proud, but I’m happy for the money I get out of it.  With this project I’m proud of what I did,” said Bakyono. Displaying an admirable sense of ambition, Kannah commented, “We should work on making this an app!” Whether this project is the tip of a SnowSchool iceberg or not, Bakyono and Kannah joined the ranks of thousands of community volunteers who have helped kids connect with nature and learn about science through SnowSchool since 2001. As SnowSchool approaches it most expansive season to date, the passion and creativity of volunteers like Bakyono and Kannah are more critical than ever.

-Kerry McClay, National SnowSchool Director

 

Snowschool 3SnowSchool introduces kids to the joy of exploring our nation’s winter wildlands.  A growing national education program of Winter Wildlands Alliance, SnowSchool annually engages over 30,000 participants across 60 sites.  Each winter, in 16 states along the US snow-belt, K-12 students and teachers venture out on snowshoes as part of a fun and educational science-based field trip. Over 50% of participants are underserved and a majority are first time snowshoers! WWA works year-round with organizational partners nationwide to establish new SnowSchool sites each year and help bring this important experience to the communities and students that need it most.  Please explore the menu above to find out how to get involved.  Questions? Want to get involved?  Click here or contact Kerry McClay- kmcclay@winterwildlands.org