There are a bunch of reasons I became a member of Winter Wildlands Alliance years ago. I could say that it was because I wanted to support protecting, advocating, leading policy and speaking for the places I seek refuge and solace during the winter, providing a community through the Backcountry Film Festival and tour, fostering future winter players through SnowSchool, creating a movement of passionate people and organizations supporting human powered adventure…really, it wasn’t around one initiative or because of a certain event, but it was because I wanted to drop my hard-earned dollar to support what I knew. Having amazing experiences in the backcountry.

We all have our paths and throughout my work and play, mine led me here. Thanks to Sarah Michael (founder of Winter Wildlands Alliance), our engaged and driven Board of Directors, and an extra-large shout out to Mark Menlove for all of his work over the past 14 years, and of course, the incredible team that is the staff that keeps the skin track clear. We have exciting times ahead and I’m humbled to be the new Executive Director of such a vibrant and engaged group of hard working people. That means you, too. Winter Wildlands Alliance members are at the core of who we are, so thank you. As winter and spring slowly transition into the warm weather months, we are still working. What we do goes on 365 days a year – it’s our business to keep growing, keep defending our winter ecosystems and wild places to make a difference and protect the places we recreate, find solace, find peace and create exceptional experiences. So if you aren’t a member, please join us. If you are, thank you. I am looking forward to Keeping Winter Wild with you.

Todd Walton
Executive Director

Heavy snowfall made for a great winter, and the fun at SnowSchool continued into the spring.  Check out our video snipets and notes taken from successful outings in March and April… 

Photo- Alexandra Rose

Across the Western US mountain snow accumulated at eye popping rates in February and, in some watersheds, brought below normal snowpacks up well above average!  At SnowSchool this means plenty of fresh snow for snowshoeing, field-base snow science and just plain fun (see left). It also means that back in the classroom students have interesting current winter phenomena to study.  For example, this month SnowSchool released a new recorded webinar to help educators engage students via our unique Snowpack Prediction Contest science activity.  We based this fun science challenge on the practices and methods of snow hydrologists and integrated live and historical NRCS SNOTEL data.  The big February snow is making this into very interesting challenge for students this winter! To get all the details check out the video below. You can also find the full curriculum guide on our new Science Resources webpage along with other SnowSchool resources.

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Stay tuned for more SnowSchool updates as we move into the final stretch of winter! Here’s a parting shot taken mid-storm in the final days of February-

The SnowSchool Weather Station in the Boise National Forest was nearly consumed by a February snowpack 7 feet deep! Photo Tom Black USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station

 

Get stoked for the 2nd Annual Night of Stoke at Outdoor Retailer Snow Show!

Night of Stoke is a night of social innovation to bring together and celebrate the outdoor community. This event is proudly brought to you by Winter Wildlands Alliance, Sierra Nevada, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, and Outdoor Retailer.

Join us on Thursday, Jan 31 at 5:30 PM for the VIP Pre-Party and/or at 6:30 PM for the main event. Hosted at The Studio Loft right next to the Colorado Convention Center. Outdoor Retailer attendees receive free entry with RSVP and badge. General public tickets are $15.

Spend a night with athletes and brands of the outdoor industry at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show. Guests experience an exclusive lineup of films from the 14th Annual Backcountry Film Festival in addition to some new releases while learning from featured outdoor adventurers, athletes, and activists about how to turn passion into action. List of films and program to be announced.

We’re thrilled, honored, and humbled to announce the following films as our program for Night of Stoke 2019.

*Indicates filmmakers and/or film team in attendance and will be speaking shortly after their film on-stage.

Cho Oyu*

In September 2018, Caroline Gleich and Rob Lea went to climb and ski Cho Oyu, the sixth highest peak in the world. Get the first look at their incredible journey.

Ode to Muir*

Teton Gravity Research – Our exclusive Festival cut of Ode To Muir speaks the entire feature-length film as professional snowboarder, adventurer and founder of Protect Our Winters Jeremy Jones joins forces with two-time Olympian Elena Hight to embark on a 40-mile foot-powered expedition deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness.

Wallmapu*

DPS Cinematic – The Pehuenche people of present-day Chile speak Mapudungun: ‘the language of the land.’ This land, their universe, is known as Wallmapu. Two skiers enter, into a breathtaking creation of ancient Araucaria trees, looming volcanoes, and windblown snow.

I Am Here

Michael and David Hanson – “My parents never even thought about climbing a mountain.” Yesenia grew up living in a small farmer’s cabin in the apple orchards of Oregon’s Hood River Valley. Watch Yesi’s journey to climb Mount St. Helens, pursue her own American dream, and inspire Latinx outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

The Far Out Ones: Kai Jones

Teton Gravity Research – Last season 11-year-old freeskier Kai Jones had a better Spring Break than you. When the snow kept falling in Jackson Hole, he went on a rampage – tearing up the biggest, baddest terrain at his home mountain with Teton Gravity.

Blue

Ursa Major TV – Blue is a testament to the inherent creativity, innovation and strength forged in women of the north. In it we present a spectacle of winter innovation—the icy playground providing a visual journey as never seen before by bike.

Surfer Dan

Camp4 Collective – Beyond the tale of his frosted beard, this is a story about Dan Schetter’s passion for surfing and how he credits the sport to saving his life.

Join us to Keep Winter Wild together! Email Melinda Quick, Backcountry Film Festival Manager, with any questions: mquick@winterwildlands.org.

It’s January in the quiet mountain town of Greenville CA.  This is the heart of the Lost Sierra; an impressive expanse of rolling mountains and vast forest that are as remote as they are beautiful.  At Indian Valley Elementary in the Plumas County School District, it is day one of a series SnowSchool experiences planned for the 6th graders.  And just like SnowSchool outings at the other 65+ program locations across the country, this day will be filled with hands-on science in the snow-filled wilds of winter.  A unique quality of this particular SnowSchool site however, is a specific focus on connecting students with local public lands and utilizing the snow right outside the school.

Weighing snow samples

The day begins with a quick but critical classroom introduction to essential science concepts.  Students jot down notes in their field journals about concepts like watershed, water supply, snowpack depth, snow density, and the water cycle- all important foundations of the snow hydrology focused SnowSchool curriculum.  As part of the introduction educators, including Rob Wade (Plumas County’s outdoor education coordinator), hand each student a snowpack density cutter. This is the same tool used by NASA snow scientists to precisely measure snowpack water content (more on the NASA/SnowSchool connection in a bit).  The idea is that the student will extract samples of snow from the snowpack, weigh each sample and calculate the water content.  After some wrestling with the math formulas, the students are ready to head out into the school yard.

This the part that represents the most exciting innovation of this newest version of the SnowSchool program model: charging out the back door of the school to explore winter and the science of snow, not just once, but throughout the season and at every grade level Kindergarten through 12th Grade.  So as these 6th graders excitedly romp across the snow covered school yard to dig their snowpits and extract snow samples, they know this is just one of a multitude of SnowSchool experiences coming their way over the coming years.  Designed with input from educators and scientists, these activities grow in complexity and sophistication through the grade levels.   After the 6th graders weigh their samples and calculate density and snow water equivalent of the school yard they board a waiting school bus.  A quick 15 minute drive takes them higher into the Plumas National Forest in search of deeper mountain snow.   Here the students will spend the rest of their day immersed in the wilds of winter, observing wildlife, looking at snow crystals under microscopes, digging snowpits and making valley-to-mountain snowpack comparisons.

Nothing brings a team together like digging a snowpit!

Bringing SnowSchool’s unique outdoor snow science to rural school districts like Plumas County has become a top priority for Winter Wildlands Alliance in recent years.  Though it may seem counter-intuitive, data suggests that even students in rural areas with ample public lands are spending less and less time outside.  Thus SnowSchool serves as an important means to help rural students learn about, appreciate and understand the value of our public lands.

Students help each other put on snowshoes

From the beginning, a key goal of this project has been to make this model replicable in other rural school districts. Thus, several hundred miles away in the mountains of central Idaho, a similar project is underway.  Here the Basin School district is surrounded by the towering Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees of the Boise National Forest. Working collaboratively with WWA, the district has designed and planned snowshoe-powered SnowSchool outings for every one of the 400+ students in the district.  The science curriculum that accompanies these outings utilizes the surrounding snowpack and adjacent USFS lands.

An exciting opportunity for these Basin School District students is the upcoming 2019 NASA SnowEx campaign. The district sits directly in NASA’s proposed flight path.  This means, because of an ongoing NASA scientist / SnowSchool collaboration, these students will be collecting snowpack data in the near future that will contribute to cutting-edge NASA snow science research.  During SnowEx, scientists will be testing out new LiDAR, microwave and infrared technology designed to scan the mountain snowpack from aircraft. The hope is to one day develop the technological capacity to detect, in real-time, from an aircraft or satellite the water content of snow in a mountain watershed.  This is something increasingly valuable and critical in a changing and unpredictable climate, especially in the Western US where mountain snow contributes up to 80% of the annual water supply.  SnowSchool students on the ground will get to contribute to the research and the fine-tuning of this technology by collecting accurate snow depth and density measurements (via the Snowmetrics tools described above) for comparison.  And though the launch of NASA SnowEx 2019 has been delayed due to the government shutdown, plans for implementation remain in place. Stay tuned for more details!

National SnowSchool Director Kerry McClay demonstrates NASA snow science techniques for Plumas County 6th grade students and educators

These exciting developments wouldn’t be possible without support from our friends at The North Face Explore Fund, KEEN, REIOsprey Packs, Mountain Safety Research, CLIF Bar and Snowmetrics.  Introducing thousands of kids to the joy of being outside in winter takes a community and we appreciate everyone who has pitched in to help make it happen!

Interested in bringing SnowSchool to your community?  We add new SnowSchool sites to the national network every winter! Email Kerry McClay at kmcclay@winterwildlands.org for more information

Want to know more about the Plumas County CA program?  Check out their website and vision for their Learning Landscapes program that was developed in conjunction with the school district and the Feather River Land Trust.  Great stuff!