By Kerry McClay, March 13, 2018
Winter in central Idaho was a bit slow to arrive this year. A strong La Nina pattern sent its polar jet stream with cold temperatures and precipitation in abundance to Montana and Idaho’s Panhandle. Meanwhile, the mountains to the south waited in earnest. At WWA’s National Flagship SnowSchool Site (Bogus Basin) curriculum workshops planned for volunteer leaders in January happened as planned, but had to be modified to accommodate the low-snow conditions. And this year the annual construction of the SnowSchool Igloo happened with the help of staff, volunteers and the rarely used igloo-block-maker. Traditionally this igloo has been built in deep snowpack conditions using snow saws to cut large snow blocks. But with a thin snowpack the block-maker allowed the construction crew to scrape-up skiffs of snow and fill the box to create the needed blocks. And the resulting igloo was a thing of beauty!
When the the first day of SnowSchool for students finally arrived in early January it was accompanied with a mere 15 inches of total snow on the ground and sheets of rain falling from the sky! And how did the 5th grade SnowSchool students fair that day you ask? The student quote of the day says it all- “This was the best field trip ever!” That’s right, the less-than-wintry conditions did nothing to slow the students’ snowshoe powered exploration of the wild and slushy landscape. As they romped through the Boise National Forest they studied snowshoe hare tracks, climbed inside the igloo, conducted a snow/water equivalency experiment, stumbled upon the SnowSchool Weather Station, dug snowpits and discussed snowpack depth. All this with the unyielding enthusiasm of a group of kids who have been granted a much needed break from the normal classroom routine! As the weeks have progressed more snow has come to central Idaho, thus making more recent SnowSchool pictures a bit more wintry.
A national program with 65 sites (locations) and over 30,000 participants across the snow-belt, SnowSchool has 6 sites in Idaho that serve upwards of 4,000 students every winter. Below are some snapshots of recent Idaho SnowSchool action: