Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) brings 350 second grade students from Basalt Elementary, Aspen Elementary, Carbondale Community School, Blue Lake Preschool, Aspen Country Day, and Sopris Elementary to Aspen Mountain each winter to learn about snow science, local animal winter adaptations, and skier safety.
Aspen/Snowmass supports this program donating 100s of footpasses for students and chaperones to ride the Silver Queen Gondola (the first time for many involved). Once atop Aspen Mountain the students are introduced to the techniques of snowshoeing by ACES educators. The groups then explore along Richmond ridge, taking part in the “winter challenge course” where they act out various adaptations animals have and use to survive and thrive in the winter (becoming weasels and digging into the subnivian zone to look for mice and voles to eat, walking single-file through deep snow like a herd of deer, etc.) After lunch, the students learn about snow science and ski safety from the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol. This includes avalanche study, snow safety equipment, and working with the rescue dogs as one of the “lucky” second grade students is buried and then found under the snow.
Video by Barry Stevenson – Outside Adventure Media.