More Kids in the Woods- Discovering the Thrill of the Chill

photo of 2 people nordic skiing

It is winter on the Grand Mesa, Uncomaphgre and Gunnison National Forest  in western Colorado and we are all about bringing more kids into the woods to discover the thrill of the chill!

Each February, over 400 students participate in winter ecology field trips on the Grand Mesa NF and Uncompahgre NF, where they learn a new winter sport, cross country skiing, learn about snow science, connect with nature and have lots of fun in the snow.

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest and it's partner- the Grand Mesa Nordic Council received a “More kids in the woods grant” in 2013 to acquire additional Nordic ski gear and snow science equipment. We have the skis....the field days are an open invitation to our youth to discover how cool winter is!

Visit and explore our forest in winter - there are surprises everywhere!


phot of skis lined up

photo of boys in front of ski trailer

Students from Ridgway Elementary are waiting to get geared up for the days adventures. As part of the grant, 80 additional sets of ski gear was aquired as well as a trailer to store, and transport the ski gear.


photo of kids skiing into woods photo of instructor discussing snow properties

Students practice "gliding" on their skis into the forest, where the first stop is the snow pit. Anita Evans, the Grand Mesa Nordic Council Skis for Kids Coordinator talks about snow layers and temperature gradients, various types of snow crystals, and how avalanches happen. She also reminds the students of the  4 S's of survival-- stay calm, stay put, signal and shelter.


photo of instructor explaining snow water equivalent  

Matt Dare, biologist for the GMUG National Forest, discusses how Colorado's snowpack is our frozen reservoir of water for spring and summer uses. Matt discusses a gamut of topics with the students from water planning, water conservation, to scientific processes. Students hypothesize on how much water they will get from our snowpack this year. Lets see how they "prooved" their hypothesis. 



The snow water equivalency (SWE) activity involves filling up tins with snow, and estimating how much water will result after the melt.  Students measured the inches of water in the tins to see if their hypothesize was correct. Now they know the actual snow water equivalency in their sample.

It's time to apply the sample to the bigger landscape!  

photo of students melting snow


photo of girl measuring snow depth photo of students doing the math

First, students must determine the average snowpack depth.  Now for the math! Students use a worksheet to figure out how much water will actually result from the snowpack outside. First determining the snow density (%), then multiplying the snow density and the actual snowpack. The result is the inches of water our snowpack will yield. (click here for this activity and worksheet). 


photo of 2 kids skiing in the forest  photo of small child looking into the forest

More time to ski, search for animal tracks and ponder the forest!


photo of FS employee greeting skiers  photo of law enforcement officer & dog talking to  skiers

The Forest Service partnered with the Telluride Ski Area to provide environmental education for Sustainable Slopes. The Norwood District set up a Junior Snow Ranger Lauch Site (booth) with various animal pelts. Charlie, the Law Enforcement K-9 Assistant was very popular with the young skiers.


photo of biologist pointing to picture of lynx photo of Forest Service employee talking to skiers about pelt

Participants skied to several stations and learned about snow safety, lynx reintroduction, local wildlife, forest health, recycling and leave-no-trace concepts. Forest biologists point out lynx characteristics and adaptations for winter survival.


photo of child making animal tracks in snow Photo of boy making elk tracks

At Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Tim Leishman, Forest Service interpreter, shows young skiers rubber tracks of common Colorado wildlife. The kids picked their favorite animal, and made some snow tracks.


photo of small boy holding up fox pelt photo of kids pointing to pile of animal scat

The young skiers and boarders, inspected a few animal pelts and made their best guess on what animals left the piles of scat.


photo of girl receiving JSR patch phot of smokey with snow rangers and skiers

...and a few more Junior Snow Rangers were awarded their patches! Tim, Smokey, and Snow Ranger Tambi Gustafson made sure it was a fun start to the National Skier Safety Month at the resort! 


photo of kids holding banners

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest is an official Junior Snow Ranger launch site. The Forest Service would like to thank our program partners the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, the Interpretive Association of Western Colorado, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

We would also like to recognize the program support of the following: Cabela's, Delta County Tourism, Alpine Bank (Delta), Gunnison Energy, Mount Sneffels Foundation, Uncompahgre Watershed Coalition, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Telluride Ski Resort and the Delta, Ouray, Gunnison and San Miguel County School Districts.