Exploring & learning in our winter wildlands.

Admit it. As we entered adulthood, snow began to develop as an inconvenience to daily adulting instead of the magical substance of childhood. During my time spent as a field instructor at SOLE’s SnowSchool, however, I learned that snow is more than an adulthood inconvenience or a childhood memory of magic white fluff. Snow is, in fact, an infinitely crucial element in our mountainous environment. Like many others who have come to live in this area, I did not grow up in North Idaho. I came from a much more Southern portion of the United States where snow was more of an anomaly than a lifestyle, and for the last 8 years, have been taking the white stuff for granted. That is, until SnowSchool.

Clearly this was a learning experience for me as well as the children we met over the season. The SnowSchool program transformed my attitude toward snow, and I developed respect and appreciation for the critical role it plays in our mountain home of North Idaho. We as instructors were able to also teach the kids that snow was more than snowballs, ski slopes, and sledding. It is the water we drink, the lakes we swim in, and the avalanches we predict and avoid. When there is not enough snowfall, it contributes to the droughts and wildfires we face in warmer months. We teach all this and more not just in the classrooms, but on the mountain and in the snow itself. The kids study snow layers, snowflakes, density, temperature, depth, and compare data like the snow scientists they are for the day. After the science is all said and done, the young snow scientists get to play and belly slide in the snow, because in the end, snow still is magical white fluff that should be played in, studied, respected, and appreciated.

Ultimately, I see where I live in a new light and that is what we want for the kids we work with too. Our North Idaho trees are more than evergreens—they are spruces, pines, firs, and hemlocks. And that stuff growing on them? That’s not moss—that’s lichen. And snow? Well, it is more than a white Christmas or the annoying stuff we shovel off the driveway. My hope is that each kid we met during this season of SnowSchool has a better understanding of the importance of snow and their environment and that this is just the beginning of their journey to living a curious life and being outside as much as possible, no matter what season it is. I know that is what SnowSchool did for me.                                           

After all, Aristotle did say, “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”

Learn more about SOLE’s signature program here.

Watch SOLE’s signature program in action here.

See shots from the field this season here.

Michelle Clark

SOLE Field Instructor