Connecting families to winter in the wild

outdoor lecture in the forest

Katie Strahl is the founder and Program Director of Basecamp Cascadia.

Some of my first moments in snow were cultivated by my parents. A memory that still stands out is hunting for the perfect sledding hill behind our house – this mission would end up taking most of the day tromping through the snow and end with a climactic finish into an empty irrigation canal. Without their introduction – my take on winter could have looked starkly different.

Instead, owed to those early moments sledding and exploring, I was inspired to connect more people to the world of snow. Years later, I would co-found Basecamp Cascadia, an outdoor organization focused on connecting folks to the backcountry through adventure and self-discovery. This February, we launched our first family program: Winter in the Wild. 

people snowshoeing
Family members snowshoe through an aspen grove during their winter trek at Winter in the Wild.

A key element in Basecamp Cascadia programs is not only adventure and self-discovery, but to give back to the land in a meaningful way. During Winter in the Wild, we did this through citizen science. The idea was to provide an opportunity in the program where family members could apply what they learned through gathering important data to share with scientists to help answer real world problems, like climate change, that could impact our landscape in the future. This effort was made possible by  teaming up with Community Snow Observations (CSO) and Ph.D Student Nina Aragon. Nina showed family members how they could use snow probes (a tool to measure snow-depth) to gather snowpack data and then submit their observations via their mobile devices, which contributes to both local and global research to help scientists better understand variability in snow distribution and water resources.  

snow probe demonstration
Outdoor Educator Chelsea Behymer shares how plants and wildlife have special tools and strategies that enable them to live in the unique conditions of winter.

The best part was the citizen science activity became an intergenerational experience, cultivating new curiosity among family members and sharing a new way that each generation (grandparents, parents, to kids) could look at winter landscapes and help protect them. 

Winter in the Wild would not have been possible without amazing partnerships. Winter Wildlands Alliance created the Snow School program and curriculum, of which we are so proud to be a new member; Community Snow Observations facilitated the opportunity for a family to give back to the environment they came to explore; and Washington Trails Association, who’s community gear library provided the family with snowshoes. Woven together these organizations supported our mission to give family members the opportunity to access our wintry landscapes and connect to the wild, as well as each other in a new way. 

To learn more about Basecamp Cascadia visit our website or follow us on Instagram @basecampcascadia. We look forward to shared adventure and learning experiences in future programs with families and our community partners!

snow probe demonstration
Nina shares with family members how to participate in Community Snow Observations and the family embraced the fun challenge of collecting data in the snow!

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