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Heavenly Mountain Resort hosts outdoor education program for fifth graders

Special to the Tribune
Lake Tahoe Unified School District fifth-grade students are participating in the newly created Epic Winter Adventure Program.
Courtesy Photo |

STATELINE — Through a new educational program spearheaded by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and other basin partners, Lake Tahoe Unified School District students are taking full advantage of winter by learning about avalanche safety, winter animal survival and the science of snowmaking.

During five program days this winter, 305 fifth-grade students will participate in the newly created Epic Winter Adventure Program. Taking place at the top of the tram at Heavenly Mountain Resort, students strap on snowshoes and explore the winter habitat overlooking Lake Tahoe. The goal of the program is to teach students about Tahoe’s winter environment and mountain safety in an effort to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

“Heavenly is fortunate to be able to partner with local organizations, including schools, educational coalitions and nonprofits, to provide a wonderful educational setting where local students can learn first-hand on the snow,” said Pete Sonntag, vice president and COO of Heavenly Mountain Resort. “This new program gets every fifth grader on the mountain and connected with our unique Lake Tahoe ecosystem. The EpicPromise Grant Program is a great avenue for us to provide funding for this valuable curriculum.”

At the avalanche station, experts from Sierra Avalanche Center teach students the science behind avalanches, including how to dig a snow test pit and the principles behind “know before you go.” They also receive a safety talk from Heavenly Ski Patrol staff and meet avalanche search-and-rescue dogs.

The Tahoe Institute for Natural Sciences then teaches students about the different techniques animals use to survive harsh winter conditions, adaptation strategies and how to identify animal tracks in the snow.

Lastly, Heavenly employees teach students about the science of snowmaking and environmental restoration projects on the mountain. Students learn how to take key measurements, such as temperature and humidity, and determine if snowmaking is possible. They also get to see and touch the snowmaking equipment.

“Many of my students have never walked on snowshoes or been to the top of Heavenly,” said Gina LoCicero, fifth-grade teacher at Bijou Elementary School. “It is invaluable for my students to gain new experiences and learn about Tahoe outside of the classroom.”

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency secured funding for this educational program through the Vail Resorts EpicPromise Grant. The program was designed in collaboration with Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe Community College, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Sierra Avalanche Center, South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, Tahoe Institute for Natural Sciences and U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment.


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