On the Journey
news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
Photos from the winter hut trips for Seventh Grade show the possibilities for adventure that open up to ACDS students thanks to the backcountry skills they learn over the course of three years of ski touring expeditions.
How many students in elementary or middle schools around the U.S. can say they spent school days studying at an elevation of 11,650' -- learning about snow science first-hand in wide-open slopes of powder and traveling on skis through deep pine forests? If it sounds like an adventure skier's backcountry fantasy, it is. But for the students of Aspen Country Day, it's also just a school day.
Each year, Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Grade students embark upon a multi-day telemark ski tour to a backcountry hut operated by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Students spend many days preparing for these expeditions, learning about snow safety, skiing with skins to ascend on telemark skis, and making the classic tele turn on trails just above our own campus. The trips themselves are challenging but well within the capabilities of these young mountaineers.
As with all the Outdoor Education curriculum at ACDS, the winter program develops all sorts of skills -- "hard skills" like ski touring, route-finding, and winter travel, along with "people skills" that foster our core values of character, respect, responsibility, community, and perseverance.
Each experience builds upon those skills. Starting with a three-day trip on gentle slopes above Vail Pass in Fourth Grade, the winter hut trip program progresses to a slightly more challenging adventure in Fifth Grade, and then to the capstone four-day trip to the Sangree-Froelicher hut in Seventh Grade. With a site and a design that make it ideal for education groups, Sangree's is base camp for the kind of immersive backcountry learning that truly distinguishes Aspen Country Day's outdoor education program from others in the country.
Graduates often say that this trio of winter adventures leaves them with indelible memories of life in the mountain West and a desire to return to the backcountry on future explorations of their own.