As fluffy snowflakes fell Saturday, dozens of families spent a day playing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and learning in the snow during Winter Adventure Day at the Casper Mountain Outdoor Center at McMurry Mountain Park.
The Casper Biathlon Club organized the event in a collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management to expand awareness about the facility and winter activities at Casper Mountain, the club’s president and head coach Rob Rosser explained.
“So that number one, people know that this facility is up here, number two, to get people outside enjoying the awesome winter wonderland that we have up here on the mountain.”
Participants skied, snowshoed, ran obstacle courses, dug for treasures, tunneled and shot electronic rifles. They learned winter survival skills, rifle safety and marksmanship, orienteering and science about snow and how animals survive in winter. Some took skiing and snowshoeing lessons.
Paul and Wanda McCain arrived Saturday morning to ski for the first time with their 11-month-old daughter, Crystal. After the little one tried out skis, Wanda towed her in a carrier along the trails. Later they planned to dig in the snow and maybe take a snowshoe hike.
“I’m from Arizona so I’m trying to do something that will make me like the snow,” Wanda said. “I feel like it’s a less intimidating way if other people are learning.”
Kids gathered at learning stations with educators from the BLM’s National Historic Trails Interpretive Center to find out how snow affects the environment and animals on Casper Mountain and to conduct their own experiments.
Stacey Moore explained how different types of snowflakes form at various temperatures and humidity levels. Snowflakes form facets when the snow layers differ by more than one degree in temperature. While cross-country skiers prefer rounded snow that can compact more easily, animals like chipmunks, mice and voles need the faceted snow to dig burrows, she told the group.
Cooper Chaney, 8, stood inside a hole he dug in the snow, which he determined with a measuring stick to be 114 centimeters deep. Moore helped him measure the snow hardness at different depths by testing how many fingers they could easily press into the snow. Where the snow was softest, he dug a small tunnel with his mitten-clad hand.
“Oh yeah that’s pretty easy those animals are going to love that,” Moore said.
The boy tested temperatures at different depths and discovered a one-degree shift from 30 degrees near the bottom to 31 degrees farther up the wall.
“Alright nice work,” Moore said as they took the measuring stick and Popsicle stick markers from the hole.
Next to Cooper’s dig, other children disappeared inside tunnels they dug into the snow. Farther away, kids used plastic rakes, shovels and sifters to find bouncy balls, plastic jewelry and other small trinkets buried in snow.
Skiers glided along a ramp above the snow-digging station and through the park as Casper Biathlon Club members taught them to maneuver along the BLs and hills. Children skied through an obstacle course along one side of the ski trails.
Belinda Waldron and her son James, 9, joined family members for Winter Adventure Day during a visit from their home in Denver to Casper. By the time they took a break for lunch, they’d skied, dug up treasure and practiced shooting with non-projectile electronic rifles on the shooting range.
That was the best part so far for James, even if he didn’t hit any targets.
“My mom was way better, she only got one miss,” he said. “And then four were exactly on the dot.”
Besides a fun family gathering, the event helped expose her son and nieces to winter sports like skiing, Waldon said. She worried that the kids might not be interested, would get too cold and want to leave after 30 minutes.
“But instead they just kept wanting to do things over and over.”