In environmental education class Aspen Elementary School (AES) third grade students have been learning about what it takes to be a naturalist detective in the winter. Ask any AES 9 year old, and they’ll tell you that you can look for animal clues in the snow to help create a story of who has been out and about. Nibbled pinecones mean a pine squirrel has been chomping away in the trees up above. Scat along the trail means a coyote has been trotting around looking for dinner. Long rubbings on aspen trees mean elk have been busy scratching their teeth to consume the bark.
My oldest son Jack (5.5) has had an interest in nature for most of his life. Yes, we get outside a lot living down at Hallam Lake, but Jack is into books, videos and computers too. Nature shows like “Wild America” and “Zoboomafoo” by National Geographic, and bird and mammal field guides, have been a part of his afternoon quiet time for most of his life. During the past couple of years we have been identifying birds visiting our feeder. It began simply enough with magpies and robins, but our list has been steadily growing.
Aspen Center for Environmental Studies ski and snowshoe tours offer the best of the Aspen area. The endless, spectacular views from Aspen Mountain’s Richmond Ridge are some of the best I’ve ever encountered in my short 25 years on this earth. The snowshoe tour on Snowmass Ski Area’s peaceful Rabbit Run Trail allows visitors to escape the crowds and experience their own private winter wonderland. Joining a naturalist to ski down Elk Camp provides a whole new perspective to what one can discover on the slopes, beyond the usual rush of adrenaline and the cold wind kissing your face.
"And then Pa called: Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo. Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whoooooooo. I listened and looked so hard my ears hurt and my eyes got cloudy with the cold. Pa raised his face to call out again, but before he could open his mouth an echo came threading its way through the trees. Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo."
- Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen