Winter Program

Get ready for the winter EW families! We are excited for the winter program and a great year of snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Our winter gear list is available here for our current families. Please stay tuned to the weekly bulletin for additional updates and information as the trips come closer. Please contact Matt with any questions about the gear or the trips.

Philosophy and Program Overview

Explorer West has developed a Winter Outdoor Education Program at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains. The goal of this series of day trips is to expose students to a wide variety of outdoor activities that will invigorate their connection to the outdoors. We integrate this creative and inquiry-based curriculum with elements of science, math, social studies, physical education, and art. Explorer West faculty and other experienced outdoor leadership specialists lead these trips.


The Winter Program focuses on the themes of sustainability, risk management, cooperation, and concepts of minimum impact, leave-no-trace outdoor ethics, and survival. Students come away from these experiences with skills for a lifetime of winter fun.

This program is enhanced by partnerships with local outdoor industry manufacturers (Cascade Designs, Outdoor Research, etc.).

Winter Program – main program elements by grade

6th grade

Snowshoeing at Gold Creek Snow Park at Snoqualmie Pass, WA: designing, building, and testing their own snowshoes in a partnership with local outdoor manufacturer, Cascade Designs, basic avalanche safety taught by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, preventing and treating hypothermia and frostbite, building snow shelters, introduction to the equipment and practices needed for a safe and enjoyable winter experience, focus on teamwork.

7th grade

Cross Country Skiing at Snoqualmie Pass Nordic Center: guided instruction, review of safety procedures, gaining proficiency in the equipment and practices necessary for a safe, enjoyable and minimum-impact winter wilderness experience, Norse legends and storytelling, focus on healthy lifestyle choices.

8th grade

Off –trail snowshoeing and cross country skiing at Hyak/Silver Fir/Cabin Creek Snow Parks: Building proficiency in snowshoe equipment and exploring further into the snow wilderness, enhancing their snow studies/analysis with more advanced snow shelter building and avalanche safety training, group safety and route-selection awareness, and focus on decision-making skills.

Skills Overview

Over three years at Explorer West, students:

  • Build their own snowshoes using a combination of natural and manufactured elements from local businesses
  • Become familiar with proper apparel and gear selection for the alpine winter environment
  • Learn the basics of Nordic/cross country skiing
  • Are introduced to Nordic legends and storytelling
  • Build a variety of snow shelters in the field
  • Cover basic first aid
  • Model leadership and cooperation
  • Reflect and self-examine after each experience
  • Understand how and when to use avalanche safety and rescue equipment