Stateline, Nevada — Wildlife survival, avalanche safety, snowmaking, and environmental restoration are all part of the curriculum at a unique outdoor classroom at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Nearly 300 fifth-grade students from Lake Tahoe Unified School District took part in the EpicPromise Winter Adventure Program over five days in January and March. The program includes a ride up the ski resort’s Aerial Tram, snowshoeing, and getting hands-on learning experiences at a trio of educational stations.

Now in its second year, the program’s primary goal is to teach students about Lake Tahoe’s winter environment and mountain safety, as well as inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency secured funding for the program through an EpicPromise grant from Vail Resorts.

“The students loved learning about the science of snowmaking, avalanche safety, and winter animal adaptations,” said Beth Quandt, science outreach coordinator for Lake Tahoe Unified School District. “To be able to snowshoe in such an awesome venue was truly a bonus. We want to extend our deep appreciation to the EpicPromise program and all of the partners who made this possible.”

The program was designed in collaboration with the South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Lake Tahoe Community College, Sierra Avalanche Center, and Tahoe Institute for Natural Science.

“Heavenly is thrilled to bring back the EpicPromise Winter Adventure Program again this year. This program is a great way to get every fifth-grader on the mountain and learning about the diverse ecosystem that makes Lake Tahoe unique,” said Pete Sonntag, senior VP and COO of Heavenly Mountain Resort.

“We believe learning first-hand on the snow gives students a rich educational environment that will help foster the next generation of environmental stewards. Thanks to the EpicPromise Grant Program we can support initiatives that align with the same values we share for conservation, snow education, and safety.”

As part of a station hosted by the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, students identified animal tracks, learned about adaptation strategies, and discovered how different animals survive a Sierra Nevada winter.

At another station hosted by staff from Heavenly Mountain Resort and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, students learned about some of the environmental restoration work done by the resort, as well as the science of snowmaking. As part of the curriculum, students took critical measurements to determine if it would be possible to make snow on the day of their trip.

Students finished at a station hosted by the Sierra Avalanche Center and Heavenly ski patrollers, where they learned about avalanche science from American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education-certified instructors. Instructors demonstrated the basics of snow safety while searching for avalanche beacons using recommended backcountry gear. They also met some members of the resort’s avalanche search and rescue dog team.


Students get a look at the latest in snow-safety technology.

Students meet members of the Heavenly avalanche search and rescue dog team.

Students learn about winter wildlife survival techniques with help from the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science and the U.S. Forest Service.

Students donned snowshoes to learn about a variety of outdoor subjects during the EpicPromise Winter Adventure Program.

Fifth-graders learn about snowmaking during the EpicPromise Winter Adventure Program.

Students take measurements to determine weather and snow conditions this winter.

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. For additional information, call Adam Jensen, environmental education specialist, at 775-589-5251 or