Base: 30°

Summit: 28°

24 hour snow total:


temperature at the base

Base: 30°

temperature at the summit

Summit: 28°

24 hour snow total:


Guest Opinion: Funding Ski Area Supports StudentsBack to News»

Click to view larger image
Posted On: May 26, 2015 in: General
Originally published by The Spokesman, May 16th 2015

Written by Cynthia Rust, 2015 Learn To Ski & Snowboard Month Ambassador of the Year, Post Falls High School Science Teacher

As Washington’s leaders enter into final debate over the capital budget for the next biennium, they should consider Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park’s $2.23 million request as more than funding facilities, but as an investment in advancing environmental education for students throughout the region.

Mt. Spokane is requesting funds to design and build a new guest services building in the base area, as well as to make improvements to its two aging lodges. This project should be supported because Mt. Spokane is more than a growing regional asset for four-season recreation; it’s also a unique classroom for our region’s youth.

Ski areas have an opportunity to take a leadership role in environmental education, and in enhancing the environmental awareness of their guests, surrounding communities, and employees because of their outdoor, natural environments and direct connection between that natural environment and the guest experience.

Mt. Spokane State Park supports teaching goals by accommodating field science education lessons that measure snow/water equivalency at the Bald Knob Picnic Area. However, the existing shelter is not big enough to house all the students and volunteers for a single class period. A new building would accommodate groups of students on field trips, as well as other larger gatherings.

As I develop an ecology unit for students to study areas where human-use and wilderness intersect, and to research and suggest solutions to using areas with the least environmental impact, I hope my students can participate in data collection in a ski area. It will be important to have indoor space for analyzing data. I am also researching how to work with Mt. Spokane to set up a modified Adventure Learning program in which other area schools can participate. This would enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum that engages students and helps them become scientifically literate, citizen scientists, environmental stewards or adventurers with a purpose.

Ski areas are also climate change indicators for business and industry similar to indicator species in the natural world that are the first to show signs of environmental change. A ski area is the best place for students to study many aspects of ecology, engineering and economics: important lessons for the future global community.

My classes at Post Falls High School represent a few of many classes in Eastern Washington and North Idaho that can use Mt. Spokane as a real-life science lab because it is close to many school districts. A potential 10,000 secondary-level students might use it, along with other students from the 100-plus elementary and middle level schools, or area colleges.

Since the park itself has limited facilities for groups to meet for introduction, instructions or to wind up a day’s activities, Mt. Spokane’s new center would serve as a classroom away from home for just those purposes. This could increase the likelihood the state park helps fulfill educational needs consistent with the law governing environmental education in Washington, which standards are intended to become integrated into core content areas across all grade levels.

Additionally, I serve as an adviser to the Post Falls Ski and Snowboard Club. Our 82-member club visits the resort twice a year to get our fix of snow adventure, as well as lessons in humility and tenacity as we improve our skills. But the group puts a strain on the lodge as we fill space crowded with other patrons. A guest services area could accommodate multiple types of groups on any given day. School and youth groups are a common sight on many ski slopes, and the school snow trip is a fixture of many extracurricular offerings across the world.

Mt. Spokane is in an ideal location for building an amazing education program that can provide meaningful experiences for students. These students could include teachers and their pursuit of professional development to adapt lessons to Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core Standards, Washington state Integrated Environmental and Sustainability learning standards, districts’ curricula and more.

Funding for the new guest services building at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park will deliver great returns because it is an investment in the state’s largest state park, and environmental education for our youth.

Cynthia Rust teaches science at Post Falls High School. Her students measure snow/water equivalency on Mount Spokane as inputs into Idaho watersheds.