Wildlife Observations while Skiing/Snowboarding

Sydney Stephens | | Featured ArticleFeatured ArticleBrainsBrains
Wolf in Yellowstone – Sydney Stephens

Many people have an interest in wildlife. Whether it’s birds, bees, bears or plants, there is lots of intrigue surrounding their lives, habitat, and endangerment status. Wanting to be involved in research is a common desire – and it’s surprisingly easy to make contributions that biologists can use to make inferences for their research directions.  Would you be interested in looking for wildlife while you skin up long backcountry routes or even during stops on the downhill?

Grizzly Gulch at Alta, Utah: the Cottonwood Canyons in the Wasatch Mountains are filled with opportunities to see wildlife even in the winter- from moose to birds and beyond. –Sydney Stephens

Citizen science is a growing activity and collaboration where researchers recruit volunteers from the public to aid in efforts to monitor and report wildlife findings. While citizen scientists need formal training for their data to be consistent enough for use in research, there are platforms where untrained citizens can report observations that contribute to large databases. Scientists may use these to get ideas on wildlife sightings for more refined future studies.


eBird outlines on their homepage how useful your contributions are to science projects

Knowing how to identify animals (or plants) and keep track of the ones you see is a hobby many people find riveting and endlessly curious. It’s like a constant scavenger hunt, or real-life Pokemon Go, where every observation can be exciting. Additionally, with today’s use of the internet and mass databases, these observations can contribute to important information beyond being a fun hobby.

iNaturalist‘s example of making observations: you can get feedback on your posts and comment on other’s to improve your accuracy.

Being a skier or snowboarder gives you a unique perspective and opportunity to see wildlife at a place and time many people and scientists may never encounter. Especially if you’re in the backcountry. Plus- intersecting/combining hobbies adds to the fun of both!

Someone (biologist Dr. Franz Goller) once told me: “Being a naturalist is the most versatile hobby in the world! There is entertainment wherever you go.” 

So consider getting an eBird account if you’re a ‘birder,’ eMammal if you like the fluffy stuff, or iNaturalist for all of the above and/or plants.

Birding on Skis at Alta

Additionally, if you live or around Salt Lake City, UT Alta Ski Resort has an environmental program called Friends of Alta that holds group Birding on Skis sessions on the 2nd Monday of every month during the ski season. You get to ski with top birders (ranked by eBird) in the state that are sure to inspire your identification skills. You get a free 1/2 day pass to Alta to ski with the group and can get the rest of the 1/2 day discounted at only 40$ if you choose to keep skiing afterward.

Related Articles

Got an opinion? Let us know...