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It’s one thing to go out with a scientist for a guided experience. But I asked Richardson what he would say to people like me who are heading out for a casual hike.
“I would ask folks to consider their impact and be aware — there and at all times — of their impacts on the wildlife and natural resources around them,” he said. “That’s the main thing. It’s not just a photo op. These are living organisms and part of the ecosystem here. That’s the main thing.”He also said to keep an eye out for other species up there.“There’s a lot more going on up there than just chickadees,” he said.At the top of the ridge, I walked to a jagged tree, halfway rimmed by ice and also covered in moss. Like the birds perched on its branches, this tree endures tough winters. There were too many mountain chickadees to count, and besides, they all moved so quickly. Counting them all would be impossible.
The chickadees were curious, and as I stood there silently, watching them, a few hopped down a large branch toward me. They were eyeing me, too. One in particular stared me down. A white band wrapped around its tiny black head. I noticed the plume of white feathers on its neck and its black chest. Its gray wings.Just because everyone else is doing something, you shouldn’t do it, too. But I was overwhelmed by the presence of these birds and something larger came over me. I bent down to grab a pinch of the birdseed that was thrown on the snow and behind. And I lifted my arm, palm wide open. I knew this felt wrong, and yet, it was also so cool. I waited and stared at the little bird. Eventually, it hopped down to my hand and I could feel its weight press into the tips of my fingers. But just as suddenly as it graced me with its presence, it took a seed and flew away, likely storing its find for a future day.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have turned to the outdoors for recreation. And during Utah winters, that often means hitting the slopes. For at least 30-years, the Ski Utah Passport program has provided an affordable way for 5th and 6th graders to try out the sport.“Skiing this year has been like one of the only things that we’ve felt really, truly safe doing. And like, it gives us an opportunity to leave the house and do something we enjoy,” said Heather Blackburn.Blackburn and her husband Brandon are loving the experience of teaching their kids to ski. However, without the Ski Utah Passport program she may have never developed a love of the sport for herself. The passport program allows fifth graders to go to every Utah ski resort 3 times and sixth graders to go to each resort once for $49 each. For Heather, who grew up in a single parent household, it was a great opportunity. For me, it was probably the only way that I could have been able to even get up there at that time,” she said.Heather’s husband Brandon Blackburn also used the Ski Utah Passport program when he was younger and looks back at those memories with fondness.“It’s pretty awesome that the program existed, because not only did they get me to the mountains, which my parents weren’t able to do, but like Heather kind of talked about, it just gives you this love, you know, for being up in the mountains,” he said. “And then it familiarizes you at a young age, which makes it I think a little bit less intimidating.”Paul Marshall is a consultant for Ski Utah and previously worked as their communications director and says aiming the program at 5th and 6th graders was a conscious decision.
— Tagotee Store (@StoreTagotee) February 27, 2021
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