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Our Favorite Winter Gear for Exploring the Cold and Snowy Colorado Mountains

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The calm stillness in the forests, the apparent animal tracks on the snow, and the glittering pillows and blankets of fresh powder make Wintertime one of the best times to get out and explore the Colorado mountains--As long as you have the right winter gear to keep you warm, comfortable, and thriving. Keystone Science School has over 40 years of experience leading groups into the Winter backcountry. We recently polled the KSS staff to find out their favorite pieces of winter gear, and here are their answers.

  • Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie - It's such a versatile layer. I can use it skiing, hiking, or hanging out. It's super comfortable and I feel like it's the local garb of Summit County too.
  • Patagonia R1 Half-Zip - Breathable, warm layer. Perfect for skinning up the mountain, followed by a walk around town with a latte. It also zips up to your nose and has a great hood that can fit under a helmet.
  • Heated Gloves - I know, I know, it’s a totally unnecessary thing, but when standing outside watching my kids at Nordic or waiting in line for something, etc. – these keep me warm! I can enjoy being outside longer without frozen fingers.
  • Camo Muck Boots - Hands down my favorite piece of winter gear!
  • Small Foam Pad - Same size as the back of your backpack so you can slide it against the frame. Eat lunch comfortably in the snow and don’t lose all your heat. Cut up an old sleeping pad. It makes taking a break in the snow 100x better. It can also be used in emergency situations.
  • Puffy Pants - They are an essential that I didn’t know I needed until I got them. They are amazing and so comfy. Full-zip so you can put them on with equipment on your feet. They are also great when you are chillin' on the couch in your shorts and need to go outside for something, just throw them on and stay warm in the coldest temps.
  • Full-Zip Snow Pants with Suspenders - Temperatures can have dramatic swings throughout a day in the mountains and it’s been my favorite way to make sure I don’t overheat when I unzip all the way to my waist. Going full zip? Make sure you have suspenders so your pants don’t fall down!
  • Sunglasses with Multiple Lenses - Visibility is so variable in the mountains. Bright sunny days can literally be blinding requiring dark lenses and nothing beats yellow lenses on those overcast days. Live your life in high def!
  • The Extra Layer - I’ve never regretted bringing an extra mid-layer, and I have been saved by it many times.
  • Lightweight Neck Gaiter - I prefer it to be merino wool or polyester because it’s stretchy, dries quickly, and provides a bit of warmth but not too much warmth while working fairly hard cross country skiing or backcountry skiing. You can pull the gaiter up over the back of your hat and keep it just under your sunglasses or goggles when the weather comes in and breathe through it which is my favorite function. It also provides UV protection when it’s super sunny without being hot. It’s a must-have for outdoor adventures in the winter and I use it year-round too!

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Best Apps for Exploring the Outdoors

kss outdoors apps

At Keystone Science School, we live, work, and play in the Colorado mountains. While we value "screen-free" time, we also utilize technology to help get us outside to hike, bike, climb, ski, and play. Here are our favorite outdoor apps for Android and iPhone that let us explore the outdoors safely. What are your favorite outdoors and adventure sports apps? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know!

Best Apps for Weather & Avalanche Conditions

Best Apps for Hiking, Biking, & Climbing

Best Map & GPS Apps

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What are the best outdoors books?

KSS Best Outdoor Books 02We recently got a question from a parent about our opinions on great outdoor survival books for kids. It got us thinking and we decided to ask our staff and make a list of our favorite wilderness adventure books. Whether you are looking for a holiday gift or birthday gift for your outdoor adventure-loving family member or are simply looking to expand your outdoors knowledge, we hope you find this list helpful. This list isn't separated by age or experience level, please do your own research before checking out any book on this list.

Best Outdoors Books - Nonfiction

  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  • Storm & Sorrow by Robert W. Craig (KSS Founder!)
  • The Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits by Tommy Caldwell
  • Ultimate High by Goran Kropp
  • The Boys' Book Of Survival by Campbell Guy
  • Survivor Kid: A Practical Guide to Wilderness Survival by Denise Long
  • How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier
  • SAS Survival Handbook by Lofty Wiseman
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • The NOLS Cookery by Claudia Pearson
  • Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country by David Williams
  • The Long Walk: The True Story Of A Trek To Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz
  • Alive by Piers Paul Read
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  • Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper
  • Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales
  • Where the Water Goes by David Owen
  • Allen and Mike’s Avalanche Book by Allen O'Bannon and Mike Clelland
  • Winter World: Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
  • Surviving the Extremes by Kenneth Kamler

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Keystone Science School Outdoor Education Hosts Student-Led Gear Drive

Keystone Science School has partnered with Park County School District to provide each 3rd-8th grade student with a unique outdoor education program embedded within the traditional school day. The program is kicked off with a student-led gear drive so that each child can be prepared to explore and learn about their local environment. Community members can donate their unneeded winter gear to the program by dropping it off at the entryway of Edith Teter Elementary School between November 2nd to 23rd. The specific winter gear requested are snow pants, boots, gloves, hats, scarves, and jackets.

Keystone Science School has partnered with Park County School District to embed an outdoor education program within the traditional school day for each student in grade 3rd-8th grade. To learn more about the program and the inception of the idea, check out the KSS blog post, “Keystone Science School Partners with Park County School District.” The program is now asking the community to donate winter clothes to the program.

The Keystone Science School Outdoor Education program is in its first year but has already grown thanks to the efforts of Keystone Science School Instructor, Kendra Fuller, and the Park County School Administration including Edith Teter Elementary Principal, Laurel Dumas, and South Park Middle and High School Principal, Gretchen Panicucci. Together they have worked to provide transportation so that a rotating class of students will get a full day outdoor education program each Thursday.

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Keystone Science School Partners With Park County School District

KSS is working with each 3rd-8th grade student in Park County School District to offer a unique outdoor education program embedded within the traditional school day.

kss and park county 1Keystone Science School has been partnering with Park County Schools for over 10 years. In a typical year, the 5th-grade students from Edith Teter Elementary School visited Keystone Science School for an overnight outdoor education program each November. Students would hike as they learned about a variety of environmental science topics.

Their program would always include elements of teambuilding and field-based science. Due to COVID-19, an overnight field trip to Keystone Science School is not possible but their partnership with Park County Schools didn’t stop this year, it only grew. Instead of sending students for an overnight field trip, Keystone Science School is embedded within a typical school day for each 3rd-8th grade student within the Park Country School District.

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