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Marmot opens Canada’s first ski-in, ski-out classroom

Marmot Basin’s old avalanche control building was recently renovated to make room for the Marmot Learning Centre, which is jointly operated by Marmot Basin, Parks Canada and the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division. P. Clarke photo

Marmot Basin’s old avalanche control building was recently renovated to make room for the Marmot Learning Centre, which is jointly operated by Marmot Basin, Parks Canada and the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division. P. Clarke photo

Canada’s first ski-in and ski-out classroom will officially open its doors at Marmot Basin this week.

Located at mid-mountain, the Marmot Learning Centre has been around since 2008, but recently moved into the ski hill’s old avalanche control building, which underwent extensive renovations.

The renovated building is now a fully equipped classroom jointly operated by Marmot Basin, Parks Canada and the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division.

“It’s Canada’s only ski-in and ski-out classroom,” said Erin Reade, a sales and marketing executive for Marmot.

The Marmot Learning Centre offers school groups a choice between four active learning sessions, such as a lesson about avalanche awareness using beacons and probes. Other sessions include learning about species at risk in Jasper National Park and learning about the hazards of winter travel.

Each session is about an hour long and is part of a larger day package that includes a ski and snowboard lesson offered by Marmot Basin. About 500 students participate in the program every year.

“We want kids to be outside and connected with nature and physical literacy skills, like downhill skiing or snowboarding, are things they are going to be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives,” said Barb Schmidt, education lead for the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre.

One of the new sessions offered this year is an introduction to outdoor careers, such as ski hill management or mountain safety.

“Alberta Education has put an increasing emphasis on career pathways geared towards young students to really start thinking about where they want to end up,” said Schmidt.

The Marmot Learning Centre isn’t just geared toward students from the GYPSD.

In fact, one of the biggest cohorts of students is from the United Kingdom.

“We’re seeing growth in our international school visitation, particularly from the U.K., because they see so much value in this program for their kids,” said Reade.

According to Dave Gibson, president of Marmot, the ski hill has seen a 40 per cent increase in business from school groups coming from the U.K. this year.

“Those are significant numbers, not just for Marmot, but for the entire community,” said Gibson, adding he expects the learning centre to grow in popularity over the coming years.

Paul Clarke
editor@fitzhugh.ca

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