PINE VALLEY – Boy Scouts of America troops representing the Zion District of the Utah National Parks Council, gathered at the Thomas Forsyth Group camping sites in the Pine Valley Recreation Area Friday and Saturday to participate in the “Winter Klondike” campout and derby.
Around 200 scouts, ages 11-13, along with their leaders and chaperones camped out overnight, many in snow caves or igloos, in the chilly winter conditions.
The annual event provides the boys an opportunity to get a feel for what it is like to camp in the snow as well as to learn valuable winter preparedness skills, said Jeff Adams who is over activities for the Zion District.
Scouts arrived Friday evening and set up tents or dug out snow caves from snow piles that had been created prior to their arrival.
“It was pretty sweet,” Boy Scout Bradon Sweeney said of sleeping in a snow cave. “ … we stuck a candle in there and it was pretty warm actually.”
Sweeney said the ceiling of his cave started dripping in the night and he got wet but overall it was fun.
Rather than dig a snow cave, Joe Newman, a father of one of the scouts, built an igloo out of ice chunks that he found in the area.
Though the igloo kept him out of the elements, Newman admitted it still wasn’t a very comfortable sleep.
Saturday morning the troops gathered together to participate in a variety of activities including snowshoe relay races, fire building, winter first aid and sled races.
“This is a camp where we test the skills of the scouts in the winter weather,” Newman said, “so they have a number of skills challenges they do.”
Skills such as cooking, properly dressing and winter survival.
While there, the scouts were instructed on the very real and very dangerous condition of hypothermia as well as other winter weather perils.
“Hypothermia is a very quick way to die,” said Brett Christensen, a pediatric dentist in St. George.
Christensen taught the scouts winter first aid and preparedness and impressed upon them the importance of learning proper skills for dealing with winter emergencies.
The boys were taught how to create a stretcher from a tarp and some poles and then put those skills into practice on each other.
Scouts were also able to test their fire building prowess as they attempted to build fires with flint and steel and whatever foraged fuel they could find.
Christensen has been involved in scouts for a long time both with his own children and with the program, he said, and he loves the values and skills it teaches.
They are skills that Scoutmaster Flynn Todd said the scouts will carry into adulthood and pass on to their own children.
“It’s just a skill for them to learn so that they can pass it on to their kids or pass it on to other people,” Todd said. “ … and if they’re ever stuck in the snow or out in the wilderness and get stranded they’ll know how to keep warm and how to prepare for the cold weather.”
Though preparedness and winter skills were an important part of the event, the Klondike was also a lot of fun.
Coming from St. George where snow is not often seen on the ground, scouts at the Klondike were participating in many of the activities for the first time.
“I just barely learned how to snowshoe,” Mason Esplin of Troop No. 617 said, “I’ve never done that before. It’s pretty fun. You just put these big, like, tennis racket thingys on and you just run through the snow.”
A highlight of the Klondike was the sled races.
Each scout troop designed and built their own sleds which they raced on a course approximately a quarter of a mile long.
Scouts were completing the course in an average time of about three minutes, Adams said.
There are two scout districts in the Washington County area – the Zion District and the Snow Canyon district, Adams said.
Scouts from the Snow Canyon District will participate in their Winter Klondike Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21.
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