Balance key to calling SNC snow days


Photo: Gabby Dodd

Snow walls at Woodward Tahoe during February’s record-breaking snowfall

With this winter being one of the snowiest on record, Sierra Nevada College students and faculty have had to work around snow days. Whether it’s commuting to campus, class cancelations, or having your car buried under three feet of snow, SNC couldn’t avoid mother nature this year.

“I’ve been here for about 12 or 13 years,” Shannon Beets, Executive Vice President and Provost, said. “I’ve only seen two other years that have had this much snow.”

The amount of snow that Tahoe received this winter has made travel conditions an issue for commuters to get to the school. These road conditions are an important factor when deciding whether or not to cancel classes.

“The president receives a call from our head facilities person at five, five-thirty in the morning and they look at a couple of things,” Beets said. “They look at road conditions on Mount Rose and around the lake because a lot of our staff, faculty, and some of our students commute. They look at local school closures, and they look at the facilities situation on campus. Given the amount of snow can we plow the parking lots enough for people to get in and park?”

Commuting students and faculty aren’t the only ones who are effected by the large amounts of snowfall, SNC students who live on campus often face their own challenges regarding the snow.

“I can’t even count the times I’ve had to dig my car out this year,” Ben Hojnoski, an SNC sophomore said. “One time I was parked in the lot in front of the caf and ended up being stuck for about half an hour. By the time I finally got my car out there were about six people who showed up to help push.”

With everyone feeling the wrath of winter SNC has a system in place to make sure the number of snow days stays under control so students don’t miss too many classes.

“We have plenty of extra time built into our contact hours. We have a 19-week semester, one week of which is vacation, one week of which is finals and we only need a 14-week semester to reach contact hours,” Beets said. “With the new calendar next year, we’ll have to watch our snow days carefully, because our contact time is more compressed.”

Next year’s shorter semesters would make historic snow years such as this one, a challenge for teachers and students since there wouldn’t be as much room built in for weather.

“Faculty members here have talked a little bit about if they were using Moodle, or canvas, or an online course management system more consistently there could be reading and writing responses that would be on that system that would allow students to still get some instruction on those days classes are canceled,” Beets said.

It seems unlikely to have two historic snow years in a row but having the schedule changed for the future means the snow could make things difficult two or three years down the road. And while most people love the snow it can get overwhelming.

“It’s great being able to go ride powder but at a certain point I think it’s enough,” Hojnoski said. “I came out here being told there would be so many t shirt weather ski days, it’s almost April and were just starting to see that. I hope next year is a bit more normal with its snow.”