Students take a break in the snow through OP trips

Tucker Grinnan, Sports Reporter

Whitman’s Outdoor Program has been making the best of recent heavy snowfall in the Walla Walla area to provide students with unique opportunities for outdoor engagement.

Hosting multiple snow-centered trips and even a pop-up event last Tuesday, where snow-related equipment was rented out for free, the OP has been capitalizing on the recent abundance of snow around campus.

Whitties make the most of the snow. Photo by Carson Jones.

On Friday, Feb. 12, senior Craig Brunner helped lead a cross-country ski trip around campus. Initially unsure if there would be enough snow to go forward with the trip, he recalls being pleasantly surprised when the temperature started to drop and snow began to blanket campus.

Under normal circumstances, the OP would have hosted cross-country ski trips in the Blue Mountains. However, due to travel restrictions in accordance with Whitman’s COVID-19 policy, travel to the Blues was not feasible.

Brunner said he sees the downside of not being able to get off campus, but also emphasized that there are benefits to being around Walla Walla, assisted by the increased accessibility for students.

“The [OP] can be an intimidating space. So, this semester provides a really nice opportunity for people to get introduced to the OP without necessarily having to go up to the mountains,” Brunner said.

Audrey Horner, a junior and recent transfer, was a participant in Brunner’s cross-country ski trip last week. Being new to campus, she thought participating in an OP trip would be a good opportunity to expand her horizons.

“I thought it would be a good way to meet new people and get to know the campus better,” Horner said.

Horner also said that, in her mind, traveling off-campus was not a requirement for a good OP trip.

“I think that the appeal of the trips is not going off-campus, but doing something interesting with a group of people that also want to do it,” Horner said. “[Cross-country skiing] was my first trip, but I definitely want to do more; it was a great experience.”

On Saturday, Feb. 20, Junior Clara Hoffman helped lead a trip, titled, “Snow Fun and Sledding!” She emphasized the benefits that students can experience by participating in OP trips.

Whitman student goes sledding during the recent snowfall in Walla Walla. Photo by Carson Jones.

“This semester is challenging in so many ways, as far as COVID and physical safety [go], but it’s also challenging for students to get the connection they need with each other and build the friendships that are so important in our first years at Whitman,” Hoffman said. “[OP trips] create an opportunity for students to get to know each other, get away from their screens and get outside.”

Hoffman also described how the recently adapted OP might influence its programming going forward.

“The OP has been trying to shift [its] programming to be more inclusive and more fun for more people,” Hoffman said. “I think one benefit of COVID-19 is making us explore these options, so when we get out of COVID-19, maybe we can still keep some trips like [these] around campus, as well as having the trips up into the Blues.”

More information about the OP can be found on Whitman’s website.