In 1998, under the name Gore Range Natural Science School, founder Kim Langmaid recognized a need for region-wide environmental science education in the Eagle Valley that involves students K-12 in the natural world. Kim also saw the need for natural science programming for families and adults. She recognized that the same benefits we would provide for students; developing an interest in science, reconnecting them to the outdoors and building a stewardship ethic, were just as applicable to all ages.
In 2013, Walking Mountains folded in with another local nonprofit called The Eagle Valley Alliance of Sustainability to further expand programming and sustainability efforts. Today the sustainability department offers multiple programs that help businesses, residents and governments reduce their energy use, become certified sustainable businesses and help local events reduce their impact via Zero Waste diversion. In 2018, Walking Mountains helped Vail achieve certification as a Mountain IDEAL Sustainable Destination, recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Walking Mountains also facilitates the Climate Action Plan for Eagle County.
Today, Walking Mountains is a leading science and environmental stewardship education resource for the region, serving more than 127,000 people annually through year-round programming at four locations (Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, Nature Discovery Center atop Vail Mountain, Vail Nature Center and at the Sweetwater property near Dotsero). Walking Mountains' cornerstone Youth Programs are aligned with state and national curriculum standards, and are designed to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. Walking Mountains serves Eagle County students from 23 public and private schools, but the public school population that is served looks a great deal like many inner cities, with 52% Hispanic, 42% eligible for free and reduced lunch, and 35% classified as English Language Learners. Walking Mountains programs are a necessary experience for disadvantaged students that might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage in hands on science learning in the outdoors. With the LEED Platinum Science Center in Avon completed in 2011, school children now come to the Science Center for programs, learning in state of the art classrooms and using the greater outdoors as the primary classroom.
In addition, Walking Mountains serves residents and visitors in the Eagle Valley (Vail Valley) through engaging adult and family programs in natural science and sustainability offered in partnership with the US Forest Service, Vail Resorts, Vail Recreation District, Town of Vail, Eagle County and others.
"I am speaking as a mother as well as a teacher here. I feel the Girls in Science program is an amazing opportunity for young ladies to have hands-on opportunities to work with science through engaging experiments and activities. The program has really helped my daughter to think like a scientist (she conducts experiments at home and writes down the process and findings). The girls that participated in the program from my class exhibited more scientific knowledge and were more willing to take risks in answering hypothetical science questions during our simple machines unit at school."
- Elementary School Teacher and Parent of "Girls In Science" Student
"Walking Mountains has so much to offer! The naturalists are knowledgeable and great with kids of all ages. The Science Center is absolutely beautiful with educational, interactive exhibits for children and short nature trails for all. Year-round programming offers something for everyone at very reasonable fees, if not free. Whether you live here or are visiting, Walking Mountains is a must!"
- Community Programs Participant
"Walking Mountains Camps are such a delight for my daughter who craves scientific stimulation during the summer, and being outdoors in our backyard is a bonus. The counselors are always amazing and so are the programs. I think she has kept every field journal from every camp....that's a lot of field journals!"
- Parent of Summer Science Camps Participant
"Walking Mountains is a wonderful mix of fun and education. And the scholarships available make it possible for my daughter to do awesome stuff instead of sitting at home all summer."
- Parent of Summer Science Camps Participant & Scholarship Recipient
"As a small business, our environmental impact is not that big, however, being able to see what's going on with our energy use has shown us ways to reduce our costs. We are trying to get smarter and have less impact. It just makes sense."
- Local Business Owner and Actively Green Program Participant
" I didn't realize how much money I was spending on my energy bills, until I was signed up with the program. I've seen a big difference. Now I'm saving at least 50 percent on my energy bills, and that means a lot to me and my family."
- Energy Smart Participant