In the depth of winter, a deep layer of snow quiets the High Desert’s forests. But under the surface, a secret world comes to life. A new High Desert Museum exhibit dives into the snow, where voles, shrews, insects and porcupines build a matrix of tunnels to survive the winter and hide from the predators that lurk just above the surface.

Under the Snow opens at the Museum on Saturday, December 17, 2022. The original exhibit explores the “subnivium” environment, what scientists call this seasonal habitat. In the subnivium, the temperature stays a toasty 32-degrees Fahrenheit, which protects plants and animals from the winter’s frigid temperatures.

“As snow blankets the Cascade Mountain Range, we all anticipate the season of snow play,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “Under the Snow reveals an entire world that thrives in the High Desert right under our feet.

Using interactive graphics, visitors will meet the species that depend on the subnivium environment, including a resilient mammal named Pika, an observant owl called Great Gray and a fruiting fungus known as Fuzzy Foot. These individuals will talk about life in the snow, including their favorite spots to cache food, the best moments to hunt and their favorite types of snowfall.

Warming air temperatures across the High Desert are causing drastic changes to the subnivium world. Under the Snow also explores how reduced snowfall and rain-on-snow events are threatening the habitat on which thousands of plants and animals depend.

“The exhibit’s interactive elements are going to offer an engaging experience that transports people into this hidden winter world,” said Donald M. Kerr Curator of Natural History Hayley Brazier. “Under the Snow will encourage people to consider the snow as a source of habitat when they’re out on the slopes or just driving over the mountain pass.”

Under the Snow ( is in both Spanish and English and will be on display through May 7, 2023. The exhibit is made possible by Avion Water Company and KTVZ/KFXO with support from 1859 Oregon’s Magazine, 104.1 FM and the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.



THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.