The Sciency Part of Ski Patrolling

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Is there such a thing as Snow Science?

Really. Ski patrolling is more than stringing up ropes and bringing down toboggans. When I first heard the words, “snow’ and “science” together, I though it was a joke. There’s a science to snow? As in legitimate, university study, kind of science? Or more like science fiction?

Well as it turns out, snow science is legit. Better yet, it isn’t performed in a lab, but rather right here, under the snowpack, in the mountains. We are lucky enough at Crystal Mountain, to have Chris Morin on the patrol. I think he actually went to school to be a rocket scientist or something, and he decided to be a ski bum instead. His parents are probably very proud. Did I mention, he’s also a great photographer, and his photos are on display in the Summit House. Really, he’s awesome. But I digress.

Why Study Snow?

If you want to know more about avalanches, you must track the weather. No one knows the snowpack of a certain area quite like those that live there, whether patrollers or heli-guides or dedicated backcountry enthusiasts, before you venture into the backcountry, you should find out how the snowpack has stacked up.

You will want to know: how windy it was when the snow came in, what direction the wind blew from, how much snow fell and at what temperature. You will want to know if that new snow bonded well to the previous snowpack and what kind of load you can expect the snowpack to withstand. These is just for starters. The trouble is, most people don’t live in the mountains, or anywhere near where they plan to backcountry ski. If you don’t live here, then you need to do some studying.

At your fingertips

Fortunately, now you can. Over at www.winterscience.com, Chris Morin is posting the weather. Not only does he include cool and colorful graphs, he also adds links to photos and snow profile data. This is valuable stuff folks. And Chris is doing it out of his sciency good heart. He just really likes this stuff. And for that we can all be grateful that he didn’t end up making rockets and instead is here making our lives just a little safer.

Snow Science, Crystal Mountain Weather Graphs

Click the graph to go to the link

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4 responses »

  1. If schools taught science out on the slopes, on the rock or under the stars more often (I know there are those few-and-far-between classes that do), we’d be a much richer society.

    I love learning about science and how it works in the “real” world… applied to activities I adore. Thanks Chris & Kim for another great post.

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