Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Snow Science

Well I’ve been living in the van at various locations in Jackson proper. Because I can easily get snowed in at the Park and Ride I have taken to parking in hotel lots. Although there are signs everywhere about not parking basically anywhere over-night, no one seems to really care. Sleeping is the hardest part of living in the van. It’s so cold at night that I don’t want to move, and getting up to pee (which if you know me happens a lot) is not an option. The worst part though is the split finger tips from the cold. They are killing me.

Since I’ve been here in Jackson Hole I’ve been spending my days in the American Avalanche Institute’s Level II Avalanche Course. Today was our last day. I have to say I’ve learned a TON in this course. Snow science is amazing. If only the teachers in high school could have explained to me the metamorphasis a snow grain goes through after it falls and how it affects the stability of that layer I would have actually liked science. Too bad.

The course is taught by Rod Newcomb, Exum Guide, former snow ranger at Jackson Hole and the Director of the American Avalanche Institute. He's an amazing guy, in his 70s and still sharp as a tack and so many stories your head would spin. All the instructors are Exum Mountain Guides. If you haven't heard about Exum read this article from Outside Magazine.

Anyway here are the basics of what we did in the course (this is for you Copson, Riley and Parker).
Day 1: Review of metamorphosis, plotting snowpack from weather data, litigation, field – full data pit at Phillips Bench on Teton Pass, plotted pit data.
Day 2: Review weather and stability, snow mechanics, review shear tests and shear quality, field – shear tests at Phillips Bench again, review of surface hoar.
Day 3: Toured up and out Snow King Ski Resort, dug 2 pits and did every test imaginable, Rutschblock, all compaction tests, analyzed grains and tested density, then kicked off a few cornices.

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