8th Grade Snow Science

School News
April 1, 2014- VMS is fortunate to have an ideal location for the study of snow science. Recently, 8th graders have been learning about how snow is affected by weather, time, and traffic, and how to assess and mitigate risk when traveling in the backcountry.

The group's work began in science class right outside the school where predominant west and northerly winds had created drifts of snow on the berms that separate the school from the road. In a small scale test, students dug snow pits in three feet of snow to reveal layers deposited throughout the season. They recorded slope angle, layer depth, snow crystal structure, and temperatures, all of which are used by backcountry forecasters in predicting snow stability.

From the micro to the macro, the eighth grade then traveled to Vail Pass where they repeated the same process, but on a larger scale. The significant snow this year meant more digging, but also provided a real world preview of what is required in the backcountry.

As a culmination to their learning, the group spent two days and one night in the backcountry during the annual 8th grade hut trip on March 26-27. They traveled to the huts on telemark skis with skins, carrying everything they needed on their backs and equipped with knowledge to help the travel safely to and from their destination. They practiced using beacons and probes and took advantage of the incredible views to discuss the terrain in plain sight applying what they’d learned about aspect and tell-tale signs to identify potential hazards and plan hypothetical routes.

Some of the students took their work a step further and created videos that they entered in an international snow safety video contest organized by a group called Project Zero. Check out the photos from the hut trip.