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Breaking Down Your Basic Snow Study Kit

When fresh pow arrives, how will you know how it's combining with all the other elements in the backcountry? Tana Hoffman photo.

It's been snowing for the last 72 hours in the Tetons with heavy winds and up to three inches of snow water equivalent since Wednesday night. Today's fresh powder was the deepest since before Christmas (and the warmest), with reports from the past 24 hours measuring 17 inches. Over 3 feet in the past 4 days!

Here in Jackson. the local snowpack takes on another layer of complexity, adding new variables to the snow pit profile, and new potential for instabilities to become active. What's happening with the faceted snow buried deep below? How is temperature impacting this new layer? How have other layers metamorphosed? 

Understanding how all the variables come together to make a safe or a dangerous snowpack requires getting your hands dirty. Ryan Dunfee photo.

For guides and backcountry travelers, understanding the nuances of snow science can become an important skill set to develop. Typically more advanced snow science education begins at a level 2 avalanche course, but students can expect a good foundation to build from taking level 1 coursework. The rabbit hole is pretty deep when it comes to nerding out on this stuff. In fact, some people spend entire professional careers studying just snow science.

RELATED: A Tale of Three Snowpacks - Bruce Tremper on Snow Climates

PhDs aside, taking extra time in the backcountry to become more familiar with the conditions is usually not a bad thing. A kit will help you slow your decision process, and take note of what's happening for future reference on the mountain. Brooks Range Mountaineering offers snow science kits, and other tools for analyzing the current conditions and stability. At $65.95, the Brooks Range Basic Kit is ideal for a level 1 avalanche course, and has the essential tools you need for basic snow evaluation. The pouch comes with enough space to add other tools down the road as your snow assessment experience progresses.

What's In The Basic Snow Study Kit

The Fieldbook allows you to write under any condition regardless of how wet or cold.

Snow Crystal Card has 3 textured grids for examining snow crystals and doubles as inclinometer. Backside has snow pit legends.

Folding Magnifier X10 for viewing snow crystals up close.

100 cm Folding Ruler for documenting a snow pit with precision.

Dial Stem Thermometer to document the snowpack's temperature and recognize if there is a gradient.

Slope Meter accurately measures the angle of any slope.

Snow Study Pouch for organized storage that fits easily into a pack.

Keep your kit in an outside pack pocket, or somewhere away from body heat. In other words, not in your jacket's chest pocket. The crystal card is metal (it makes a great wax scraper in a pinch) and if it gets too warm, it will melt snow crystals before you can examine them. Body temperature can also influence the thermometer reading, or might fog your magnifier.

Stay safe out there and do your homework!

About The Author

Oh i have my snow study kit from vr headset for phone, its amazing and it has almost everythiing one would need and has almost everything that is mentioned here, so yea this is amazing!

Thank you very much for this useful article, I think people often forget about the dangers that can arise during winter sports such as ski touring, winter hiking, and mountaineering, not to mention freeride. I often mention this in my materials as editor of service with free reviews and essay samples, because I often mention that sports are necessary at any time of the year, even in winter. Often people are afraid of winter sports because they can be dangerous, but despite that, you can prepare for it. I hope that such materials will do a lot of good for the development of sports activity among young people and all people who have not yet tried it.