WR406 Seasonal Snow Environments

Offered: Spring
Credits: 3
Lecture: Thursday 12:00-13:50 (odd weeks), 12:00-12:30 (even weeks)
Laboratory: Thursday 12:30 - 17:00 (even weeks)
Prerequisite: upper level status (and preferably WR474 or WR574)
Instructor: Steven Fassnacht NR 335

This course teaches the experimental method and field methods for snowpack measurements. Experiment design is presented using snow as the media of study. The course also focuses on data interpretation and analysis.

Class Topics:

1. Introduction
2. Experimental Method, Statistics, Replicas
3. Snow Environments and Climates
4. Snowpack Properties
5. Snowpack Measurements
6. Snowfall, Accumulation, and Snow-cover
7. Snowpack Metamorphosis
8. Snowpack Stability
9. Snow Structures
10. The Physics of Skis
11. Other Topics
12. Field Exercise Data Summary - Spatial Changes

Required Textbooks:

1. American Avalanche Association, 2004. Snow, Weather, and Avalanches: Observational Guidelines for Avalanche Programs in the Unites States. The American Avalanche Association, Pagosa Springs, Colorado, 136pp.
2. Doesken, N.J., and A. Judson, 1997. The Snow Booklet. Colorado State University, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Fort Collins, Colorado, 86pp.


Field Exercise Summary and Data Overview		  15%
Final Exam						  15%
Participation						  10%
Project							  60%
	- Hypothesis Statement (1 page)		   5
	- Proposal (3-5 pages)			  10
	- Proposal Presentation (10 min)	   5
	- Progress Report (5-7 pages)		  10
	- Final Report (10-15 pages)		  20
	- Project Presentation (15 min)		  10	          	

Field Exercise Summary and Data Overview

Data will be collected during each field day. For each day, a group of students will be responsible to summarize the exercise and present the data at the beginning of the following in-class session. The exercise summary will be a 1 to 3 page writeup with photographs (in addition to the writeup) were appropriate. The data overview will be a 5-10 minute presentation beginning with a few slides summarizing the exercise and then graphically presenting the data that were collected. The presentation of the data will be discussed in class. The group will then write up the data summary (1-3 pages with figures), including an appendix of the raw data. Five point each will be given for the exercise summary, presentation, and data summary.

Final Exam

This will be a take home examination given out on the last day of classes and due at 9am one week later.


Students are expected to attend class and field activities. Each student will be allowed to miss one field exercise without an official CSU explanation without a grade penalty. Each subsequent unauthorized field exercise absences will result in a grade of decrease of 10% (or one letter grade).


A majority of the grade in this course is for a group project. With the guidance of the instructor, a project topic will be selected and a hypothesis statement will be written. This will be developed into a research proposal that will state the purpose, objectives and proposed methods and will contain a brief literature review with at least 8 citations. A brief overview of the proposal will be presented to the class to solicit input. At mid-semester, a progress report will summarize the data and adherence or divergence from proposed methods. The final report will be presented to the class at the end of the semester. The final report will have at least 12 citations. A list of possible project topics follows:
1. How does shape affect the velocity of falling snow?
2. How does the snow affect how we ride (ski or board)?
3. What makes the perfect snowball?
4. How does dust influence the snowpack?
5. How does snow influence (perma)frost?
6. When does snow start to blow?
7. Do different snow structure have different warmth, stability and longevity?
8. What happens to the snowpack after it is exposed from an avalanche?
9. How do trees affect snow accumulation?
10. How fast do snow crystal change shape (metamorphism)?
11. How do parking lot glaciers melt?
12. How does the shape of an igloo influence lighting and sound?

Related Web links:

[ NRCS SNOTEL Narrative ]
[ Colorado Backcountry Website ]


Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship
College of Natural Resources
Colorado State University