A Miserable Day in Yellowstone!
A Test of Endurance
Bear Charges Trail Riders
Brother No.1 Takes a Hike
Camping,Boating and Bears!Part I
Camping,Boating, and Bears! Part II
Cooking School with M
Dust, Dips, and Bear Tracks
Family Forestry Expo
Grinnell Glacier Hike
Hoar, Ghosts, and Pits!
Lost on Father's Day?
M&E:Kids in the City!
Marmot Mountain Fun and Terror!
Mystery in the Rain Forest
Shuttle Bus Adventure
Snowshoe Fun on Winter Trails Day!
The Big Fair!
The Blood Red Moon
The Great Goldfish Adventure
The Swan Rangers and the 79 Switchbacks!
The Tough Trail
Ticks, Elk, Buffalo, and More!
Too Much to Bear
Hoar, Ghosts, and Pits!
by M & E
After much anticipation, we arrived at Whitefish
Mountain Resortís base lodge. We were early for our
workshop, and explored the brand new lodge. When we went outside
again, we saw a ranger standing around a bin of snowshoes. This
must be our guide we thought. The K. family was there as well. At last! I
recognized some faces. The ranger introduced herself as Leah.
More homeschoolers began to arrive. After everyone bought
tickets for the chair lift, we all piled into the dangerous
It was an open, canopied trailer without seatbelts, pulled by a white truck. The
bumpy ride was extremely fun.
After stepping off the shuttle, we were asked to introduce
ourselves and state our favorite outdoor winter activity. Then, we followed the ranger to the chair lift. Since we were
in a school group, we passed the skiers in line. After mounting the
lift, we began to ascend. I was horrified. What if my
attached to my backpack, fell? I finally began to get comfortable,
and enjoyed the ride to the summit. At the top of Big Mountain, we
took our packs into the building. After depositing our backpacks,
gathering up a shovel and snow kit, we went outside and
our snowshoes. Leah led the way as we walked along to find a place
to dig our snow pits. We would see if the snow was prone to
avalanche by examining the layers and stability of our pits. One of
the layers is called surface hoar. It is a weak frost that comes on
top of the snow. An uncommon type of frost, surface hoar can only be
found in certain places, like here in Northwest Montana. Below the frost was a thin layer
of ice. Leah showed us the layer of ice beneath the snow. She
informed us that if there was too much snow on the weaker layer,
then whoosh, an avalanche would come catapulting down the mountain! Also,
we learned about rime ice. The moisture in fog freezes to
whatever it hits, forming rime ice. In this case the objects were
trees. Leah explained about snow ghosts, which are trees covered
with rime ice and surface hoar. Unlike snow, the hoar and ice does not come off
easily. So, they arenít really snow ghosts, theyíre more
like rime hoar ghosts. We went a little bit farther, and began to
dig our pits in the fresh snow. After making a nice wall, we took
out our snow kits, and measured the thickness, took the temperature,
and recorded the layers of the snow. After taking down notes, we
destroyed our pits, to prevent skiers and snowboarders from getting
hurt. The way back was longer and harder than the way there. Finally
we saw the summit building. After making it inside, we ate lunch.
Leah showed us her avalanche in a box. It was a plastic container
full of flour (to simulate snow), and some plastic trees. A volunteer held an
inclinometer, to measure how steep the slope was. The ranger tilted
the container until about 40į, when a mini avalanche started. Forty
degrees is usually the bullís eye for avalanches. We observed that
avalanches were less violent in the trees. Leah packed down the
flour a little, and then the avalanche didnít slide until about 50į.
This showed us that if you let the snow settle, youíre less likely
to get caught in an avalanche. The only thing was that the avalanche
was more violent with the packed snow. Leah showed us how probe
poles and avalanche transceivers work. You need to stick the probe
pole straight into the ground, otherwise you may miss the person
that you are searching for, or you could break the pole. The
transceiver was fairly easy to use. You turn around until the steady
beeping gets faster and then head in that direction. It shows how close you
are in meters, so just get as close as you can.
Leah split everyone up into two groups for the next demonstration. While one group tried
out the transceivers and probe poles, the other group explored the
nature center. First we looked at the
nature center. There were soft pelts, interesting skulls, and a
display of some stuffed
grizzlies, and other wildlife. The minutes
passed quickly, and it was time to change sides.
Outside, Leah gave us an avalanche transceiver and probe pole
to find our mock avalanche victim. I
turned around, looking for the strongest signal. Heading down the
hill we got closer and closer to about 1.9 meters. Probing through
the snow was harder than you may think. Mom felt something soft; it
was our sandbag! Good thing we discovered the person in less than 15
was time to head down the mountain. We went inside and gathered up
our packs. Everyone headed toward the lift to start the ride down. I
remembered how scary it was going down in
the summer, on Friday's, when we would ride the lift for free.
Now, still at the summit, it seemed pretty flat and not very scary.
Leaving the summit, it looked as if we
would just rush down, out of control. Fortunately the chair did not
zoom down. The ride was like a
Ferris Wheel. Once the chair
lift stopped and bounced a little. That must have been scary for the
people that we saw going up past us. We observed that most of them
didnít have their safety bar down.
Finally we reached the ground, and boarded the shuttle. The shuttle ride
back to the vehicles seemed short. What a fun and informative day!
Five Red Flags that there may be avalanche danger:
h A lot of precipitation at one time
h Rapid increase in temperature
Recent avalanche activity
h Cracks in the snow
and whoomping sounds