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Walking on Snow

Learn more about snow properties and walking on snow.
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Snow can have many different mechanical properties. It can be this cotton or almost as hard as a rock. This is, of course, dependent on how the snow pack is affected by weather and created. And then I mean daily weather. When you walk on snow on the road, it sometimes can be slippery and sometimes it can be like walking on asphalt. This is very much dependent on the temperature. As the temperature gets closer to zero degrees centigrade, there will be more liquid water content in the snow that makes the snow more slippery as the water content makes the snow grains slide easier against each other and other materials.
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When the temperatures gets cold, this water will build bridges between the snow grains, so the snow pack gets harder and not the slippery. Another important issue is, of course, also what it’s under the snow. If there is ice under the snow, it still will be very slippery at colder temperatures. Then sometimes you just want to go out in nature. One way is of course, to use skis. But sometimes you don’t have skis, then walking on a snow mobile track could be a solution. Then the snow is packed and hard and you can walk without going through this snow surface.
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But then if you want to go out from the track to take a photo or something else, you will probably end up with snow in your shoes or if it’s enough snow, snow up to your waist. This is because the fresh snow has much lower density and the bounds between the grains are brittle and weak. So they don’t have the ability to handle the pressure from a person. But if the person then decreases the pressure by increasing the area that the pressure is put on, by using for example, snowshoes, the result will be differently. And then you could actually walk on fresh snow as well.
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How different shapes affect how the snow can handle the pressure is something that we are investigating through research right now. In this case, very interesting this because of development of snow shoes, snow mobiles and other tracked vehicles.
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Then on some days in the spring, when the Sun has warmed up the top layer of the snow and the nights so cold something that we call skare in Swedish is formed. Skare is a hard crust on top of the snow pack that enables you to walk everywhere on the snow. This is a really nice feeling, and it’s actually opens up a whole new world where you can actually see things you haven’t seen before. So what is your experience of walking on snow?

In this video, you will learn more about walking on snow and snow properties.

To learn more, check out this course: Snow: What It Is and Why It Matters by Lulea University of Technology.

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Snow: What It Is and Why It Matters

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