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The first step in snow analysis is to dig a snowpit.

LOCATION: Select an area that is out in the open and free from any obstructions - such as buildings or trees where significant drifting can occur (drifting will skew your results). Examples of appropriate locations are open meadows or school athletic fields. With a class it might be instructive to select various sites.

PREPARING FOR EXCAVATION: After selecting your location, be careful not to tramp down the surrounding snow because this will alter the vertical structure of the material that you will be studying. Characterize the surface of the snow - indicating any crust, windblown features. etc.. Using a compass determine the orientation of the snowpit and depending on the time of day try to keep the smooth face (see below) away from direct sunlight to prevent any bias in temperature.

HOW DEEP?: At least a meter of fallen snow is required for this exercise and the more snow the better (However, these techniques can be used to study snowcover less of any thickness). When digging your snowpit make sure to excavate all the way down to the soil.

EXCAVATION: Using your shovels create a smooth vertical surface (this is the area that all of your measurements will come from) that stretches from the top of the snowfall to the soil and excavate the snow to your rear until you have created a pit that two people can work in comfortably.

Now that you have created your very own snowpit proceed to take your Measurements in the following order:

  1. Snow temperature
  2. Marking the snow horizon boundaries
  3. Snow hardness
  4. Average grain size and shape
  5. Weight of snow for calculating density
  6. Visual Layering Test