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Testing the Laws of Snow Science

posted Nov 20, 2012, 9:52 AM by Hans Hill   [ updated Nov 20, 2012, 9:52 AM by Dave Musgrave ]

I know it’s early in the season and tomorrow the storm clouds could roll in (this is where I took a break to check the online forecast and recorded radar for the seventh time today….clear and cold, damn it), a storm with massive snow dumpings, the likes of which cause explicative from my coworkers. In fact, I have high hopes that my writing will become completely irrelevant by the time of printing of the Nordic Skier because the newly coined term “abominable snow storm” has become a household name due to the national media outlets concluded that the storm that has hit south central Alaska is the illegitimate lovechild of Frankenstorm and a mystery, backdoor low pressure.  Too bad the name “Sandy” was already used.  “Sandy Claus” has a nice ring to it.

It is during these early season droughts that I start looking at patterns to help predict the season.  Whether it is the correlation of early season precipitation to average winter snow depth, days above freezing, wind events or below-zero degree days,  I leave these things to be analyzed by the “Warm-ists” and the “Alarm-ists” brethren.   I prefer to look towards the simpler laws of science.  For example, if I wash my car (which I did nearly two weeks ago) the Second Law of Thermodynamics says in terms I can understand that the natural state of everything is disorder, i.e. a dirty car.  Without precipitation my car cannot get dirty.  So unless my car is breaking the laws of science (Which I wonder if it could, because it is a pretty awesome car) I have to switch to a regional view and there is where I see the problem.  Absolutely nobody has washed their vehicle in the Mat-Su Valley. 

Other tests I have been conducting relating to this Law of Thermodynamics are as follows.  I have not mounted my studded tires because the natural disordered state of my car would be in the ditch due to snow roads.  I have also not purchased a new snowblower because the natural disordered state of my driveway is jammed with snow.  And my last test was to put off purchasing new skate boots for my wife, because when the snow flies and she begins skate skiing, the natural disordered state of our relationship will be…maybe I should stop testing the laws of physics. 

It would just so happen to be that I checked on the weather conditions one last time while writing this.  Snow has been packed along Independence Mine Road and skiing may be possible tomorrow.  And why would this occur at this very moment, because the natural state of my writing is moronic and irrelevant.



It has been one of those Novembers where skiers in south central Alaska look towards the mountains and long for more snow. A little bit of the white stuff doesn’t normally cut it even for rock skis but when the ground is brown in the Palmer area local skiers check out Mud Lake. This is one in a series of shallow lakes and marshes in the Butte area that tend to freeze up well early in the season.

No snow? Then head down with your ice skates and grab your poles. It’s pretty exhilarating to skate while looking at bubbles and pond weeds through crystal clear ice. An inch of snow or less bonded to the ice is all it takes to get lots of kilometers of skate skiing in with fabulous views of Pioneer Peak, the Knik Glacier, and our resident eagles. Some years locals have been known to get a good ski in on nothing more than a heavy coating of frost on the ice. Bored with lake skiing? Then ski through the numerous mazes of grass and ice on the perimeter.

A local Mecca for ski teams and others that can’t wait to get on the skinny boards, I look at Mud Lake as one of the original forms of social media. Want to meet up with a bunch of like minded skier “friends”? Show up on the weekend or catch a moonlight ski and make new tracks. Dig in, there’s plenty for everyone!

Check out Mat-Su ski conditions and popular spots on the Mat-Su Ski Club website www.matsuski.org

By Tom Smayda



While the snow may be slow to return, I am sure the Club will still have options for our monthly moonlight.  If you are new to the club or newer to the sport these are nice events to explore various areas that the Valley offers for Nordic skiing.  Familiarizing yourself with a new area by moonlight is more applicable, because let’s face it most of use only get to use these areas in the dark.  Be sure to check the website for updates and conditions tend dictate our location.


Want to be inspired to ski faster, show up to a High School race.  Nothing is more inspirational than seeing a 14 year-older and knowing his/her 5K pace is your all-out sprint pace.  The MSSC has acquired timing gear this year and will be facilitating the local high school races.  The weekends in which high school events are occurring are posted on the website and any and all help is greatly appreciated.  Have no fear, if you are capable of dressing yourself in warm clothes and can click a single button, you are more than qualified to volunteer.  Please email us through the website if you are interested in lending a hand.