“As a scientist, explorer, and outdoor enthusiast, I feel it is important to develop programs like SnowSchool that encourage students to get outside and discover the wonders of the winter environment first-hand.” –Dr. Hans-Peter Marshall

If you are reading this blog then chances are you are a winter explorer at heart. And probably more than a few of us winter enthusiasts have dreamed, at one time or another, of getting to do it full time. Hans-Peter “HP” Marshall is living this dream as a full time snow scientist at Boise State University. This summer HP joined Winter Wildlands Alliance as our official SnowSchool ambassador.  In this post you’ll find some fascinating details about HP’s work as a professional snow scientist and hear about his efforts to help develop WWA’s SnowSchool program.

Snow science as a field has emerged relatively recently as questions about the Cryosphere (the snow and ice covered areas of the world) have become increasingly important in the wake of climate change and increased human travel in avalanche zones. Advancing this unique science requires particularly tech savvy pioneers like HP. Originally educated as an engineer, HP earned his PhD at the University of Colorado by designing a transportable radar system for analyzing snow stratigraphy and determining the water content of a mountain snowpack.   How transportable you ask? Well the innovative sensor is mounted on a pole held between two skiers.   By skinning up and skiing down backcountry slopes HP pioneered a new means for collecting snow pack data, finished his dissertation and advanced the entire field of snow science in the process. And yes, you read that right, he worked backcountry skiing into his PhD dissertation. This guy definitely belongs at WWA.

HP has also been closely involved with other high profile projects such as NASA’s Greenland Rover (nicknamed GROVER). This remotely operated snow science research instrument looks like a miniature tank outfitted with solar panels. During a recent test in Greenland HP remotely operated the Rover from his laboratory in Boise, guiding it across miles of inhospitable ice to collect snow pack data. This valuable information is helping to shape our understanding of how climactic shifts are impacting the Cryosphere.

SnowSchool Ambassador

As an official SnowSchool ambassador, HP has generously donated his scientific expertise to WWA to help expand the program. Together Dr. Marshall and WWA see the potential for the SnowSchool program to become an educational bridge between the snow science community and America’s K-12 students. HP envisions SnowSchool students around the country investigating snow science each winter to learn about their local ecosystems and become passionate about outdoor exploration. Creating this connection for students between science and outdoor exploration is a priority for HP. And working with Dr. Marshall WWA recently piloted a new snow science learning experience for middle/high school science students. These older SnowSchool students use state of the art snow science equipment to measure depth, calculate snow/water equivalent and distinguish between different types of snow crystals.   This field experience helps them understand historical snowpack data and what changing trends might mean for communities around the world.  The accompanying snow science curriculum is based on methods used by NASA affiliated snow scientists like HP.  WWA is now working hard to expand this opportunity for students across the national SnowSchool network.

highschool snowpitWant to support SnowSchool? Donate now, or check out our webpage for ways to get involved.

-Kerry McClay

National SnowSchool Director