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Ruth Kirk - Snow

Chapter 1 - The Role of Snow

p. 11: The winter of 1976-77 was a dry one in the Northwest. On December 30, Seattle skiers met to burn skis and chant a supplication for snow. By Valentine's Day, the Washington legislature was considering cloud seeding to bring snow to the mountains.

p. 14: The author describes the Finns' near-defeat of the Russians in the three-month "winter war" of 1939-40. One and a half million Russian troops were needed to overwhelm the Finns and of that number less than one-third lived to return home. A Russian general remarked, "We won only enough ground to bury our dead."

p. 27: At the U.W. glacier research station headed by Ed LaChapelle on Mt Olympus, scientists dug a seventy-foot vertical shaft in the Blue Glacier to study the layering of snow and ice.

Chapter 3 - To the Poles

p. 101: Fridtjof Nansen's ski crossing of the Greenland ice sheet is described briefly in relation to the search for the Northwest Passage and the race for the Poles. Nansen's group applied skiing and Eskimo techniques to adapt to the realities of the Arctic better than previous expeditions.

p. 102: Robert E. Peary, first to reach the north pole, wrote: "Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised."

p. 108: The Greenland ski crossing was but one of Nansen's adventures. In the late nineteenth century he sailed the Fram into the Arctic Ocean and let it freeze into the pack ice. The ship slowly drifted with the circling current for several months, during which Nansen proved that the Arctic was entirely ocean and measured its depth.

Chapter 6 - Blizzards and Avalanches

This chapter provides a good overview of avalanche knowledge at the time the book was written. It contains much historical information.

p. 193: An avalanche near Zuoz, Switzerland was measured to generate pressure of eleven tons per square foot. Other facts: Fractures can propagate as fast as 350 feet per second (p. 194). Dry snow avalanches have been clocked at almost three hundred miles per hour (p. 197). The author writes: "Nothing in nature outdoes new-fallen snow as a symbol of peace and purity. And nothing holds quite the same Jekyll-and-Hyde capacity to turn serenity into chaos."

p. 204: The use of probes in avalanche rescue goes back at least two thousand years.

p. 205: "The deliberate use of dogs specifically for avalanche rescue began by chance in 1938 when an avalanche buried a party of Swiss skiers. One had a pet terrier, and rescuers still searching for the last victim noticed the dog returning again and again to a spot where they had already probed."

p. 207: The author mentions other rescue methods that have been tried, including magnetic detection, radar scanning, and even clairvoyance. Electronic transceivers were available by the time this book was written, but not standardized in frequency.

Chapter 7 - The Winter Battle

p. 211: The worst single avalanche disaster in the U.S. took place at Wellington in the Washington Cascades in 1910. Two trains were blocked by avalanches for nearly a week, during which time snowflakes "the size of soda crackers" fell and accumulated at up to a foot an hour . When the falling snow turned to rain a slab estimated half a mile long by a quarter mile wide and twenty feet deep released, sweeping the two trains over a cliff an burying them. Ninety-six people died.

Chapter 9 - Sled Dogs and Reindeer

p. 271: The author describes the adoption of snowmobiles by native peoples in the Arctic. Snowmobiles eliminated the time required hitching and unhitching dogs and the effort required to provide food for them. In addition, snowmobiles travel two or three times faster than a dog team and can pull greater loads. Snowmobiles rapidly replaced dogs throughout the north in the 1960s.

Chapter 10 - Skiing

p. 284: "Curiously, southern hemisphere peoples had no snowshoes or skis."

p. 285: "In general wooden-plank footgear, or skis, belong most fully to Eurasia and webbed footgear, or snowshoes, to North America."

p. 286: The author describes the earliest skis, from Neolithic times, found in bogs from the Ural Mountains to Norway. These date from four to five thousand years ago. The earliest written record of skiing is a petroglyph of a man skiing chipped into the rock near Rodoy on the west coast of Norway. Page 287 describes variations in early skis by region.

p. 289: The author describes early skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California by the LaPorte miners and Snowshoe Thompson.

p. 292: "By the 1900s organized skiing began to build popularity in America." A National Ski Tournament was held at Ishpeming, Michigan in 1905. By the late 1920s, ski trains began running to New England slopes. In 1932, ski jumping and cross-country competition figured in the winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, NY.

p. 293: At the Lake Placid games, Lowell Thomas met Erling Strom, a young Norwegian with experience teaching skiing to the Norwegian royal family. Thomas had skied a little before, but after taking lessons from Strom he became addicted to the sport. "He was under contract to make nightly news broadcasts from New York City, but he began taking his wife, a secretary, a radio engineer, and a telegraph operator from ski slope to ski slope, broadcasting from whatever make-do studio he could contrive and paying for the wire charges to New York himself. This indulging of personal pleasure along with professional calling sent word of skiing into households throughout North America, for Lowell Thomas skied his way from the Canadian Laurentians to the California Sierra winter after winter."

p. 294: The author describes the contributions of Minot Dole in starting the National Ski Patrol and the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. She mentions the influence of 10th Mountain veterans in the growth of skiing following World War II.

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Last Updated: Wed Jun 8 12:30:48 PDT 2005