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Edward R. LaChapelle - Secrets of the Snow

Frontispiece: The frontispiece (also Figure 1 on p. 6) has a fine photo of a rime encrusted summit in the Olympic Mountains in winter (probably Mt Olympus) with a skier in the foreground. Below is a review I wrote for this book on the website:

Secrets of the Snow: Visual Clues to Avalanche and Ski Conditions was published in 2001 as a sequel to LaChapelle's 1969 book, Field Guide to Snow Crystals. The older book describes snow on a microscopic scale: What do snow crystals look like? What conditions caused them to form the way they did? What happens to them once they are deposited in the snowpack? As LaChapelle explains in the preface to his later book, this is only half the story. Secrets of the Snow tells the other half, describing snow on a macroscopic scale, where visible features of the snow surface reveal the forces that have shaped it.

Secrets of the Snow is a great little book. (Both books are both small, slim volumes.) The black and white photos are accompanied by clear, concise text that describes what caused the features shown in the pictures. The chapters include large and small-scale features, wind features, avalanche-related features, snow in trees, and more. In the 1970s, LaChapelle's graduate students liked to call him Obi Wan Kenobe. Reading the text of this book shows why. He is like a Jedi master of snow. LaChapelle summarized his reason for writing the book in the final paragraph. The quote also sums up nicely why the book is worth reading.

This book has dealt with the visual aspects of snow on the mountain landscape. This is the obvious sequel to the microscopic world of Field Guide to Snow Crystals, because the visual data are the easiest to collect. Even so, it is important to reiterate the importance of attention. Even the most conspicuous snow features offer little information if the mind's eye is not working together with the physical eyes. We see what we know, but overlook the unfamiliar. The review of snow features found here will serve its purpose if readers enlarge their knowing, the mind's eye at work recording and interpreting the many details of the snow surface.

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Last Updated: Sun Jun 17 21:46:44 PDT 2007