Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snow Can Protect You

      Since I live in a snowy area and am a bit of an outdoors person I get to experience snow. 
As a little farm kid in the 40's and 50's, I played in the snow all winter long. I spent five years in the Arctic with long seasons of snow. I cross country ski every chance I get. I've learned how to live with snow. 

     What gets me to do a post on how snow can protect you,  is that I find many people think of snow as being cold. Well, it may be cold out when we have snow, but snow itself doesn't make you cold. In fact, you can use snow to keep warm!

     Igloos can give you shelter and keep the temperature just above freezing when it's minus 40 C(minus 40 F). I've been in igloos but never stayed overnight in one. Snow is an excellent insulating material, so when you have a little heat from a small stove  and a couple of humans, the heat is  kept inside. Snow is also very strong. You can stand on top of good igloo. I was very proud of my colleague who built an igloo and stood on it. All of his students cheered. As an aside, rabies sometimes spreads to the husky dogs from the foxes. Inuit know when a dog isn't behaving properly and might have contacted rabies. They build a small igloo and tie the dog inside. If the dog's still alive in the morning, it's okay. If it had rabies it's dead.

      Igloos are used on the tundra where there are no trees. The wind blows the snow into very hard drifts and solid snow building blocks can be cut. About half the igloo height is below snow level and half above. they are usually about 2 m (6 t.) high. In the bush they do not use igloos  because the snow is soft and powdery and will not make blocks. Canvas or skin tents are used. There's lots of wood around and they use a small wood stove for a little heat. The tent will be much colder than the snow house. I've tented in below freezing and find the ground the coldest. If you can put your tent on snow it's much warmer. 


     I taught some outdoor ed. and we showed the kids how to build a quinzee. A large pile of snow is made. The snow hardens over night. The next day you hollow out the pile of snow and you have a very snug snow house. 

    A third snow shelter is the snow cave. Snow caves are usually used in the mountains where there are huge drifts of snow. Just start shoveling out a cave and you will have yourself a snug shelter. Brian Keating from the Calgary zoo had a New Year's tradition of going into the back country, making a snow cave, and spending New Year's eve with his wife! Cool eh?

    Now I've explained, for all the people who worry about me getting cold in the snow, that snow is actually something that can keep you warm. You can quit worrying about me now.

21 comments:

  1. quinzee is a new word for me. learned something new! thanks!

    in wisconsin one year we had a snow cave my older brothers carved out of a huge, hardened snow drift that had been pushed up to clear the driveway. it was very quiet and peaceful inside. :)

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    1. Click on Quinzee and you will find some images for quinzees.

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  2. Interesting mate!
    Yep, even I knew that igloos were warmish, but not as warmish as I would prefer. It is not so much that "white stuff" - the cold is from the winds associated with it. New York in winter with snow and the winds whipping around the high buildings is pure horror,Montreal wasn't any better, ( that's to make your US commenters happy ?) but open spaces like when I skied here at Falls Creek, there were sunny days when skiers (males of course only) - skied shirtless! I suppose this could happen on a bright sunny day at Whistler or around Banff, or Aspen in Colorado???
    Anyhow, the clouds have at last decided to open up, well I suppose they had to eventually, it has rained - the good drenching stuff, it is cool and we should get rain on and off for the rest of the week ( today here is Monday). The fire fighting crews and the emergency people will be so pleased with this relief. They do well above then ordinary. Wonderful people.
    Loved your comment on "the manager" and what she may refer to you as - ha ha.
    Cheers
    Colin

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    1. Try downtown Calgary where they get the chinook winds. You need some kind of mask to shield your face from all the dirt blowing around.

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  3. It must be great to have proper winters. All that snow to play with and in.

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    1. Well, we can get sloppy winters too. We have the chinooks where we get a warm wind and we can lose most of our snow.

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  4. I think every kid who has snow available has done the "quinzee" cave at least once. It was very warm inside. My Dad would build one in our back yard and let it solidfy over night - then cut into the cave, he also lived and worked with the Eskimo People 3 months every year in the dead of winter and learned to carve while he was there. This was a most informative post Red - thank you

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    1. Now you've got my curiosity. When and where was your Dad?

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    2. Sorry Red, I was just a small girl and Dad was only gone 3 winters and found a permanent job in our town at home, so never went back. I only remember him talking about the wonderful hospitality he was given and you could never feel alone living with such wonderful people. I do remember though, that he went in on an ice boat and the boat came back in the spring to bring them home. Wish I knew the rest.

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  5. Years ago in Colorado I attended an overnight seminar where we all stayed outside in various snow shelters. I worked with another person on an igloo and I stayed inside. My only problem is that it wasn't very big, and the walls came in toward us during the night, although it was very warm! :-)

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    1. ... and you probably had some training on avalanche safety as well.

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  6. very interesting...I will stop worrying about you, but keep on worrying about my kids...I do not think their igloos would pass inspection.

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    1. But at least kids have fun with snow.

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  7. An excellent lesson!

    I love snow and wish it would just stay on the ground here insulting of the melt/freeze cycle we seem to have gotten into lately. And I always feel colder when there's rain or freezing rain. SNow is much better!

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    1. We can get those conditions here. We get chinooks and sometimes most of the winter is chinook.

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  8. Chinook winds!
    Were the Chinook military helicopters named after these winds? Very intriguing indeed.
    Now c'mon! Are you remotely suggesting that after the World famous Calgary Stampede Carnival that the, sorry to be so direct, bull and horse "shit" is not removed?? Well they don't have toilet facilities YET for livestock.
    I would have loved, when I could have gone, to the famous Calgary Stampede, family members have and have thoroughly enjoyed the great show, plus heaps of friends. Calgary is to be applauded for this show.
    Colin (Brisbane. Australia)
    Oh yes and we have had more rain today and more looks like coming soon (1.00pm Tuesday).

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  9. Fine post, Red. My sons would build extensive snow structures in my back yard each winter when they were younger. My yard is not large and if they built a significant igloo, every inch of snow was in it.. grass almost showing everywhere else.

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  10. Growing up we had way more snow than I've seen in years. My brother and I neither one liked wearing coats in winter. My Mom has a picture of us playing in the snow in our backyard. I am wearing a long sleeved sweater and a skirt. Yes, a skirt! Never had long pants until I was in high school and we could finally wear them on certain days. :)
    I knew about igloos but I'm going to google quinzee.

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  11. Once more I learned something new...not about igloos, or snow, because, well, we have snow here, but I don't know the word quinzee.

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

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  12. I would love this type of abode. I just don't want to share it! I had a wonderful walk in the forest this morning. Just a pinch of snow on the ground, we could use more. It was terrific seeing the tracks on the ground.

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  13. My grands build a tunnel through a big snowbank one winter..they thought it was great fun..I suppose it could have been called a quinzee. Yes I knew about the snow keeping you warm..my Dad said it was the snow in Korea that kept his toes from freezing:(

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