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.