In our December edition of Taking Flight Nights, Salt Lake City’s teen science café, we welcomed Dave Kikkert from the Utah Avalanche Center to talk with us about the science of avalanches and how to stay safe in avalanche terrain. Our presenter began with a fun and informative video featuring famous winter athletes talking about their personal experiences with avalanches. The video taught the five ways to prevent avalanche injuries by outlining the gear you should have if adventuring in avalanche terrain and the skills you need to be able to scope out dangerous slopes and avoid them. Mr. Kikkert then proceeded to discuss some more of the science behind what causes avalanches to form and we all learned the difference between strong snow and weak snow and how this leads to avalanche conditions. Finally, Mr. Kikkert brought all of the gear necessary to save yourself in the event of an avalanche and we were able to see how they worked, the timeline to save someone, and the price points for the tools.
Hands on Activity
For the activity portion of the café, teens helped Mr. Kikkert to create an avalanche using flour, sugar, and a tool to measure angles. The sugar represented weak snow, while the flour represented strong snow. Using the two, the teens were able to see how strong snow on top of weak snow causes an avalanche to happen, while only having weak snow will not cause an avalanche. They also helped to show at which angle avalanches occur, and we discovered that most avalanches occur on a 39 degrees slope.