Question Sheet: Snowflakes and Avalanches


Before reading:

  1. This article is titled “Snowflakes and Avalanches.” What is the connection between snowflakes and avalanches? 
  2. What are some dangers of skiing in the mountains?

During reading:

  1. What is an avalanche? 
  2. Why are avalanches dangerous? 
  3. Why does Jeff Dozier describe a snowpack as “dynamic”? 
  4. What sorts of avalanches are hardest to predict? Why? 
  5. How are scientists working to reduce the dangers of avalanches? 
  6. What can a skier do to try to avoid being caught in an avalanche? See (U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force).

After reading:

  1. This article provides a variety of different slang names for snow. To what

    kind of snow does each of these terms refer? See (ThinkQuest)

    or Bums). 

  2. Do you think winter sports are more dangerous than summer sports? Why or why


  3. Do mountains in the eastern United States have more or fewer avalanches than

    mountains in the western United States? Why? See (National

    Weather Service). 

  4. Are avalanches more likely to occur at the beginning and end of the skiing

    season or in the heart of the winter? Why? 

  5. What is a hydrologist? What else might a snow hydrologist study besides

    avalanches? See (Inland Seas

    Education Association). 

  6. Have you seen a movie that features an avalanche? Why would a movie include

    such a scene?


Locate two places in the United States and two places in other countries that are likely to have avalanches.


  1. Find someone who enjoys skiing in the mountains. Interview this person about

    whether he or she is worried about avalanches. Has this person ever seen an

    avalanche? What precautions does this person take? After the interview, write a

    brief report in which you assess whether this skier is knowledgeable about


  2. If you were writing the script for a movie that features an avalanche, would

    you start off with the avalanche or use it at the end of the movie (or somewhere

    in the middle)? What factors in the story that you’re trying to tell would

    affect how and when you would use the avalanche?


Snow and avalanche observations are based on the Celsius temperature scale. A comfortable room temperature is slightly over +20 degrees C. Snow melts at 0 degrees C and is cold enough to squeak at –20 degrees C. The formulas for converting from Celsius (C) to Fahrenheit (F) are: F = 9/5 C + 32 and C = 5/9 (F – 32). Convert –20 degrees C to degrees F.