Snow Science Option

The snow program in the Department of Earth Sciences provides a foundation for understanding the distribution of snow (geography), mechanics of snow (physics, engineering), composition of snow (chemistry), variability of snow (statistics), and ecological effects of snow (ecology, hydrology). It is also one of the best pre-professional programs in the world for those who want to carry their interests in snow into a professional career. Employment ranges from ski patrol, director of snow safety, avalanche-center employee, snow scientist with a federal agency, or consulting in the area of land use planning, transportation engineering, or avalanche protection.

The optimal degree for employment and advancement in snow science is the Master's Degree. Some students interested in college teaching or advanced research may require a Ph.D. degree. The snow science option is an excellent preparatory degree both for employment and for advanced graduate studies.

In the Snow Science Option, students progress through a broad-based core of courses that includes introductory geology and geography, calculus, chemistry, physics, weather and climate, geomorphology, glacial geology, and mountain geography. In addition to the core of snow science courses, students focus on snow geography, snow mechanics, or snow statistics. Snow geography examines spatial analysis of factors important to snow distribution, snow hydrology, snow melt, and the analysis of factors which influence the spatial distribution of snow or snow avalanche factors. Snow mechanics prepares the student to study the mechanics of snow as it relates to transportation, avalanche release, and the impact of snow on buildings (loading and avalanche impact forces), as well as snow metamorphism and snow strength. The snow statistics emphasis prepares the student to apply statistical techniques to questions about spatial and temporal variability of snow properties such as strength, depth, grain size, grain type, water content, and fracture initiation. The capstone course is snow dynamics and accumulation. Students are strongly encouraged to consider a graduate degree in snow science to prepare for professional jobs, but such training is not always required.

Courses Required in Department

Freshman YearCredits
ERTH 101IN - Earth System Sciences4
ERTH 102CS - Topics in Earth Sciences*1
GPHY 141D - Geography of World Regions3
M 171Q - Calculus I4
M 172Q - Calculus II4
University Core and Electives12
Year Total: 30
Sophomore YearCredits
CHMY 141 - College Chemistry I4
CHMY 143 - College Chemistry II4
PHSX 205 - College Physics I4
PHSX 207 - College Physics II4
ERTH 303 - Weather and Climate3
University Core and Electives11
Year Total: 30
Junior YearCredits
ERTH 307 - Principles of Geomorphology4
Courses from Core and Snow Geography, Mechanics, or Statistics Emphasis26
Year Total: 30
Senior YearCredits
ERTH 450R - Snow Dynamics and Accumulation4
GPHY 441R - Mountain Geography4
GEO 445 - Glacial Geology3
Courses from Core and Snow Geography, Mechanics, or Statistics Emphasis19
Year Total: 30
Total Program Credits: 120

 Students are required to take 3 credits of ERTH 102CS to fulfill department requirements as well as Core 2.0 


 Snow Geography concentration take BIOB 170IN

Select one of the following areas of Emphasis: Snow Geography, Snow Mechanics, Snow Statistics

Snow Geography Emphasis

BIOB 170INPrinciples of Biological Diversity4
GPHY 121DHuman Geography3
GPHY 284Intro to GIS Science & Cartog3
STAT 332Statistics for Scientists and Engineers *3
GPHY 365Geographical Planning3
GPHY 384Adv GIS and Spatial Analysis3
GPHY 411Biogeography3
GPHY 484RApplied GIS & Spatial Analysis3
GPHY 461Tourism Planning3
ENSC 444Watershed Hydrology3
STAT 446Sampling3
Total Credits34

 Students with a grade less than B in calculus might consider taking STAT 216Q and STAT 217Q rather than STAT 332.

Snow Mechanics Emphasis

EGEN 350Applied Engineering Data Analysis2
M 273QMultivariable Calculus4
M 274Introduction to Differential Equation4
EGEN 201Engineering Mechanics--Statics3
EGEN 202Engineering Mech--Dynamics3
EGEN 205Mechanics of Mtls (equiv 305)3
EGEN 335Fluid Mechanics3
EGEN 435Fluid Dynamics3
ECIV 312Structures I3
ECIV 320Geotechnical Engineering3
ECIV 331Engineering Hydrology2
ECIV 332Engineering Hydraulics2
Additional 6 upper division credits needed to graduate
Total Credits36

Snow Statistics Emphasis

M 221Introduction to Linear Algebra3
GPHY 284Intro to GIS Science & Cartog3
GPHY 384Adv GIS and Spatial Analysis3
GPHY 365Geographical Planning3
or GPHY 484R Applied GIS & Spatial Analysis
ENSC 444Watershed Hydrology3
ENSC 445Watershed Analysis3
STAT 446Sampling3
STAT 411Methods for Data Analysis I3
STAT 431Nonparametric Statistics3
or STAT 412 Methods for Data Analysis II
STAT 436Introduction to Time Series Analysis3
STAT 437Introduction to Applied Multivariate Analysis3
GPHY 490RUndergraduate Research3
or GEO 499 Senior Thesis/Capstone
Total Credits36


  • The Snow Statistics Emphasis meets the requirements for a Statistics Minor.  Statistics is integral to snow science and students with an interest in numerical analysis are encouraged to take this option.
  • A C- is required in all curriculum courses to graduate by Regents' policy. This includes electives in this curriculum.
  • A minimum of 120 credits is required for graduation; 42 of these credits must be in courses numbered 300 or above.
  • All offerings are dependent upon available staffing.