Snow Science Option

The Snow Science 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). Essentially, this degree is a strongly quantitative geo-science degree with a special emphasis on Snow Science and mountain system processes.

It is also one of the best pre-professional programs in the world for those who want to carry their interests in Snow Science 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, especially in quantitative geo-science fields.

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, geographic information systems (GIS), geomorphology, glacial geology, and mountain geography. In addition to the core of Snow Science courses, students examine 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 avalanches. 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
GPHY 141D - Geography of World Regions3
M 171Q - Calculus I4
M 172 - Calculus II4
University Core and Electives **12
ACT 160 - Avalanche 1 Training (Or equivalent)1
Year Total: 28
Sophomore YearCredits
CHMY 141 - College Chemistry I
& CHMY 142 - College Chemistry I Lab
CHMY 143 - College Chemistry II
& CHMY 144 - College Chemistry II Lab
PHSX 205 - College Physics I4
PHSX 207 - College Physics II4
ERTH 303 - Weather and Climate3
GPHY 121D - Human Geography3
GPHY 284 - Intro to GIS Science & Cartog 3
University Core and Electives **5
Year Total: 30
Junior YearCredits
ERTH 307 - Principles of Geomorphology4
GPHY 384 - Adv GIS and Spatial Analysis3
GPHY 329 - Environment and Society3
STAT 332 - Statistics for Scientists and Engineers (***)3
Courses from Core and upper Division Electives (below)17
Year Total: 30
Senior YearCredits
ERTH 450R - Snow Dynamics and Accumulation4
GPHY 441R - Mountain Geography4
GEO 445 - Glacial Geology3
STAT 411 - Methods for Data Analysis I3
Courses from Core and upper Division Electives (below)16
Year Total: 30
Total Program Credits: 120

Upper Division Electives: Take 21 credits from the following 

ERTH 484Climates of the Past, Present and Future3
GPHY 357GPS Fund/App in Mapping3
GPHY 365Geographical Planning3
GPHY 402Water and Society3
GPHY 411Biogeography3
GPHY 425Geographic Thought3
GPHY 426Remote Sensing3
GPHY 484RApplied GIS & Spatial Analysis3
ENSC 444Watershed Hydrology3
ENSC 445Watershed Analysis3
STAT 412Methods for Data Analysis II3
STAT 431Nonparametric Statistics3
STAT 436Introduction to Time Series Analysis3
STAT 437Introduction to Applied Multivariate Analysis3
STAT 446Sampling3


  • 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.
  • All offerings are dependent upon available staffing.