Monday, November 10, 2014

Mogul Migration

Anticipation for the upcoming ski season is building and it is currently snowing outside. In order to keep my excitement under control I thought I would write a post on the worst aspect of resort skiing, moguls. Moguls are spontaneously forming speed killers and are ubiquitous on certain slopes that don't get machine groomed. They are admittedly impressive as self-organizing structures and their checkerboard regularity can be attractive from a distance. However, how is it possible that the seemingly random actions of skiers going down the slope create and maintain this "mountain acne"? Not only does their formation defy intuition but moguls also migrate uphill! Watch the video.

Three scientists, presumably also skiers, published a paper in 2009 on the subject of mogul formation and migration. These guys estimated that it takes as little as 100 ski passes to create moguls. If the snow is hard pack a bump as small as 10cm can start a mogul. Importantly the authors also calculate that a skier requires the equivalent of 'half a light beer' of calories to move a mogul one meter uphill. Unfortunately the authors offer no solutions to moguls, although I don't know if they tried enough beer. The reality is that the only solution is a huge dump of fresh powder!

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