Wednesday, February 17, 2016

And God created the moguls...

A few days ago, as I was riding the chairlift, I overheard the conversation between a husband and a wife about how moguls are created. I listened to the answer given by the husband, smiled at what I heard and remained silent.

I've been around moguls for years, so I know that moguls are not created equal. On ski slopes, natural moguls appear through the repeated passage of skiers following the same trajectory, over the snow. When the snow is fresh, or soft enough, some snow gets pushed to the side of the turn, away from the skis.

This creates a curvaceous mound of snow that grows after each skier passage. At the same time the skis cut a groove into the snow in a similar arc that also gets deeper as skiers follow each others. Mogul creation is thus a continuing story about accumulation and erosion of snow.

There is a point where the mounds of snow created on either side of the tracks turn into a large, rounded bump and the groove into a deep, rounded hollow. As the snow builds up higher, more people ski around the higher snow and thus push even more snow onto it. So you have it: repeated skiing following the same path create moguls and the if you have enough users skiing lines that are parallel to each other, you'll soon get a complete, beautiful mogul field like the one on the picture.

This basic theory would unfortunately be too simple and like anywhere else there are variables that cause vast variations in the appearance of a mogul field. That's right, bumps pattern, shape and size will vary with the following components. The height, weight and speed of the skier will definitely play a role in shaping moguls, so does skiing ability, skis length, snow quality (hard or soft) as well as the grade of the slope.

Snowboarders will also shape moguls differently and create specific patterns. So the more homogeneous our skier population will be, the more geometric and regular the mogul field may look like! Of course, reality is much different; the first bump is never created in an orderly phenomenon. The ski goes a certain way and not necessarily in the direction wanted by the skier.

Now, you can appreciate, that the process is totally uncertain and is in fact quite chaotic. But should we expect perfection in patterns created by imperfect humans?

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