Introduction: Snow Depth Sticks

We wanted to record snow fall and accumulation over the winter season. We wanted to record the depth and water equivalent of snow on the ground. A single measure of the depth of snow could be quite inaccurate. Snow can move when it falls. Some areas will be blown clear while others will be piled into drifts of snow. To account for such differences, it is necessary to average a number of depth measurements. To do this we made a number of snow depth sticks that could stay in place over a number of seasons. It was important that the snow depth sticks be easy to read from a distance. Walking through snow to read a stick could affect the snow depth readings.


  • Snow measurement poles are made of 2 cm x 2 cm x 1 meter sticks made from straight grain spruce or pine.
    4" spike printed
  • laminated cm charts

Step 1: Making the Snow Depth Stick

Cut 2x4 stock into 3/4 inch square sticks at least 1 meter in length. Drill a 1/8 " hole in one end of the stick. Cut the head off the 4" spike and drive the blunt end into the hole drilled into the stick.

Step 2: Making the Depth Markings

The markings needed to be visible at a distance, so I decided to print the one meter markings with each 10 cm mark printed in reverse. I printed out a column of numbers from 1 to 33 , then 33 to 66 and 66 to 100 with each number located in a 1 cm square box. I then adjusted the size of the numbers and boxes so the net lengths matched the distance in Centimeters.

I then copied and pasted this column as many tines as would fit within a legal size sheet of paper.

I then printed the sheets and glued then together to form a 1 meter long sheet.

I then laminated the sheets then cut them in one cm wide strips.

Step 3: Putting the Scale on the Stick

These strips were then taped to the 3/4" by 3/4" by 1 meter sticks I had prepared. I used clear wrapping tape.

Step 4: Method of Using Snow Depth Sticks

Five Snow Measurement Poles are placed at five meter intervals along a transect in an open, level area that will not be disturbed during the winter. Snow Measurement Poles are pinned on a flat clear ground surface before any snow falls. Snow depth measurements are made at each Pole at regular times (i.e. once a week) and after each new snow fall. Record snow depth to the nearest cm. Take these measurements without disturbing the snow around the Snow Measurement Pole. Set a track used to observe snow depths at least three meters from the snow poles. New Snow Depth: One additional Snow Measurement Pole should located in an area free from drift ing snow. This pole is used to measure depth of new snowfalls.

The photo above shows a snow stick in use while the person is taking the weight of a core sample of the snow profile to determine the water equivalent of the snow.

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