54 thoughts on “So you think you have snow?

  1. That’s not snow – it’s ash! (Sorry, it’s a Doctor Who thing).

    But this sure puts New York City’s current snow problems into perspective, when they can’t seem to move a mere 20 inches, doesn’t it?

    1. How do they ever begin to move that much snow…once it snows that much how do they even know where the road is?

    1. Put your $$ where your doubt is. I’ll bet you $25 that this is real.

      “Coyne’s Rule” says that no matter what amazing picture I put on my website, someone will say it’s been Photoshopped.

      1. You win $25. Known as the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route, also known as the Snow Corridor, it’s a famous tourist attraction.

        See YouTube:

          1. Yup–tree tops. And yes, they really do get that much snow. Watching tv at my in-laws over new year’s, Tottori got dumped with 144cm of snow in one day (taller than my 10-year-old). Icy winds come blasting across Siberia, down the Korean Peninsula, across the Japan Sea where they pick up a bunch of moisture, which is then dumped on the west side of Japan. It stops at the mountains, so the Kanto plain (Tokyo/Yokohama) gets nothing. My kids are perennially bummed about this ;-)). Pick up a copy of Kawabata’s Snow Country to get a feel for what it’s like, as well as a nice taste of some great Japanese literature. Enjoy!

      2. The Corollary to Coyne’s Rule states that the number of Photoshop claims increase with a factor proportionally to the distance from biology (where “distance” is defined as biology = 0, chemistry = 1, physics = 2, …, gods = oo).

        Informally this distance relationship is called “Coyne’s Boots (Are Made For Walking)”.

    2. I’ve been to the Japanese Alps and I’ve never seen anything like this, but that alone does not rule out its possibility. I guess my two thoughts are that I’ve never seen equipment in Japan that would be big enough to do this, and this just looks very dangerous. What if there’s a gust of wind or the snow at the bottom shifts? It seems awful easy for something to go wrong…

  2. I was trying to figure out how one could have snow plows with 56 foot blades, but then I realized it wouldn’t be like that. This must be a series of snows which get removed from the road but build up beside it. (Duh – I know.)

    Mustn’t it?

    1. “There is a main road through the mountains that is literally buried in snow during the winter. It is closed during winter, but re opened during the spring after a snow plow digs through an average of 17 meters (56 ft.) of snow to uncover it.”

      This is a quote from the article so, I’m with you – love to see that plow!! 🙂

      1. I’m guessing it’s done in multiple passes with some sort of snow-cat vehicle that rides on top of the snow and shaves off a few feet at a time.

  3. But if it were a series of snows getting piled up next to the road, wouldn’t there be a huge ridge along the road edge? In the third picture the snow at the edge looks only slightly higher than the surrounding snow field. So where do they put the snow that’s removed?

  4. I gotta wonder…that much snow sure makes it seem like that’s gotta be a glacier in the making. Does it really all melt in summer? If so, can you imagine the deluge?



  5. The blog this was linked from says, “There is a main road through the mountains that is literally buried in snow during the winter. It is closed during winter, but re opened during the spring after a snow plow digs through an average of 17 meters (56 ft.) of snow to uncover it.” Which to me suggests that it must be done all at once. It’s still a mystery to me 1) how they can find the road at all, and 2) how they can get the sides so straight!

  6. I visited Mount Rainier a few springs ago, and the snow pack was still well over 15 feet high in some areas leading up to the visitors center. The way they cleared the roads looked just like this picture. Sheer faced snow walls.

    I don’t know how they did it, I just know they did.

  7. Have got two comments which be give-aways as to the authenticity of the pics:

    1) Look at the plants on/in the snow. Are you just seeing the tips of the plants of whats seems to be like the whole plants. If it is the whole plants, then the snow cannot be as deep as the photos suggest.

    2) What about the stability of the snow faces. Snow does not have the shear strength to mobilise the sort of forces required to hold the “cliff” stable. When this begins to melt, would it not all come down all at once?

  8. I want to see the plows! That’s a nice job of removing the ice from the road too.

    The snow seems to be thrown to the side of that huge embankment; I think that’s more sensible than carting it away in trucks, but I’d like to see the beast(s) that do the job.

  9. Man you guys are lucky I can read Japanese. I found the answers to the various questions people have been asking on this site.

    So they apparently just use 2 bulldozers to clear the snow. They start on the end of the road where the snow is less deep, and keep on shaving snow off the top until they get down to the road below (I don’t know where they put the snow exactly. Presubably far enough away so as not to spoil the view.) How do they know where the road is? They used to have to estimate using a compass, and search for the road underneath as they cleared the snow. Nowadays they use a GPS with only a 15cm margin of error to locate the road based on its latitude and longitude. [It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Japan, that the hallmarks of this endeavor are fancy technology and good old-fashioned persistence!]

    As for the walls of snow, they have not once crumbled since the route has been opened. The reason being that each cubic meter of snow weighs 500kg, and the pressure this creates makes the walls basically as hard as ice. Also, melting of the snow occurs from the surface inward (obviously), so the walls only recede from the road over time.

    There. Now I should probably get back to my job or something…

    1. “As for the walls of snow, they have not once crumbled since the route has been opened. The reason being that each cubic meter of snow weighs 500kg, and the pressure this creates makes the walls basically as hard as ice.”

      I’m confused. If that much pressure actually crushes the snow into ice, then they have to remove meters of ice, not just plow snow; can a bulldozer do that? And if the snow rebounds after the pressure is released, then the walls should rebound toward the road where the surface is only at atmospheric pressure.

      1. “Hard as ice” # ice, and strain # stress.

        I’m no expert, but it seems to me you find that self compressed snow often melts to larger ice crystals. Still having a lot of the original air volume at the boundaries between, and little to macroscopic signs of stress in the horizontal direction despite the severe micro-scale strain in the vertical one.

      2. Obviously the snow on top, which is the snow they remove, isn’t under that much pressure. And they still don’t have to worry about that collapsing, because there’s nothing on top of it to make it collapse!


  10. I lived in Valdez, Alaska for a while, and they get crazy amounts of snow too. We had so much, we couldn’t see out of our house. It was like living in a glacier. We moved in in the winter and didn’t know there was a boat on a trailer in our yard till spring thaw (one of my sisters has pictures).

    As far as the snow falling over, it’s not like fresh snow, all powdery and loose. When it gets that deep, it does get very hard and compact.

    Don’t know how they’re removing it so nicely though. Maybe since it’s hard, they’re actually cutting it, not plowing, and loading chunks into dump trucks.

  11. Very interesting but how can this be done and keep a perfect vertical snow bank? Why there’s no sign of collapsing anywhere? Dangerous proposition for the tour buses and people walking in snow walled winding road – Inconceivable!

  12. I was wondering how they did it myself, but if they are shaving it off and not keeping it open all winter I would suspect that they would use snowblowers and blow the snow backwards into trucks which then dump it, might be how they get rid of the snow… if they are using more than a couple of bulldozers to do the entire job.

  13. Makes me think of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, where, on a planet called Winter the people have doors on the top stories of their houses in order to come and go during the snowy season.

  14. Also, if it weren’t dangerous, just think of the cool snow fort you could make! Five stories high with staircases, and ramps to slide down…wheeeeee!

    1. Now your talking… see I look at it this way, if you build a snowman you can sit on his body (after rolling a ball of snow around for a bit)because this is now compact snow and it is very hard…

  15. Wow… When I was visiting my grandparents in PA, there wasn’t any snow at all. The ground was entirely bare. In fact, I hear it still is.
    Zis is crazy!

  16. Just wait until all that snow melts and thousands of gallons of water creating a cool river out of the road…. RUN!!!!!!!!

  17. I lived in northern Japan in the mid-’80s, and I can personally attest to snow-cleared roads like this. I even took videos of it, back then.
    It is rather freaky, but it ain’t photoshopped!

  18. (I posted this before. It’s lost!)

    In Houghton, Michigan, they get a huge heap of snow. To clear it, they use machines with vertical augers mounted on the side, and as they spin, they llift the snow up to the top of the bank. It creates a smooth vertical wall much like the one in Japan. And it doesn’t fall down!

    According to the video,in Japan, the buldozer scrapes the walls vertically smooth and the snowblower blows the piles over the wall into the air above the bank. The snow blows away in the wind, since snowblowers do not make piles.

    There’s the answer. The video demonstrates it very clearly. Maybe no one watched it. 🙂

  19. I had a son in college in Houghton, and not only have pictures of those augers, also have a story about a girl student that couldn’t walk between two buildings because of the wind. Needed two burly guys to hold onto her to keep her on her feet and help her get to class. I live in Michigan, too, but not where the weather is like that!

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