Pluto And The Future Of Backcountry Skiing
Now that it’s officially fall we don’t have to feel guilty for daydreaming about the ski season. We’ve already begun our pre-season training, and we have all our gear picked out. But now we’re heading into the months of booking flights and buying ski passes.
While we have our favorite resorts picked out, our eyes are glued to the weather channel so we can predict what region will have the biggest dumps. After NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft completed its 3.6 billion mile journey around Pluto, we discovered that Pluto has 11,000-foot mountains covered in snow. So are we off to Colorado…or Pluto?
Scientists discovered that Pluto’s surface is coated in nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide ice, but this combination is too weak to create such massive mountains. This means the large natural wonders must be made of water ice. Alan Stern, NASA’s New Horizons head investigator, told CNN there is certainly an abundance of water supply on Pluto. John Spencer, a planetary scientist on the NASA mission said these consequential mountains “would stand up respectably against the Rocky Mountains.”
Right alongside the massive mountain range is a large flat ice sheet named Sputnik Planum. The latest NASA images reveal glaciers flowing into this plain, similar to those of Greenland and Antartica. This glacial cycle predicts a regular weather pattern similar to Earth’s where water evaporates from an ocean, falls in the form of snow, and goes back to the sea through glaciers.
The discovery of these mountains obviously put our minds on skiing. Scientists, on the other hand, concluded that there must be an abundance of water to sustain the mountains, which led them to reiterate that water is the biggest component of life. With so much water on Pluto, what kind of life exists on the planet? There must be a reason for such a large water supply. We’re going to go ahead and assume the answer is extraterrestrial powder-hounds that will surely put our slope skills to shame.
As with anything in outer space, the research and information comes slowly. Until we understand more about Pluto and its mysterious mountains and icy peaks, we can be certain that long after Earth’s terrain has shrank, Pluto will still have superb slopes…should we need them.