TRAIL NEWS:
  • Trails are clear. There are some icy and muddy patches, please use caution when utilizing trails. Ski For Free is closed.

Looking Ahead: Nature’s Shape

Photo of snowflakes up close by Brian Jobson

The topic for the Saturday Science program this week is “Hexagons.” It may seem to folks that we at Crossroads are obsessed with hexagons—the six-sided polygons that show up in everything from honeycombs and ancient coral fossils to the mirrors on the James Webb Telescope. But currently, we are fixated on a special kind of hexagon – the six- sided crystals of water we call snow.

Amazing Crystals

Every single snowflake begins as a hexagon because of the unique shape of a water molecule: two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. (A teacher once told me that a water molecule looks like Mickey Mouse, and I can’t unsee it.) The most efficient way for water molecules to attract each other is in a hexagon shape.

In a cloud, countless tiny particles – specks of dust, tiny grains of salt, ice crystals, particles of pollution, even pulverized rock (ash) from volcanoes – are floating about. Water molecules which escape the earth through evaporation float in a cloud too, but when they collide with solid particles, they form tiny hexagon-shaped ice crystals.

Then it gets complicated. Snowflakes develop in a variety of shapes, depending on the volume of water vapor in the air and the temperature in the cloud. Some snowflakes look like stars. Others resemble ferns, hexagon-shaped columns and needles. But because of the way water molecules arrange themselves to crystallize, the symmetrical six-side patterns persist.

Will Ski-For-Free Open Soon?

So the annual question – when will we start grooming? – is superseded this year by, “When will it begin to look like winter?” When it does, we’ll assess all the factors necessary for grooming. Even with the best of equipment (which we now have), grooming snow is an art. The decision to set the base is dependent on many variables—ground temperature, water content of the snow, depth and fluffiness of snow, wind, which is all complicated by January thaws and the dreaded wintery mix.

Know that if snow is adequate, Crossroads will groom, and the trails will be open to the public free of charge, check our website for updates! And without snow, our trails are here for winter hikes.

In that this will be the first Friday of the month, and the year, for that matter, we will continue our traditional campfire program between 5:30-7:30 PM.

During our Science Saturday program, we will share a video called, “Hexagons are the Bestagons.” Then participants will explore pineapple rinds, turtle shells and fossils, the shapes of snowflakes, and create a make-and-take craft project. While this program is intended for school-aged kids, learners of all ages are welcome.

As always, our trails are open all day every day, free of charge. Check the Crossroads website calendar for upcoming events and details.

2023 Sturgeon Bay students learning how much water exists in a recent snowfall.

Upcoming Activities

Friday, January 5

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. First Friday Campfire 

The nights are long, so why not brighten them with a campfire and some good company? Join us on the first Friday of the month for a merry campfire, s’mores, and maybe even a campfire song. Free and open to the public. Meet at the Collins Learning Center, 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay.


Saturday, January 6

2:00 p.m. Science Saturday: Hexagons

This free program begins with a video called, “Hexagons are the Bestagons.” Then we move to the lab to explore pineapple rinds, turtle shells and fossils, the shapes of snowflakes, and create a make-and-take craft project. While this program is intended for school-aged kids, learners of all ages are welcome. Meet at the Collins Learning Center, 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay.

Leave a Comment