Weird science: Skiing on Mars

Future ski resort on Mars?
Future ski resort on Mars?
Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

This intriguing aerial shot of a frosty dune-field on Mars -- recently posted on the University of Arizona's HiRISE site -- just begs the question: Could man (or woman) ever ski Mars? There are some tasty stats on the Red Planet out there, like the mind-boggling height of Olympus Mons, the extinct Martian volcano that is the tallest mountain in the solar system at nearly 80,000 feet, and the science that supports the concept of frozen-carbon-dioxide snowstorms. Plus, future Mars colonists would likely have little else to do.

But a bit more Googling made me think that a Mars Winter Olympics 2112 is not very likely.

According to the Bad Astronomy blog, Olympus Mons has an average grade of only 5 percent, which might prove un-skiable in gravity that's just 38 percent as strong as Earth's. (But you could get some sick air in spite of your slow speed.) And the slopes would likely be dominated by frozen carbon dioxide -- dry ice -- that is to packed powder what packed powder is to cotton balls. This is not to mention that Mars has a worse global warming problem than Earth does, the average temperature is 23 below zero Fahrenheit, and it's windier on a good day than Loveland on a bad day- - and the wind is often red in hue.

In the face of all of these practical issues, I also found a research paper that surmises that Mars "would be a suitable planet" for skiing.

Despite its extreme height, Olymbus Mons is not extreme terrain.
Despite its extreme height, Olymbus Mons is not extreme terrain.
Image by NASA

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