A snow stake is established at each site with a metal fence post driven into the ground to support a 2" PVC pipe that slides over the post. Survey rod decals are placed on most of the PVC pipes except at lower elevation sites where shorter stakes are adequate and stream level metal guys are used as the calibration system. Slope, aspect, and canopy closure are recorded for all sites, as well as the initial stake tare reading on the ground (not all stake readings begin at zero).
A check sheet is established to keep the collected data organized. Depth measurements are routinely recorded at the stakes while driving by on the way to other field activities. Typically the Upper Lookout stakes on Rd. 1506 and Rd. 350 stakes read once every 3 weeks. The 1507 stakes are sampled only once or twice a year.
A special trip is made at least once per year to collect snow water equivalent measurements as a way of ground truthing the snow stake for snow moisture. The nearby snow stake is measured at the same time. Ground-truthing (snow water equivalent measurement) of each stake is conducted by taking three snow core measurements with the Mt Rose snow tube sampling equipment to establish a relationship between snow pack water equivalence and depth. The snow tube core sampler is pushed to soil surface interface, depth is recorded, and snow is extracted. The snow is weighed on a spring balance, the tare weight of the corer is subtracted, and actual snow weight is converted to millimeters of equivalent water.
This procedure generally follows the NRCS snow sampling procedure except only three cores are taken. If there is a complete snow pack around the snowstake 3 points are taken in the immediate vicinity of the snowstake (3 points approximately 1 meter equidistant from stake) and averaged. If the snow coverage is patchy, core sample placement becomes more subjective with limited spots where a useful core can be sampled. In the NRCS snowcourse a particular point not having any snow would be recorded as zero, but here all of our ground truthing cores have some amount of snow because points are selected for representation of the density of the snow (and not for representative depth). The % snowcover is estimated to gain a sense of snow patchiness.