Brooks Range Scientist 35 Snow Saw Review

A snow saw lives in my pack when backcountry skiing. The saw is mostly for column stability tests, but also for cutting blocks for walls around camp in windstorms. My first snow saw was a folding Wasatch Touring saw. It's still going strong, although the Broken River Ski Club patch I sewed on the case 15 years ago is wearing thin. I've upgraded many times. Now to a Brooks Range Scientist 35 Folding Snow Saw.

The Scientist 35 Folding Saw is sleek and compact, folding into a 12- by 4.5-inch unit that slips unnoticeable into my pack back panel. Although touted as 35 cm, the Brooks Range Scientist 35 is more like a full 40 cm long. That's good. Forty cm is the ideal length for cutting compression test columns and extended column tests. Its teeth are sharp enough to cut branches–useful for overnighters–but to the happiness of my Gore-Tex, the teeth are safely hidden when the saw is folded into its bag.

For years I've used the G3 Bone Saw. It often feels a smidgen too short when cutting and exposing the chimney side of the column. The Scientist 35 adds that last little distance to cut the side. Too bad length adds weight. The Scientist 35 is 7.7 ounces (219g) compared to the 5.9 ounce (169g) Bone Saw. That seems like not much, but it is noticeable–I won't be taking the Scientist 35 on Mega Tours. I'll use it on shorter days, when I'll be digging pits: when guiding less than super-athlete clients and on avalanche courses.

The Scientist 35 has found a happy home in my quiver of avalanche safety gear. Keep up the great work Brooks Range!

We played with the Scientist during a Level 1 Avalanche Course at Turnagain Pass last weekend. Here Jerry and Carina cut a thick section (a one-inch slice of snow) to show a buried surface hoar layer. The saws fine kerf and sharp teeth kept the fragile surface hoar layer standing and intact. 

The surface hoar layer was over a centimeter thick and produced easy shears below 1,400 feet. At higher elevations people were initiating avalanches on near-surface faceted layers from December and on facets around freezing rain crusts from November and New Years. Scary snow is excellent for teaching avalanche courses. Not so good for exploring steep mountains.