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Disney’s ‘Frozen’ helped engineers solve a chilling 62-year-old cold case

Conspiracy theorists, it’s time to let it go: The Dyatlov Pass incident was just solved using the animation code from Disney’s Frozen.

The 1959 disappearance of nine hikers in Russia’s Ural Mountain range, known as the Dyatlov Pass incident, has been subject to numerous Soviet conspiracy theories over the past few decades.

Despite researchers concluding in 2019 that an avalanche killed those on the hiking expedition, certain facts around the disappearance didn’t add up and it remained a mystery.

dylatov pass
The Ural Mountain range (Photo: LifeinRussia)

A criminal investigation in 1959 concluded that the group’s death was due to an “unknown natural force.” However, the lack of detail surrounding the case and the secrecy of the Soviet bureaucracy at the time propelled the imagination of many conspiracy theorists.

When watching Disney’s Frozen, Johan Gaume – head of the Snow Avalanche Simulation Laboratory at EPFL – was amazed at “how well the movement of snow was depicted, that he decided to ask its animators how they pulled it off,” according to the National Geographic.

After meeting with the animators, Gaume modified Frozen’s snow animation code to simulate the impacts that the avalanche would have on the human body, in an effort to provide evidence for the longstanding avalanche theory.

Despite the Dyatlov Pass not being a textbook avalanche terrain, Gaume’s research showed that a block of snow in this area could have “handily break the ribs and skulls of people” in its path.

Despite the conclusive results, Gaume believes that the scepticism around the incident won’t disappear. “People don’t want it to be an avalanche,” he says. “It’s too normal.”