SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — If you’re new to Utah, you may have heard a few terms that have left you scratching your head. For example, when it comes to Utah’s weather, you may heard there is a chance for snow in the benches of the Wasatch Front.
But what are the benches?
The Salt Lake Valley was once home to the ancient Lake Bonneville, which stretched from southern Idaho and well into southern Utah about 30,000 to 13,000 years ago, according to the Utah Geological Survey. In fact, the Great Salt Lake is the last remaining remnant of Lake Bonneville.
Visit Salt Lake explains the eastern part of Salt Lake City was built on the ancient beaches of Lake Bonneville, which are now the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, also known as the “benches.”
ABC4 Meteorologist Thomas Geboy said the benches start in elevation around 4,500 feet and stretch up to about 6,500 feet for the high benches. For reference, the Salt Lake City Airport is about 4,200 feet. The University of Utah sits on the lower benches at about 4,700 feet.
As you go higher in elevation, past the benches, you begin getting into “mountain” territory. Meanwhile, as you go down off the benches you end up on the “valley floor.” A term you will hear a lot when following Utah weather would be “mountain snow and valley rain.” It may seem obvious, but that means precipitation will be snow in those elevations higher than 7,000 feet and will transition into rain as you approach the valley floor.
In addition to the term “benches,” you may also hear terms such as “Wasatch Front” and “Wasatch Back.”
The Wasatch Front refers to anywhere along the Salt Lake Valley. Once you go through canyons such as Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood, you end up in areas such as Park City and Heber Valley, otherwise known as the Wasatch Back.
Now as Utah’s weather starts turning from rain to snow for the upcoming winter season, you won’t be left scratching your head wondering if you’ll see some snowfall out your window.