SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Greatest Snow On Earth! That’s what Utah’s license plates and tourists from all over the world say. There really isn’t much to dispute the claim, but we have been a little lackluster in the amount of snow we’ve been getting the past few years. Luckily, that is not the case this year. The Greatest Snow is putting on one heck of a great show this year.
With the near-constant stream of snowstorms coming through our mountains, the numbers keep going up and up. At present, Utah resorts take up three of the top five resort snow totals – Alta (445″), Brighton (431″), and Snowbird (420″) are all lined up behind Mammoth Resort in California (509″), and Solitude (382″) comes in at number seven. The effects of the snow have also done wonders for our state’s snowpack, which is at 195% of normal right now.
Yes, this is shaping up to be a great year.
Most years Utah is high up on the list for having the most snow, but what is it that makes the Beehive State (a desert, remember?) such a hot spot for snow? A lot has to do with Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. These canyons can take a weak system and somehow pull out snow measured in feet, not inches. Less than 5% of the winter months will see a number less than 30″ of snow falling in the canyons, and over 40% of the months will hit over 90″. And at Brighton over 19% of the days during the season will bring over 6″ of snow.
Another factor in giving us such great snow is the Great Salt Lake. Quite simply, it doesn’t freeze and when a storm comes from the Pacific heading to Utah it crosses the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The storms will drop snow with a density of about 12 percent. But as the clouds reach Utah that density is closer to 8% and going over the Great Salt Lake helps create a snowfall that is denser at the bottom and a top full of what we just call “powder”.
Taking a closer look at Alta, the resort currently sits at 445″ of snow. This is the exact total that Alta received over the entire ski season (October – April) in 2022. In fact, on January 25th, 2022, Alta was at 261.5″ and was only at 287.5″ by the end of February. With still more storms coming in January and three more months of the season remaining, Alta is looking very good. An average snow total for February – April is 271″ inches, which means that the resort is looking to go over 700″, maybe well over if the weather holds.
Numbers vary as to what an average snowfall season total is for Alta, but on their site, it’s listed as 538″. However, looking at the last ten years for the resort that number has been 472″, still respectable, but you can see the drop off. In the 2018-19 season, the resort hit 626″, thanks to a strong February and March, but last year saw things flatten out after a very good December. If the weather can keep up with the snow, getting a year that is over 100″ over the current ten-year average will be great news.
We have had a great run with moisture and, to many people, it’s been the perfect type of storm – rain in the valley and snow in the mountains. And while we may all be well past the need for Christmas-y songs, I think we can all agree that a nice chorus of “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” is something we can all agree to for our mountains.