What’s so ‘great’ about Utah snow?

Brian Head Resort, Brian Head, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Brian Head Resort, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – While many people move to Southern Utah to get away from the snow, many of those already living in the St. George area keep fingers crossed for the opportunity to see the fluffy flakes flutter down over the red desert. But no matter which side of the coin you’re on, most can agree that Utah truly does have some of the greatest snow on earth.

Greatest Snow on Earth
Cruising down the mountain with so many ways to go, Brian Head Resort, Brian Head, Utah, Nov. 21, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

Utah began using “The Greatest Snow on Earth” as its slogan in 1962, with the slogan and a skier first appearing on Utah license plates in 1985.

But what actually makes Utah’s snow so great for skiing and snowboarding?

Every year, Utah experiences 250 days of winter, 40 snowstorms and 18 “monster dumps” – 18 inches of snow or more within a 24-hour period, according to Ski Utah. From December through March, more than a foot of snow falls every five days.

Consequently, Utah receives an average of 500 inches of snowfall every year. Utah’s Cottonwood Canyons are one of the “snowiest places in the world,” according to Ski Utah, with Alta averaging 551 inches of snow annually.

At 8,750 feet in Utah, 99 percent of the precipitation during the ski season falls in the form of snow.

The state of Utah is famous for its world-class ski resorts and for having “The Greatest Snow on Earth” | Photo courtesy of Ski Utah, St. George News
The state of Utah is famous for its world-class ski resorts and for having “The Greatest Snow on Earth” | Photo courtesy of Ski Utah, St. George News

The perfect snow for skiing is a balance between light-weight, dry snow and heavy, wet snow and Utah has just that with an 8.5 percent snow density, according to Ski Utah, creating the perfect “body” to float your skis through powder.

They don’t call the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere “great” for nothing. The Great Salt Lake in Salt Lake City creates a phenomenon known as the “Lake Effect,” bringing light, fluffy snow on top of a dense base.

As storm clouds move in to Utah from the Pacific Ocean, they start to dry out. As the clouds continue moving east, crossing the Great Salt Lake, the storm gets drier and colder, producing light, crystal-like snowflakes called dendrites.

“These dendrites are thin and symmetrical in shape,” according to Ski Utah, “and they float down through the cold atmosphere, accumulating like fluffy down or powder on Utah mountains.”

The Great Salt Lake does not freeze, so the lake effect is a possibility all ski season long.

The highest peak at the Brian Head Resort, Brian Head, Utah, Nov. 21, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
The highest peak at the Brian Head Resort, Brian Head, Utah, Nov. 21, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

According to Ski Utah, Utah has more than 28,000 lift-served skiable acres – that’s half the size of Delaware. Skiers can choose from over 1,200 ski runs – which combined would span the distance from Salt Lake to Las Vegas.

Utah also offers over 31,000 total vertical feet to ski upon, which would be the equivalent of skiing from the top of Mt. Everest to sea level.

Southern Utah’s Brian Head Resort receives an average 350 inches of annual snowfall and 640 acres of uncrowded, skiable terrain.

Fodor’s Travel released its Fodor’s Go List earlier this month, highlighting 25 can’t-miss destinations around the world, as picked by the company’s “globe-trotting experts,” who named Utah the No. 1 place in the world to visit in 2016.

Fodor’s offered readers this insider tip: “For the truly unique experience of red rock canyon views while skiing, head to Brian Head resort in Southern Utah.”

Resources

  • Ski Utah
  • Get the Ski Utah mobile app for iPhone and Android, fully equipped with your own Utah powder alarm so you can be sure not to miss the next Utah powder day

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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