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Brenny and Mom ski The Bird and talking Utah weather

by Mountain Mama February 28 2011 2 Comments

I'm going to cover 2 different topics.  A quick synopsis of my background:  I am a Meteorologist.  I have been in the broadcast industry for nearly 20 years (OK, I'm aging myself) and until recently, worked full time as the main Meteorologist for the Fox affiliate here in Salt Lake.  I now do freelance weather for the local NBC affiliate in SLC.  It was time to take a step back and enjoy my kids when they are little.   I'm telling you this because I'd like to give you a little info on SLC weather and a little mountain Meteorology and why Utah really has "The Greatest Snow on Earth".

Second topic will be one of the best ski days I've ever had!  A powder day at Snowbird with a 3 year old staying on the Chickadee lift and watching him have such a great time!  A mother/son day of skiing and lunch...doesn't get any better or make me more proud!bren is powder (dscn2672)

bren on plaza (dscn2675)Let's start with our day at Snowbird.  It is a Sunday and Emily if feeling a little sick.  Brennan says "I want to go skiing!"  OK, I figure we'll take a few runs and be home for hot chocolate.  Yea right!  We head toward Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon to meet some friends.  But...canyon closed!  There are 3 canyons to go up to the ski resorts in Salt Lake County.  Parleys Canyon heads toward Park City, Big Cottonwood heads to Brighton and Solitude and Little Cottonwood Canyon heads to Snowbird and Alta.  Parleys is I-80 and is wide and doesn't really have major problems during snowstorms (aside from keeping in plowed...)  Little and Big are a different story.  They are narrow, steep canyons and it takes a team of plow drivers, ski patrol and experts in snow safety to keep these cayons in working order and safe to the public.  On this particular day, we had 16" of new snow and it was still snowing.  As we get to the mouth of the canyon, the sherrif informs us they are doing avalanche control work and didn't know when the road would open.  This is very common during storms.  The road will be closed during the afternoon for a period of time so they can do some blasting of the backcountry to see if any slides are triggered and test the stability of the snow before all those cars get back on the road to head home from their day of skiing. So, I say "Brennan, should we just go home".  Wrong question!  After yelling and "I want to go skiing",  I decide to give Snowbird a try.  I've mentioned before, I'm not a great skier.  Snowbird is definitely a mountain for those wanting to be challenged.  But...they do have a great little beginner hill accessed by the Chickadee lift and a beginner area called Baby Thunder. Here is a trail map to have a look.  I discovered a secret parking spot where we could ski from the car and away we go to Chickadee!  Bren is awesome!! He is going fast and cruising through the powder.  He also is big into jumping.  Love the video!snowbird sun/clouds (dscn2681)

As a parent, to watch the confidence grow in a child is so rewarding.  He has gone from falling and not really liking to ski, to not wanting to leave the resort.  We take a break and have lunch at The Forklift.  It is right on the plaza and Bren is very excited about watching the Tram go up and down.  So, we color, eat lunch, watch the snow pile up and have a great Mother/Son day.  When he's 16, I'll never forget that moment.  All parents out there...you know what I'm talking about.

Lunch is over and this canyon is also closed for avalanche control work so we've got some more time to ski.  I'm getting a little tired (helping a little guy on/off the lift is exhausting), but Bren is ready to ski!  He says "4 more times".  OK, up and down we go.  the best is Bren taking some jumps through the trees and landing with a splat.  The good thing about him..he's tough!  Up he gets and we finish our 4 runs.  So fun, so rewarding!  Who new the bunny hill could be so fun.  Watch out, this little guy is on his way!

Now, talking Utah weather!  Salt Lake City sits at 4200' with mountains within 10 miles at 11,000'.  We also have the Great Salt Lake which has a big impact on the weather.  It doesn't freeze over due to the salinity of the water and therefore stays relatively warm throughout the winter.  In the fall and spring when big, cold storms come across the lake, they can produce a pretty significant Lake Effect Snow.  Jim Steenburgh is a Professor at the University of Utah and wrote a very detailed description of Utah's "Greatest Snow on Earth".  It is a detailed read, but well worth it if you are interested.  Basically, Alta's snowfall history put is over 500" on most years.  It has an average density of snow somewhere around 7% or lighter and there are a lot of impacts of storms which puts the snow "right side up".  which means that the storm starts wet, lays down a heavier density snow on the bottom, then it becomes lighter as the storm goes on.  This is what you want with storms.  It makes great skiing.  On average, the Sierra Nevada mountains get a 10% or greater density snow as the storms come out of the Pacific.  It wrings out some moisture as it approaches Utah.  We get the more 7% or so density and then it travels to Colorado where the density is around 5-6%.  Lighter, but not necessary more or better.  You want enough density in the snow to be able to not hit the bottom when skiing.

Great skiing in Utah and plenty of snow! Been a great year so far and we're in a fairly active pattern.  Always go to The National Weather Service page for a weather check.  they have detailed info on weather and you can look back on SLC climo as well.  The Utah Avalanche Center also has info on snow denstiy/storms/safety as well.

All this info will help you in planning your vacation and give you an insight into why Utah really has "The Greatest Snow on Earth!"

A reminder to those needing to rent skis.  Go to Ski n' See and do your reservation online.  In the promo code, type in PREFER just today, February 28 to get a 25% discount on a prefered ski.  Starting March 1st into April, go the the reservation page and type in JODIDEMO25 and get 25% off any rental!

Enjoy and as always, let me know your thoughts, questions....

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Mountain Mama

About the Author

Mountain Mama

Jodi Saeland

Jodi Saeland is a part-time KSL Meteorologist and full-time Mom of an eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. Follow Jodi as she explores the trials and triumps of skiing with your kids. Gain practical real-world advice on how to pack, dress, communicate and ski with your kids on Utah's famous slopes. How to be a skier while having an avid, excited budding snowboarder!

With her experience as a meteorologist, Jodi shares a bit of knowledge about Utah’s weather forecasts and The Greatest Snow on Earth®

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