The Greatest Snow on Earth® is a pretty hefty claim in the highly competitive ski industry. While Utah has been marketing The Greatest Snow on Earth® slogan since 1962 it wasn’t until the statement was stamped on Utah license plates in 1985 that it became a household saying. If you’ve ever picked up a ski magazine or surfed the web you’ve seen some mind blowing images from Utah with skiers practically needing a snorkel to navigate the bottomless powder blanketing Utah’s hallowed ski resorts. In fact, Utah is so well-known for its snow that in 2010 the state took seven of the top 10 spots in Ski Magazine’s snow rankings (including a clean sweep of the top 5).
So the big questions are what makes Utah snow so great and is it really any better than snow in other places? Well, there are a number of factors that come into play for making snow great. First and foremost, you need a lot of light, dry snow and a lot of snow days where you receive bigger snowfalls. This combination provides a balance between flotation and face-shots. If the snow is too dense, you will float on top but it will never cover your beard unless you wipe out. If the snow is too light, you will sink to the old snow surface below and if there are moguls underneath, you’re way more likely to take a knee to the face than snow. Utah achieves this balance by often receiving ten or more inches of lighter, dryer snow in a single storm and in greater frequency than other places, resulting in more powder days and more face shots. The reason Utah snow is light and dry is two-fold. As storms originate in the Pacific they are full of moisture. When the storms pass through the coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest and northern California, they drop a lot of that moisture. The storms continue across the desert, which zaps more moisture. When the storms hit Utah, they typically are dropping light, dry powdery snow. Utah snow is great for skiing but not so good for snowballs.
Another key to the great powder snow found in Utah is the strategic positioning of the Great Salt Lake right in front of the mountains. The Great Salt Lake frequently induces lake effect snow. This is a scenario where significant snowfall dumps in the Utah mountains following a cold front and the departure of the real winter storm. This type of lake effect while similar to that found around the Great Lakes and in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is dramatically different due to the fact that the Great Salt Lake is very high in saline and therefore doesn’t freeze. When a northwest wind blows over the warm salty lake, good things happen. The outcome is frequently additional feet of un-forecasted snow. Finally, we’re talking about Utah! Utah is home to 14 ski resorts and 11 of them are less than an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City International Airport. Utah ski resorts offer The Greatest Snow on Earth® which not only makes for amazing powder skiing but also makes for plenty of corduroy, groomers, terrain parks and half-pipes.