The Ski Utah office has a fun tradition where everyone sets a ski or snowboard goal each season. In 2020, thanks to a global pandemic, I failed my goal to visit each of Utah's 15 ski areas...
Ski Utah Silver Pass in hand, I renewed my doomed 2020 goal for the 2021 season with the added challenge of painting all 15 ski areas. I was keen to find an emblematic view at each resort and capture it as best I could. I wanted to teach myself the art of painting mountains with my newly found pandemic hobby.
I started with Alta Ski Area because I had a jar of melted snow that I had saved from a particularly memorable 2020 powder storm. I had randomly collected it under the full moon with my jumbo water bottle when walking up to my boyfriend's home underneath the Wildcat chairlift. The turns had been so good and the storm so satisfying that I wanted to bottle the essence and magic of that storm and the joy it had brought me and my friends. I've always been inspired by the celebrated ski map artist, James Niehues, and it felt extra special to use meltwater from Alta to capture its most beguiling angle, Alf's High Rustler.
Entering the flow state while painting, my mind began to wander. Because I was using meltwater, I naturally began to think about the plight of climate change and its potential to decimate the winters we love so much. It's overwhelming to contemplate the implications; it's easier to ignore reality and facts. I pondered how skiers and snowboarders contribute to the problem by traveling and driving all over the world, consuming and emitting carbon. We need to take action, make better choices, and begin to reduce our impact. All this brooding sparked a desire in me to *DO* something.
I decided to continue collecting snow from my favorite runs at each Utah resort and use that meltwater to compose my watercolor paintings. I would donate 5% of proceeds from all my Paint by Powder art prints to Ski Utah partner, Protect Our Winters. My goal is to safeguard the snow and skiing I love so much here in Utah and to inspire others to make small but meaningful changes in combatting climate change. Collectively, our actions, choices, and decisions DO matter! To view progress on my project in real-time, you can visit this blog post on my website at www.kapowder.com.
Next I collected snow at Solitude Mountain Resort. I clumsily gathered snow beneath Powderhorn, my favorite lift. Two ski patrollers soared overhead and shouted down "ARE YOU OK!?" With a laugh, I let them know that I was probably crazy, but there wasn't much they could do to fix that. I plan to paint the Powderhorn lift with its little ski patrol shack up top for my Solitude painting. The run along the ridgeline, Diamond Lane, is one of my favorite in the Wasatch!
For Brighton, I arose at the ungodly hour of 4:00 AM. I couldn't miss my 5:30 AM appointment with Adam Morrisett, Brighton's chief cat operator, who would show me the ropes for a Ski Utah story about a night in the life of a cat driver. I took some time to collect fresh (ungroomed) powder in Milly Bowl and will paint this beloved bowl with my Brighton meltwater.
A TRIP DOWN SOUTH
Utah's alluring central and southern resorts are the perfect excuse for a weekend trip. My friend Claire and I hoped for a legendary "Powder Friday" at Eagle Point, but Mother Nature didn't quite cooperate. We buzzed around the resort, enjoying the views of Mt. Holly and exploring the north-facing terrain off the Lookout Chair. Next, we headed south to Brian Head Ski Resort to take in the stunning landscape of high red rock desert contrasting with glimmering snow-capped peaks. We savored sunset at Cedar Breaks National Monument and even bagged Brian Head Peak to gather additional snow.
I began to paint the mesmerizing scene of Brian Head and took some time to learn more about how the ski industry and winter sports benefit the state of Utah. The numbers were staggering. In Utah alone, the ski industry brings in $1.7 billion and creates over 20,000 jobs. Years with low snow totals negatively impact the economy in Utah and beyond. The global impact of shorter or lesser winters is difficult to calculate or even fathom...
THE WASATCH BACK
The resorts along Utah's Wasatch Back are highly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. If current trends continue, a greater percentage of precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow as winter storms become warmer in Utah. With a rise in temperature of around 1° C, about 10% of the precipitation that currently falls as snow would fall as rain at 7,000 feet (Source: University of Utah meteorologists Leigh Sturges and John Horel). This scary fact hit home as I skied the wonderful groomers of Deer Valley Resort and collected snow along the Stein's Way run above the Jordanelle Reservoir.
Visiting Park City Mountain, I headed to the highest point in the resort, Jupiter Peak at 10,026 feet in elevation. I was there for my job with IFSA Freeride to help facilitate a freeride ski and snowboard competition on the flanks of this splendid peak. Seeing how much enjoyment and satisfaction the young athletes found in hiking and freeriding down this mountain, I realized how important it is to act now for these youngsters. Winter should provide just as much delight for future generations! Sundance was next, and I headed to my favorite zone in Bishop's Bowl to gather snow at the foot of a wise old limber pine.
The resorts in Northern Utah required a weekend trip to tackle. I settled on the centrally located Compass Rose Lodge in Ogden Valley to serve as basecamp and was easily able to knock out Powder Mountain and Nordic Valley. Should you wish to visit this area, it's worth taking several days to explore each resort and I cannot recommend a better place to snuggle in than the Compass Rose. Walking around Huntsville, Utah, surrounded by the sight of snowy ski areas and limitless backcountry terrain, I recognized how heavily the local economy depended on skiing and recreation.
Next up, I visited Lone Tree, my favorite run at Snowbasin Resort, to stockpile snow above the imposing chute set between buttresses of ebony rock. Soon, it was time to head even further north to one of my favorite resorts, family-owned Beaver Mountain. I visited Teddy's Frolic and Long Hollow Ridge to collect snow from this magical outpost in the Bear River Range. Finally, it was Cherry Peak's turn and I scooped up snow along the intimidating steeps of Downfall.
The season was rapidly coming to a close, and I still needed snow from Woodward Park City and Snowbird. The huge kickers and features of Woodward loomed over me as I scraped snow into my container. Snowbird is where I grew up, so I gathered snow all around the mountain from slopes I deeply love. This painting will feature snow from Mount Baldy, Hanging Bowl, Silver Fox, Whodunnit, and The Cirque.
Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, Utah anticipates that the Wasatch Range could be snow-free by 2100. All of this snow—over 500" in an average year—could be rainfall in 80 years if we don't change our ways. This is a terrifying reality to envision. Even acknowledging that sentence makes me want to barf. It's natural to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. We as skiers and snowboarders can fight to save winter.
Join me. Make a small change. Begin carpooling or riding public transit to the ski hill. Reduce plastic consumption and the impact of shipping household goods by purchasing things like cleaning products, soap, or shampoo in bulk. Give composting a go, ditch your car and run errands or visit friends via bike, shut off lights you're not using, shop at a local farmers' market, cultivate a reusable bag collection, dry your clothes outdoors in the sunshine or eat less meat. There are so many small changes or decisions we can make that will collectively make a huge impact. Be an example to your friends, and inspire them to make a small change! Here are some additional ways to reduce your carbon footprint as a skier or rider.
We can do this. We must. If we want to keep skiing and snowboarding we need to realize that winter is worth fighting for.
If you'd like to purchase a Paint by Powder print, you can visit my website here. I am donating a portion of all Paint by Powder art print sales to Protect Our Winters. You can also follow my project progress on Instagram @Kapowder. I'll be sharing more ideas and resources and inspiration about how you can be a climate warrior. I hope you step up and join me!
Ski Utah Sustainability Efforts - Click Here
Ensuring Utah's Skiing Future - Click Here
NSAA Resources - Click Here
Protect Our Winters - Take a Step, Take Action
How to Ride the UTA Ski Bus - Hitch a Ride
Sundance's Eco-Friendly Slopes - Click Here