Utah's Deepest Winter is No Fluke

By Local Lexi Apr 1, 2023
On April 1, 2022 a mysterious whale appeared in SLC's 9th and 9th neighborhood. Snowfall in Utah has never been the same...
Utah's Deepest Winter is No Fluke

Not so very long ago, on the balmy but cloudy first day of April in the year 2022, a newcomer to Salt Lake City would forever alter the trajectory of The Greatest Snow on Earth®. 

Utah's 2021–22 season was not a memorable one as far as our vaunted snowfall totals typically go. A six-week dry spell spanning November and December was followed by days of high pressure in January which stretched out through all of February capped off by warm temperatures in late March that contributed to rapid melting. The season seemed all but lost until the arrival of a certain cetacean on April 1st killed our streak of bad luck. 

Without much warning, a life-size whale sculpture simply appeared "Out of the Blue," energetically breaching out of a long-neglected roundabout at 1100 East and 900 South in Salt Lake's trendy 9th and 9th neighborhood. With it arrived a great deal of controversy as some neighbors expressed outrage at what they deemed an inappropriate symbol for Utah and the neighborhood. Others quickly embraced the whale's whimsical colors and gigantic presence, the work of sculptor Stephen Kesler and muralist Mike Murdock.

A pleasant surprise in a season so sunny, snow again returned to the Wasatch in April 2022 shortly after the whale made its initial splash. Renowned local forecaster and powderhound, Evan Thayer of Open Snow, dug deep into the data and the modeling. There was simply no explanation for the sudden and unexpected arrival of all the late-season powder that could not be attributed to the arrival of the 9th and 9th Whale. It couldn't be a fluke. Evan recently admitted "80% of the storms this season have performed above my forecast." 

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There is a synergistic quality to the whale occupying an arid high desert along the shores of one of the globe's saltiest lakes. Whales require salt water and there is no better place to harbor a benevolent powder whale than the valley of the salted lake. The arrival of the whale correlates with enhanced snowfall along the Wasatch Range. The cetacean installation on April 1, 2022 saved the remnants of last season, bringing 75" to Alta Ski Area during the month of April. Casting our attention to the present 2022–23 season, not much can be said aside from the word:



Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah, Jim Steenburgh sums it up nicely: 

“I often say that a bad year in Utah is better than a good year in Colorado.  It’s fun to poke fun at our friends to the east.  But my oh my, how does one describe a great year in Utah?  We are going to be close to or above 750 inches at Alta by the end of March. 750 inches!  And so many storms were high quality.  People will talk about this season for years to come. It was the crème-de-la-crème of deep-powder skiing.” 


The snowfall began in October 2022, ramped up in November and has not snowed less than 100 inches per month since December. Alta recorded a mind-boggling 186 inches in the month of January 2023 and March eclipsed that with 206". 

March 24, 2023 was a milestone, as Utah careened past its statewide record for snowpack. The slap-happy crowds at ski areas across Utah have been crowing in delight as ski resorts have begun to push back their closing dates.

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Deer Valley, Park City Mountain, Snowbasin, and Woodward Park City have all announced extended seasons. Solitude, Brighton and Snowbird plan to extend operations through May. Sundance will offer up two bonus days for passholders. For a complete and up-to-date picture of 2022–23 closing dates CLICK HERE.

While some city denizens may blubber about the neverending winter, skiers and snowboarders can't stop and won't stop spouting about the most memorable winter of their lives. In all my years in Utah, I can scarcely recall skiing so much blower since the magical winter of 2010–11. The arrival of the 9th & 9th Whale signifies a new era in Utah's skiing and snowboarding. The obvious causation of the whale's splash landing in Utah and prodigious and record-breaking amounts of snowfall simply cannot be ignored.  

Alta hit the 800 inch mark before the calendar turned to April. Others predict Snowbird will rack up 900 inches before May elapses.

What's your best guess for your favorite resort's final snow total?
Leave it in the comments and don't forget to worship the whale.

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For some ASTONISHING facts, enjoy the following stats from March 26, 2023: 

  • This winter is officially Alta's snowiest on record. Since the first snow on October 22, 2022, Alta has averaged 4.9 inches of snow per day.

  • On March 25, 2023 Brighton crossed its all-time season record of 765 inches. 

  • Fresh snow received throughout the day on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, pushed Deer Valley's season’s total depth to 485 inches – more than 40 feet – which surpassed the previously held record of 484 inches recorded during the 2016–17 winter season. A 50-inch storm in late March pushed the resort to a 535-inch season total by March 26. 

  • On March 22, 2023 Park City Mountain pushed past 500 inches and recorded the most snowfall to date in 49 years of record keeping! 

  • On March 26, 2023 Powder Mountain recorded a 130-inch base and a 479-inch snowfall total.

  • On March 26, 2023 after an 11-inch storm, Snowbasin Resort proudly recorded its best-ever season at 482 inches, beating out the 1981–82 record of 475 inches and the 2016–17 record of 458 inches. 

  • Snowbird surpassed 600 inches on March 11 and shows no signs of stopping. 
  • Solitude Mountain Resort surpassed its 600-inch record on March 12, the fourth time the resort has crossed the 600 threshold this century. 

  • Sundance Mountain Resort hit 400 inches on March 20, 2023, alongside an astonishing 41 inches of SWE (snow water equivalent). The previous record was 40.4 inches.


Utah Reaches 700" of Snowfall - Click Here

What is a Lake Effect Storm? - Click Here

The History of the Greatest Snow on Earth - Click Here

Dr. McKenzie Skiles Science of Snowmelt Podcast - Click Here

Utah Resorts 2023 Closing Dates - Click Here