Monday, October 06, 2008

Greatest Snow on Earth?

I have major enviro-guilt over my love of skiing. But Iris and I are already discussing this winter's ski trip. Shall we go to Utah again or try Colorado? How do Utah and Colorado snow compare? Well, the fine folks at University of Utah have done the research and it is on the cover of the September 2008 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (aka BAMS). From Secrets of the “Greatest Snow on Earth”:
State license plates and tourism brochures boast that Utah ski areas receive the “greatest snow on Earth,” but is there really anything special about Utah's snow? Often it is argued in ski industry brochures that Utah's snow is the greatest because it is the “driest” (i.e., has a low density or water content), yet the mean water content of snow at Alta ski area, which is world renowned for powder skiing and provides the cornerstone for Utah's famous slogan, is not lower than observed, for example, at many Colorado and Wyoming ski resorts. We propose that Alta's reputation is not based solely on mean water content, but also abundant natural snowfall. Although it cannot be shown that Utah's snow is the “greatest on Earth,” the climatology at Alta and other nearby ski areas is consistent with a high frequency of deep-powder days.


  1. By lower water content, do they mean there's more air in the snow? Because excluding the air, isn't snow 100% water?

  2. I have seen snow water content reported as the number of inches of snow required to equal one inch of water when melted. In the California Sierras, where snow is called "Sierra Cement", it takes about 6" of snow to make one inch of precipitation. In Utah and Colorado, it is more like 10-13" of snow.

  3. Okay, interesting. In Australia, snow is just snow!

    I'm guessing it must have more air in it (i.e. be less dense) in Utah and Colorado...


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