Weather conditions give Utah the ‘greatest snow on earth’



    Every winter in Utah, thousands of people bundle up in layers, strap on their boots and goggles and head for the mountains to take advantage of the “greatest snow on earth.”

    Utah, as the licence plate slogan claims, represents ideal snow conditions for skiiers: dry, soft powder. It’s this powder that allows experienced skiiers to achieve a “floating” sensation.

    “The powder gives you a freedom,” said Gary Howard, BYU skiing class instructor. “It’s a totally different sensation, like floating. There’s snow all around, exploding in your face. It’s a rush.”

    Howard also said skiiers like powder because it’s easier to turn on and softer to fall into. This is in marked contrast to snow in the eastern United States, which is heavy, wet and freezes quickly.

    Skiiers can thank a low moisture content and high elevation for Utah’s perfect snow conditions. Don Morgan, BYU geography professor and climatologist, said the snow process starts at the Pacific Ocean, where it is very wet but snow falls at higher temperatures.

    By the time air masses from the Pacific pass over the Sierra Mountains and reach the Wasatch Front, the moisture content is very low. Then snow falls at colder temperatures. The lake effect from the Great Salt Lake also causes a greater amount of snowfall.

    “For skiiers, it’s fabulous,” Morgan said. “They’ve got powder snow up to their knees.”

    And people come from all over to get a piece of it. Dale Hansen, who works at the SLC Visitors Bureau, said he’s talked to people who have skiied in places as exotic as New Zealand and Africa. The consensus is that Utah does have the greatest snow on earth.

    “That slogan is an honest assesment,” Hansen said. “No where else has snow like we do here. It’s something we have to be proud of.”

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