Powder Perfect: Snow pack packs in fun for skiers (and boarders, too)


    By Nicole Seymour

    “Ski Utah: The best snow on earth,” proclaims local license plates.

    “It is the best snow on earth,” said Jarom Sid, 23, a junior studying German from Modesto, Calif.

    With famous dry powder and numerous mountains offering a variety of terrain, Utah is a haven to skiers and snowboarders alike during the cold winter month — and who knew there was a logical, scientific explanation?

    Two major factors contribute to giving Utah “the best snow on earth.” First, the dry desert air that keeps snowflakes from meshing together, and second, the lake effect from the Great Salt Lake helps the snow in Utah to be a soft powder, said Bryan Peterson, associate professor of physics for BYU.

    “The ”lake effect snow” that comes off tends to be very powdery because it falls in cold air,” Peterson said. “Plus, there”s generally a lot of it and so they get really good powder up there along Brighton, Snowbird, Alta and in those areas, and even going over the top and into the Park City resorts.”

    Peterson said because the lake doesn”t freeze, the cold air picks up water as it moves across the Great Salt Lake, and as it lifts over the mountains. The combination of cold, dry desert air, plenty of moisture and the mountains” high elevation make for plenty of powder at local ski resorts.

    Nephi Curt, 20, a freshman from Barrow, Alaska, and an avid snowboarder, prefers the somewhat softer snow found in Utah to what he experienced on the mountains of Alaska.

    “I like to ride park a lot, like jumps and rails and stuff but I still really enjoy powder on the other terrain-it is a close call,” Curt said. “I am pretty satisfied with the powder here.”

    Utah snow can pack less tightly, so it will be deeper for the same amount of water, Peterson said. It”s a dramatic contrast to snow that falls on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains – that snow tends to be fairly heavy, and more densely packed when it falls.

    “The thing is, in California, the snow is so heavy, even after fresh powder,” Sid said. “In Utah, it is so soft and cuddly. I like to fall in the snow here.”

    Sid said the general consensus on the west coast seems to be that there is higher moisture content in California snow relative to Utah snow – and skiing in snow with high moisture content is generally less enjoyable.

    “I like to ski in Utah because the snow is lighter in comparison to Seattle”s,” said Mike Uffens, 21, a junior from Redmond, Wash. majoring in economics. “I usually like to ski out of bounds and having powder to ski through when off the groom makes it easier.”

    Peterson said Utah snow tends to be fairly powdery so it doesn”t pack very well, a characteristic that lends itself to frequent avalanches.

    Aside from the fluffy snow that helped Utah lure in the 2002 Olympics, both snowboarders and skiers find various types of terrain another perk.

    “At Snowbird, I like the tram that gives the longer runs,” Uffens said. “The skiing there is a lot more challenging.”

    However Uffens said he prefers the terrain offered in Whistler, B.C., the most.

    “The terrain is not the best I”ve skied,” he said. “I much prefer the skiing in Canada, [but] the resorts are nice here because they are well-maintained.”

    Curt sees Utah as an excellent place to experience a ride down the slopes.

    “There are so many resorts around here to choose from,” Curt said. “You have a nice selection of where you can go and they kind of cater toward everybody. Depending on what you like, it caters toward your preferences and [Utah] is a good place for snowboarding.”

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