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Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth

Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth: Weather, Climate Change, and Finding Deep Powder in Utah's Wasatch Mountains and around the World

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth
    Book Description:

    Utah has long claimed to have the greatest snow on Earth-the state itself has even trademarked the phrase. InSecrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth, Jim Steenburgh investigates Wasatch weather, exposing the myths, explaining the reality, and revealing how and why Utah's powder lives up to its reputation. Steenburgh also examines ski and snowboard regions beyond Utah, making this book a meteorological guide to mountain weather and snow climates around the world.Chapters explore mountain weather, avalanches and snow safety, historical accounts of weather events and snow conditions, and the basics of climate and weather forecasting. Steenburgh explains what creates the best snow for skiing and snowboarding in accurate and accessible language and illustrates his points with 150 color photographs, makingSecrets of the Greatest Snow on Eartha helpful tool for planning vacations and staying safe during mountain adventures. Snowriders, weather enthusiasts, meteorologists, students of snow science, and anyone who dreams of deep powder and bluebird skies will want to get their gloves onSecrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth.Watch Book Trailer!(Special thanks to Ski Utah)

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-951-7
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Environmental Science, Physics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-V)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VI-VII)
    (pp. VIII-XI)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Is it true? Does Utah really have the Greatest Snow on Earth? What about claims that Utah’s snow is lighter and drier than elsewhere, that magic snow-flakes are created because the western deserts dry out snow, or that moisture from the Great Salt Lake fuels storms?

    The first meteorologist to ponder these questions was S. D. Green in the 1930s. Green was an avid skier who worked for the US Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service). Lake Placid had just hosted the 1932 Olympics and was a favorite winter-sports destination for easterners. The West, however, was largely unknown to...

    (pp. 4-17)

    On December 4, 1960, the legend was born. Inspired by a recent visit of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a young editor named Tom Korologos opened a special ski edition of theSalt Lake Tribune’s Home Magazinewith the headline “The Greatest Snow on Earth” (figure 1.1). Tom exclaimed, “Intermountain folk will tell you that the winds blowing from the west the wet, sticky snows in the Sierras. When the storms reach the Intermountain ranges, only the most perfect dry powder is left. That’s just a sprinkling what you’ll find in this vast, scenic country that is...

    (pp. 18-39)

    Utah’s powder reputation is built primarily on the snow climate found in the Cottonwood Canyons, a fact that was apparent to the earliest Wasatch skiers. In 1935, meteorologist and backcountry skier S.D. Green predicted that “skiers will eventually find that the Brighton Basin, or the heads of the [Cottonwood] canyons within a short radius of this winter paradise, offer the best skiing to be found in the Wasatch Mountains” (Kelner 1980,155) (figure 2.1). Green was right. The Cottonwood Canyons are the climatological sweet spot of the Wasatch Mountains, with their own microclimate that produces more snow than falls in the...

    (pp. 40-61)

    The Wasatch Mountains have an extraordinary climate for deep-powder skiing, especially in the Cottonwood Canyons, but what about the rest of the world? Each of the world’s major ski regions features a unique snow and fascinating microclimates Let’s have a look

    The coastal ranges of northwest North America are among the snowiest in world and include the Cascade Mountains of northern California, Oregon, Washington; the Coast Mountains of British Columbia and southeast and the Chugach and Wrangell–St. Elias Mountains of southern Alaska 3.1). Mt. Baker ski area, located near the Canadian border in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, averages...

    (pp. 62-79)

    A million billion snowflakes fall every second for your skiing pleasure. The shape, size, and composition of these snowflakes determine if you are skiing hero snow, crud, or concrete. If you want blower pow, you’re looking stellar dendrites , which have six treelike arms, a lot of cavities and pores, a low water content (figure 4.1). On the other hand, maybe you are to graupel ,which looks and feels like a Styrofoam ball and has a high content, but behaves like ball bearings and provides a unique, creamy ski Experience. There are ten snowflake types in the simplest classification system...

  9. 5 Lake Effect
    (pp. 80-91)

    Conventional wisdom and marketing hype suggest that the Great Salt Lake effect is the holy grail of Utah powder skiing. For example, claims that “storms suck up moisture as they pass over the nearby Great Salt Lake and [drop it] on Salt Lake’s Mountains just miles away. The light powder snow, thanks to the lake’s salinity, falls en masse upon Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude, creating some of the best powder skiing and snowboarding in the world.”

    On the other hand, meteorologists have a love-hate relationship with the Great Salt Lake effect. Many Utah meteorologists are skiers and love...

    (pp. 92-109)

    All major ski areas and most mountain highways in the Wasatch Mountains are susceptible to avalanches, but Little Cottonwood Canyon is an especially dangerous place. Roughly fifty avalanche paths threaten State Route 210 (SR-210) and other roads and parking lots in Little Cottonwood Canyon (figure 6.1), which are hit by an average of thirty-three avalanches per year (figure 6.2).The combination of frequent avalanches and heavy traffic leads to the highest avalanche hazard of any highway in the United States. Seven major avalanche paths lie above the town of Alta, while others cross parking lots and portions of Snowbird village. Add...

    (pp. 110-127)

    Greg and Loren woke up on an early January morning, dropped their three-year-old son off at day care, and drove to Canyons. Expert skiers, they probably took a few laps at the ski area, but were lured by the untracked powder in the easily accessed backcountry surrounding the Ninety-Nine 90 high-speed quad. They spoke with ski patrollers, who warned of high avalanche danger, but ultimately the desire to ski deep powder proved too great. They passed through a backcountry access gate and booted up a ridge to Square Top, a 9,800-foot peak with northeast-facing avalanche-prone slopes of more than thirty-five...

    (pp. 129-151)

    Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Those words, famously quipped in one form or another by everyone from Nobel Prize–winning physicist Niels Bohr to Hall of Fame baseball catcher Yogi Berra, are figuratively tattooed on the shoulder of every professional or armchair meteorologist who has tried to forecast for the Wasatch Mountains. Our storms are chewed into pieces by the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Mountains, and other upstream mountain ranges; our topography is super steep and narrow; and we have this salty puddle of water known as the Great Salt Lake that sometimes teases us with lake effect...

    (pp. 152-169)

    Let me let you in on a poorly kept secret. Global warming is real. The climate of the Wasatch Mountains today is warmer than it was when they were mining silver at Alta in the late nineteenth century. It is warmer than it was when lift-served skiing first came to Utah in the middle of the twentieth century. And it is warmer than it was in 1971 when Snowbird first opened the tram. Will this warming continue and will it take a toll on the Greatest Snow on Earth? Let’s have a look. Global Trends From the late nineteenth century...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 170-175)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 176-179)
    (pp. 180-180)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 181-186)