OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Plan needed to protect future of Utah’s snow, say advocates

Oct 5, 2021, 12:47 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm

Honeycomb Canyon, Solitude Ski Resort – Trent Sell...

Honeycomb Canyon, Solitude Ski Resort - Trent Sell

Proponents say Utah has the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” but advocates warn more needs to be done to ensure the future of Utah’s snow is protected.

The Greatest Snow On Earth

Utah has 15 ski resorts, nine of them located less than an hour from the Salt Lake City International Airport. Many of the resorts in the central Wasatch range see an average of 500 inches of snowfall each winter. Combine that with lake-effect snow, and you may just find yourself carving down a slope of dreamy Utah powder and wondering if life could get any better. Hence the phrase, “The Greatest Snow on Earth” is not hyperbole for skiers. But advocates warn a plan is needed to protect the future of Utah’s snow. 

“From a major metropolitan US city, you’re literally, you know, maybe 30 minutes, 20 minutes, drive away from parking, and hiking up and having a few hour hike. And you can absolutely feel like there was no one else around you in the world. You can have that wilderness experience. Where you’re not seeing mechanized machinery, you’re not seeing buildings, you’re not seeing crowds. And you feel like –– you’re really enabled to enjoy the solitude.” 

 Brad Rutledge, co-founder of the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance

Warning signs

 “We’re not getting consistent snow staying in these mountains below 8,000 feet. That has real implications both from an environmental perspective, certainly from a water supply perspective, but also from a recreation perspective,” said Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah’s 15 ski resorts saw a record-breaking 5.3 million combined visits during the 2020-to-2021 season, as reported by Ski Utah. Increased visitation is great for the Utah economy, but it also means more congestion and traffic up canyon roads.

Other warning signs include our state’s severe drought, record temperature highs recorded this summer, the shrinking of the Great Salt Lake and rapid population growth throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

What does this all mean for the future of Utah’s snow, climate and ski experience?

A two-part series aims to provide context and insight into some of the trends and issues threatening the longevity of Utah’s snow.

Episode one features KSL Meteorologist Grant Weyman and Utah State University Climatologist Dr. Robert Gillies.

Episode two features Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons, Wasatch Backcountry Co-Founder Brad Rutledge and Snowbird Communications Director Sarah Sherman.

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