‘Greatest Snow on Earth’ arrives in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Mar 5, 2018, 5:31 PM | Updated: Mar 6, 2018, 4:11 pm

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON – The wet weekend snowstorm set off a two-day powder stampede up to the resorts, delivering two of the busiest days of the year for skiers and those charged with keeping the slopes safe.

“There’s just untouched powder everywhere,” said Milo Kluger, a skier from Salt Lake. “The season is coming really late, and I think that now that it’s here, there are a lot of people coming up.”

“I gave up on winter while ago, and then all of a sudden it’s here,” said Wayne Olson, another Salt Lake skier eager to catch up on lost time earlier in the season.

At Snowbird, the resort picked up 24 inches in 24 hours, with a 31-inch storm total.

Snowbird picked up 24 inches in 24 hours, with a 31-inch weekend total

“This is the storm we’ve been waiting for all year,” said Brian Brown, a spokesman for Snowbird Resort. “It’s definitely added to our base.”

The mid-mountain base at Snowbird and at Alta, also in Little Cottonwood Canyon, is currently more than 100 inches, a total that isn’t reached every year.

“It’s been fun to battle,” said Eric Murakami, Snowbird Assistant Director of Snow Safety and Avalanche Forecaster. “But the hazard grows when we get this much snow in this little amount of time.”

Despite heavy snow and elevated avalanche risk, Snowbird Ski Patrol opened the mountain at 9 a.m. Sunday, with the exception of Mineral Basin, the in bounds area on the south side of the ridge.

“I really think that’s a testament to our snow safety crews,” said Brown. 

At times, snow in the canyon fell at a rate of two inches an hour. Murakami said that makes it challenging to safeguard the mountain.

“It turned out to be a very successful weekend,” he said. “We got a lot of terrain open in a very little amount of time.”

Murakami said it all starts with advance planning and regular communication with the National Weather Service.

“We talk about planning for days,” he said.

Safety crews scour the mountain before the storm to get a feel for areas that might be problematic with new snow.

“Just so everyone gets a mental note of what may happen,” Murakami said.

As Snowbird hit a 100 inch season base, skiers and snowboarders flocked to the resort

Sunday, at first light, with snow still falling steadily, 35 to 40 ski patrollers hit the mountain to trigger dangerous avalanches.

“It must be a huge challenge, especially in Mineral Basin, just controlling for all the slides that can happen,” said Grace Eisenbiegler, a visiting skier from New York. “I’m appreciative of our patrollers.”

“When they feel the mountain is safe, that’s when they open terrain,” said Brown. “They put in a lot of hard work to make sure all of those people had that fun yesterday. They got after it early, and they are the people responsible for probably one of the best days of the ski season we had, yesterday.”

Sunshine and warmer temperatures are the forecast for the next few days. Yet, last year March and April were the wettest months of the year in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Resorts hope for a repeat performance.


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‘Greatest Snow on Earth’ arrives in Little Cottonwood Canyon