Utah’s record snow is so deep it buried measuring equipment

Mar 24, 2023, 5:43 PM | Updated: 7:35 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The record-breaking snowfall this winter has been phenomenal, maybe even more so in the eyes of those who study it closely.  

The director of the Snow Hydrology Research to Operations Lab at the University of Utah said she could have never predicted that her equipment at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon would ever be buried by snow.  But that’s exactly what happened. 

“The snow really has not stopped,” said McKenzie Skiles, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, and head of the Snow Hydrology Research to Operations Lab. “This winter we’ve just been getting storm after storm after storm, and we have finally just matched the record for peak snow water equivalent that was set in 83.“

That record was later eclipsed in the afternoon. We caught up with her today in the midst of a snow squall, which seemed like the perfect setting.

“I don’t think you ever see a season like this coming,” Skiles said. “You kind of experience it as it’s coming through, and we didn’t know even a few weeks ago, that it was going to be record-setting.“

Skiles and her team have installed instrumentation at the Atwater Study Plot, across from Alta Ski Resort, to study the processes that control snow accumulation and snow melt. 

A photo taken at the plot last summer with her graduate students from the snow hydro lab shows them standing next to the towering equipment, surrounded by green grass.  Another pic taken yesterday shows the top of the equipment sticking out of the snow. 

Greatest snow on Earth: Utah’s snowpack hits record high

“We are at the deepest that we’ve ever been,” Skiles said. “We are over 4m, which is 13 1/2 feet of snow. The snow just actually just hit the instrumentation platform. Which means that currently all of our instrumentation is buried.“

She said they will work to get that equipment back above the snow.

“It’s never been deeper. We’re setting records there, and across the state of Utah.”

The water in that snowpack is as good as gold for our communities. 

“If you were to melt all of that snow out, the water level would actually be up to about their shoulders.“

Skiles pointed out that even this phenomenal year won’t solve all of our water problems. But we can certainly be grateful for this one and hope for more big ones in the future.

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Utah’s record snow is so deep it buried measuring equipment