Utah skiers and boarders have been watching the snowstake at Alta Ski Area, UT, like hawks, wondering: Would the resort, known for its deep powder skiing, break the all-time snowfall record this weekend. Many snowsports enthusiasts had flocked to the powder-rich resort nestled in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon in anticipation of this event, and today, March 24, 2023, powder history was written, when the snowfalls surpassed the 1981/82 record of 748 inches.
At the time of writing, the snow is still falling and the resort is in ‘Interlodge’, meaning all residents, employees and lodge guests have to shelter in place. What will the new record ultimately be? Time will tell, but it is hard to overstate the significance of this snowfall. In the times of climate change and while Europe is experiencing one of the worst ski seasons for decades, Alta Ski Area has shattered a record that has stood for over four decades.
The reasons for Alta’s banner year are complex, but it all boils down to weather patterns. This winter, Utah has experienced an unusually high number of ‘atmospheric river’ events – essentially, long, narrow bands of water vapor that transport huge amounts of moisture from the Pacific Ocean to the western United States. When these atmospheric rivers collide with the Wasatch Mountains, they produce massive amounts of snow.
But the story of Alta’s record-breaking season isn’t just about meteorology. It’s also a testament to the tireless efforts of the resort’s staff. Alta has a long history of managing its snow resources carefully, with a focus on preserving the natural environment while still providing an exceptional skiing experience. This winter, that careful management has paid off in spades.
For example, Alta has an extensive system of snowmaking machines that can supplement natural snowfall in dry years. But this year, with so much snow falling from the sky, the resort was able to rely almost entirely on natural snow. This not only saved on energy costs, but also preserved the resort’s water resources.
Another key factor in Alta’s success is the resort’s commitment to sustainability. In recent years, the ski industry has come under scrutiny for its environmental impact, particularly in the form of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and energy use. But Alta has taken a proactive approach to reducing its carbon footprint. The resort has invested in energy-efficient snowmaking technology, partnered with local conservation organizations to protect wildlife habitats, and encouraged guests to use public transportation or carpool to the mountain.
All of these factors together have delivered a boon for the local ski industry, as the area has seen an increase in visitors from all over the world, eager to experience the best conditions since records started in 1944. With so much snow on the ground, it’s an irresistible draw for skiers and snowboarders looking for an epic winter experience. This surge in tourism is especially beneficial for local businesses and entrepreneurs, who depend on the influx of visitors for their income. There is no doubt the community of Salt Lake couldn’t be happier with the record-breaking snowfall.
For now however, the resort is in ‘Interlodge’, so please be patient while staff, avalanche experts and road services make the resort safe again. Alta Ski Area and Highway 210 are closed at the moment with no estimated opening time, so please monitor UDOT for updates.