Monday, March 21, 2016

Is Snow Storage Coming to Utah?

Snow storage for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
Every spring I bemoan the loss of winter snowpack.  It seems like such a waste.  If only we could start the next ski season with some of that snow.

I first heard of snow storage a couple of years ago when Sochi was stockpiling snow through the summer to ensure adequate coverage during the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Then, Outside Magazine ran an article on it today (see The Future of Winter Sports Is Storing Snow), sparking the synapses yet again.

The idea is not as crazy as it sounds.  Let's suppose that you wanted to do this at Alta.  Typically closing day is in late April or early May.  That's just a bit after the time of peak snowpack, but there is typically a lot of snow left, especially on the upper mountain.  Groomers would then push the snow into large piles along Mambo and Corkscrew, which would be covered with insulated, reflective blankets.  This snow would then be used to cover the trails the following ski season.  Some snow would be lost during the summer, but if the piles are deep and well covered, a good chunk of the snow would probably survive (a good exercise for the snow science geeks out there would be to try and determine how much snow would survive for piles of various sizes).  

Economically, I suspect this would be cheaper than making snow the next season.  If not, it would free up water for snowmaking in other areas.  Environmentally, I'm not sure what the impacts would be.  They wouldn't be zero, but much might depend on the melt rate from the piles and where the piles were placed.  

I'm willing to bet that we will see this eventually in Utah. 

Of course, we have something better coming late tonight and tomorrow - natural snow from the skies. I'm traveling today and don't have time to put together a proper forecast, so no predictions from me on this one.  Good luck. 


  1. This might put a damper on wildflower season up at Alta.

  2. So I'll give it a go, woefully inadequate as it may be. I see the same patterns overall as the last push on the 12th. I'd say we'll get something out of it, but the Euro shows the main low moving north of us leaving us in a small trough. As of this moment, the NAM 12k, 4k & GFS are all fairly off-base compared to reality at Alta station. So we'll see.. I bet on about 50-70% of what's predicted and at a higher water content.

    Cheers to hoping I'm totally wrong!!