Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Prediction: Snow Storage Is Coming to a Utah Ski Area

Now that my political prediction career is over, let's turn to something else: Snow.

The Washington Post reported on October 27 that Ruka Ski Resort in Finland opened on October 10th using snow from last year.  Nope, they didn't have so much snow last year that it lingered through summer.  Instead, they piled it into huge mounds, covered it with sawdust and a reflective covering, and then spread it around in October.

Source: Washington Post photo by Evgeny Pavlov/Ponchikz Photoz
More info and photos here.

We first discussed the potential for snow storage coming to Utah back in March.  Although the idea needs evaluation for both viability and environmental reasons, this fall provides a prime example of why I see this happening in the future (or, alternatively, the use of refrigerated snowmaking).  It is an impossibility to effectively make snow right now.  Check out the meteograms for the past week at Alta-Mt. Baldy (top, 11,000 ft) and the Alta Base.  The former has not dropped below 30ºF for 6 days.  The latter has not dropped below 32ºF during that period.  

To be sure, we are not at the end of our rope for early season skiing.  The jet stream will look favorably upon us in future Octobers and\ Novembers.  However, Thanksgiving skiing is important to the ski resort and early season natural snow and snowmaking weather are going to become less common as we move through the 21st century.  Alternatives will be sought.  

A good activity for intellectually curious snow-science students would be to evaluate how much snow would need to be stored at the end of ski season for a resort like Alta to be able to open a single run down Collins Gulch.  Is it viable to do this in Utah's hot summer weather?  If you can make it to November, you're probably in good shape in Collins Gulch as the sun angle is low enough that there wouldn't be a huge loss of snow to melt.  If anyone digs into this problem, let me know as it would be an interesting post.  


  1. This is becoming common for Nordic region cross country areas. Closer to home, Can more, AB Nordic center stored snow last spring and then used it to open and hold a race a week or two ago.

    1. I just checked. Canmore started snow storage in 2009. They make the snow in spring and store it in a pit and cover with sawdust. Avg high in July and August is about 75. Similar to Alta but much cooler than PC or any of our Nordic areas.