Sunday, April 16, 2017

The End of an Era

Today marked the last day of lift served skiing at Alta and the end of an era for the resort as General Manager Onno Wieringa retires after this season.

Onno was a strong supporter of weather research and forecasting efforts in Little Cottonwood Canyon and the Wasatch Range.  Alta was the first ski area to begin supplying weather observations to the "Utah Mesonet," predecessor to MesoWest (special thanks as well to Alta Ski Patrol, especially Howie Howlett and Titus Case).  Before the advent of MesoWest, weather observations were sparse to non-existent across most of the Wasatch Range.  Today, we get observations from nearly all of the ski resorts and they make a huge difference.  The Alta-Collins site, in particular, provides very high quality snowfall and snow water equivalent measurements that are used by everyone who forecasts in the Wasatch Mountains including the Utah Avalanche Center, National Weather Service, UDOT,,, and  During storms, I probably look at those observations 50 times a day (even though they come in only once an hour!).

Onno also generously provided the wonderful snow observations collected by Howie, Titus, and the Alta Ski Patrol to develop algorithms for forecasting snow density during winter storms in the Wasatch Range, observations that we ultimately used not only for science, but also to set the record straight on why Utah snow is so great (er, Alta snow) in an article for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and also my book, Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth.

Much thanks to Onno for all he has done for the weather forecasting community of Utah.

Onno's retirement isn't, however, the only one at Alta this year.  The Supreme Chair is being replaced (as is Cecret) with a high-speed quad that will run from near Alf's Restaurant.  If I remember right, the old triple was the Germania triple prior to the installation of the Collins high-speed quad, so it has a long history at Alta.

In my view, a perfect closing day is sunny, warm, and corn filled and that was the case today, and the Frank World Classic really packed them in.  You don't see lines like that for Wildcat every day.

I elected to lap Collins.  I missed out on the Frank debauchery (such a shame), but did enjoy some entertainment at times from Collins.

Looking forward to the Frank YouTube video...


  1. Found this site about snowflakes, They have a section on the Greatest Snow on Earth which I had to pass on since Utah was not mentioned. In fairness it's noted there may be other places with Great snow but even in that list Utah isn't mentioned in passing.

    1. That's a great site and the books that Ken Libbrect puts to gether are really awesome. He's not a skier, however, and he mentions places he has taken snowflake photos.