Wasatch Watch

There’s no snow here. Mount Ashland is reporting nine inches at the base (6338′) and thirty-two at the top (7500′). Can’t ski that. This is my local spot as the parking lot is only thirty-eight road miles north of my house. Here’s what it looks like:

mt a

It’s going to take two good storms, a foot or more of snow apiece, to run the lifts. It’s depressing. I got to hit the slopes twice right at the end of December and that’s it. We’ve been cold and dry or warm and wet here since then. Here’s a look at Mount Shasta Ski Park (5500′ to 6890′), fifty miles south of me:

mtncam4

Lack of snow accumulation isn’t just bad for skiers, it’s bad for everyone. Mountain snowpack melts in the spring and summer and fills our streams, lakes, and reservoirs. It recharges our aquifers. It doesn’t rain much at all from May through October and the people, plants, and animals need more and more water as the weather warms. By the end of the dry season the region is parched. And a tinderbox, as we’ve learned these last few summers. Winter rains and snow make life in the arid West possible and these unusual conditions are disturbing. Is it the impact of climate change? Or just a fluky stretch of weird weather? We know global temperatures are going up, that’s not arguable at this point. We can’t causally link every local event to worldwide changes, but those of us who live in rural, mountainous areas sense things are trending the wrong way. Overall that’s true, and it is well-documented over the last decade.

What’s a powder-hound to do? I could join an advocacy group, and I just might, but right now my thoughts are more selfish. I want to ski, damn it! These days my focus is eastward—to Utah—where they say they have The Greatest Snow on Earth. That’s not bragging. It is a copyrighted trademark. My ski buddy likes Alta and we are planning a trip out there as it looks increasingly like there will nothing here or at best a truncated season. Alta lies in the Cottonwood Canyons area of the Wasatch Range, home to Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude as well. Alta is a skier-only resort, gets five hundred inches of snow annually, and is only minutes from Salt Lake City and environs where there is plenty of reasonably priced lodging. Sounds good to me! We are waiting for the next big storm to move in so I am obsessively watching the forecasts and reading ultra-nerd weather blogs. If it snows, we goes.

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