Inversion weighing you down? Here’s where to escape Salt Lake City’s bad air.

You can go up, or you can go south — but consider carpooling, or taking public transit.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A smoggy inversion blankets the Salt Lake Valley, as seen from the Ensign Peak trailhead on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023.

There’s a particularly mucky inversion plaguing Salt Lake City this week, and it may not clear out until at least Saturday, when a weather system is expected to move in and break up the smog.

Salt Lake City is no stranger to inversions. The valley is particularly susceptible to the natural phenomenon, which happens when warmer air at higher altitudes traps colder air — and pollution — below it, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. That “lid” of warmer air then concentrates pollution, which can stew in the city for days at a time.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Smog obscures the vista beyond Interstate 15 in Salt Lake City, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023.

All that bad air called for a health forecast of “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Salt Lake County on Tuesday, according to the DEQ. Both Wednesday and Thursday are currently forecast as “moderate,” in terms of air quality.

In the meantime, besides staying inside, those hoping to escape the smog have two options: You can go up, or you can go south.

Note that the DEQ advises reducing vehicle use during inversion events by consolidating trips. So consider carpooling, or using available public transit, if you want to get away.

Going up:

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ski buses stop at Solitude Mountain Resort on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.

Any higher elevation, or “essentially any mountain,” is going to be above the muck, National Weather Service meteorologist Nicole Desmet said.

Places like Park City and Heber along the Wasatch Back have been clear of the pollution cloud lingering in Salt Lake City. Park City is almost 7,000 feet above sea level (about 2,700 feet higher than Salt Lake City), and Heber is at about 5,595 feet.

Utah’s ski resorts are also at altitude — Alta has a base elevation of 8,530 feet; Brighton sits at about 8,755 feet; Solitude sits at about 7,988 feet; Snowbird sits at about 7,760 feet; and Sundance sits at about 6,100 feet, to name a few.

In addition to skiing, a variety of hikes will keep you above the inversion. VisitUtah.com suggests the High Uintas backcountry, with hikes at Bald Mountain, Big Elk Lake, Divide Lakes, Island Lake, Lofty Lake Loop, North Erickson Lake and Shingle Creek Trail.

And the Park City area has hundreds of miles of snowshoe-friendly trails, including the East 224 Connector and McCloud Creek Trails, Gambel Oak Loop, PC Hill, Rockport Lake Trail and Round Valley.

Going south:

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Helper’s ongoing renaissance from near ghost-town to thriving arts hub with galleries and restaurants lining the historic Main Street is pictured on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

Anyplace south of Nephi (about 84 miles south of Salt Lake City) should be inversion-free, Desmet said.

According to the Utah DEQ, several monitored counties in the central and southern parts of the state have nothing but “good” air quality conditions forecast through at least Thursday.

That includes Carbon County, where the town of Helper has been transforming into an artists’ colony and tourist destination.

It also includes Grand County, where Moab and Arches National Park sit.

And it includes Iron County, home of Cedar City and Brian Head Resort, as well as Washington County, where St. George, Springdale and Zion National Park sit, to name a few destinations.

When will the inversion clear?

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Low clouds cover the tops of buildings in downtown Salt Lake City, Monday, Dec. 19, 2023.

The weather system expected to move into the Salt Lake City area Saturday should help break up the latest inversion.

In the meantime, showers are possible through Wednesday, with lesser chances later in the week. They likely won’t clear the haze but could improve air quality a bit, according to the weather service. The forecast also calls for increased winds in the southern end of Salt Lake County, which could help, too.

Still, expect the smog to potentially get worse Thursday and Friday before it gets better.

“It’s kind of a complex system where we actually have two areas of low pressure that we’re tracking, and they’re kind of playing with each other,” Desmet said. “So it looks like a complicated forecast for the whole weekend.”

By Saturday morning, measurable precipitation is expected everywhere from Logan to St. George. Mountain snow (about 6-12 inches) and valley rain are forecast, though the valley rain could shift to snow on Sunday.

That means snow accumulation is possible Sunday — Christmas Eve — and it could stick through the following morning, making for a white Christmas.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Desmet said.