Alta on the verge of record snowfall

Early season snowpack records are hanging in the balance as three of the state’s ski areas claim the top spots in the nation.

(Andrew Kooyman | Brighton Resort) Nik Baden slices through fresh powder during the 2022-23 season at Brighton Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. As of Jan. 18, 2023 Brighton and Alta were tied with the most snowfall in the nation for the season.

Little Cottonwood Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, take your pick. If it’s deep snow you’re after, they have it. In fact, they have more than anyone else.

That’s not braggadocio. It’s just the facts.

As of Wednesday afternoon, both Alta Ski Area and Brighton Resort were reporting having received some 429 inches of fluffy white stuff this season. That gives those two resorts, located at the top of Little and Big Cottonwood, respectively, the distinction of being the snowiest ski areas in the country. Third in line is Snowbird, which joined the 400-inch club Wednesday and is reporting 406 inches on the season.

Prior to last weekend, Solitude held the No. 4 spot. Despite finding 76 fresh inches of snow on its runs since last week, though, it couldn’t hold on. The massive storms that hit the Lake Tahoe area in California over the weekend dropped it to No. 6 with 375 total inches as of Wednesday while relatively unknown Dodge Ridge (387 inches) as well as Mammoth Mountain (378) were elevated to the Nos. 4-5 spots.

Though no other Utah resorts cracked the top 10, the riches have been spread throughout the state. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Snotel sites show most areas around the state have at least 150% of their normal snowpack, while some are up to nearly 250%.

Park City Mountain Resort is claiming 294 inches and Deer Valley is reporting 293 inches on the season. Other season totals around the state include 251 at Snowbasin, 241 at Sundance, 236 at Powder Mountain, 199 at Beaver Mountain, 198 at Cherry Peak, 197 at Eagle Point, 170 at Nordic Valley and 161 at Brian Head.

While it’s not unusual for Alta to haul in close to 500 inches of snow in a season, Evan Thayer, the Utah forecaster for OpenSnow.com, noted that this season is only halfway over in terms of snowfall. And yet, the state has already seen 92% of its seasonal median peak.

That means, Thayer said, “we’ve already seen nearly an entire season’s worth of snow in the first half.”

That’s putting Utah’s resorts on track for a record season … if the snow keeps falling.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

In 1981-82, Alta saw an all-time record 442 inches of snow hit its slopes period between October and January. It needs just 13 inches in the next 13 days to tie that mark.

It might be close with just a couple of “weak” storms expected to settle into the area in the next two weeks, Thayer said. Just one overachiever could make it happen.

With 35 feet of snow already in the banks, though, what’s a few more inches?

“It’s safe to say,” Thayer said, “it’s the best first half of a season we’ve had in 40 years.”

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)