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The Greatest Snow on Earth? - James Cove, Salt Lake City
Wednesday February 8, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

The PlanetSKI content editor is currently in Utah a decade after he was there covering the 2002 Winter Olympics for the BBC. Later he will be looking at the Olympic legacy. Firstly though he asks whether Utah really has the Greatest Snow on Earth?

It is a phrase Ski Utah has registered and it adorns promotional literature, posters and even vehicle number plates out here in the state of Utah.

If anyone else uses the phrase for commercial gain or promotion they can be sued. Legal cases have happened.

It might have some of the greatest snow on earth every now and again, but surely it cannot justifiably make such a claim? 

You may think it is clearly nonsense.

The scientists claim precipitation comes over The Great Salt Lake from the Pacific, the moisture is sucked out and then it falls as light dry powder when it hits the mountains.

But does it mean it has the greatest snow on earth?

In my opinion Utah does not have the greatest snow on earth - no single ski area can make such a claim.

In fact I would argue it leaves some people disappointed as they come here expecting the best and it is not aways here.

The trouble for us Europeans in the US is that there is an awful lot of exaggeration and hyperbole, but perhaps that is just the American way of doing things.

Maybe it should be seen as a marketing phrase and perhaps not a reflection of reality.

At the moment they are using man-made devices to create the greatest snow on earth.

Helping hand for Mother NatureHelping hand for Mother Nature













I have just come from Sochi in Russia where we had 3m of fresh snow and The Alps currently has some of the best conditions for many years with temperatures around -20c in many places making it light and dry.

In Chamonix a good friend says the snow is the greatest for decades and in Verbier it may even beat the winter of 2008/09 - if you were there at the time you will know what I mean.

About half the average mid-season amount has fallen in Utah and that is what the tourist offices have said so it is probably less. Many of the locals are moaning and bookings are not as good as hoped for after a decent start to the season.

Here in Utah, at the moment, the snow is poor.

Or is it?

I have just had my first day's skiing here in the resort of Snowbasin and though there certainly was nowhere near the greatest snow on earth I had a ball.  Absolutely loved it.

There is a good covering and it is firm and grippy in the cold temperatures. The sky was blue, the aspen trees looked stunning and the views across the mountains took my breath away.

From the top of the resort, where the Olympic men's downhill course starts I could see into Idaho to the west and Nevada to the north.

View from the topView from the top













I last skied here a decade ago before the 2002 Winter Olympics when I tackled the Olympic Downhill course in rather poor fashion as I reported for the BBC at the time.

On my return visit to Snowbasin it was not race prepared and had moguls in places but it was still a test of skiing.

As I said in my earlier blog when I was last here a decade ago I barely saw the slopes and so this time I am going to make up for it.

Snowbasin is one of the state's best-kept secrets.

There is no lodging, yet, so crowds are low, especially mid-week. A local man I chatted to on lift asked me not to mention it in my blogs otherwise word would get out. Sorry!

Next it was on to Alta and Snowbird.

The two resorts have a reputation for deep powder snow.  Not this year. It is way down on its mid-season average. Moguls are the order of the day.














"We had such a good season last year that this year is disappointing," said a doctor who lives in Boston and comes every year. We chatted on the lift. She has a house in Park City but was round in Snowbird as the snow was better. "It is not quite the greatest snow on earth! We are here partly as the snow is better but also because the terrain is steeper."

We chatted about The Alps and the differences and I was reminded of a story I wrote for the BBC a decade ago at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

This year with bumper snowfalls in the Alps it may seem hard to say the snow is great.

But it is.

It is not powder but the conditions are plenty good enough for having fun. Alta is also a personal favourite of mine.

Alta is one of three resorts in the USA that bans snowboarders. Technically they are not actually banned from the slopes - just the lifts.  So it is possible to cross over from neighbouring Snowbird and ride down the mountain, but you just can't get back up again.

We will shortly be bringing you a video interview with a resort official about the ban and why it is in place.

The two resorts are among my favourites in the USA, maybe because they resemble alpine ski areas. With steep faces and reasonable vertical descents. 

So how are they at the moment with the poorest snow in years?

"This is one of my best days this season with good grippy snow on challenging north facing slopes. The groomers are in great condition and there are few crowds. I have had the most amazing seaosn in The French Alps so I am quite surprised, but at the moment I would rather be here,' said a friend I was travelling with, the ski and surf writer Alf Alderson.

He lives in the Trois Vallees in France.

And my opinion?

We would obviously like to have the deep, fresh, light powder the resorts boast about with their tenuous phrase about having the greatest snow on earth, but as with all skiing, and maybe even life in general, it is best just to make the most of what is on offer.

From the top of the Tram in Snowbird I glanced down at Peruvian Gulch at the options open and nodded in agreement with Alf.

It may not be the greatest snow on earth but it is pretty damn good.















Next up is the inter-connect tour skiing round a number of the resorts here in Utah - Deer Valley, Park City, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird.

The resorts are not connected by lift but it is possible to get round with a bit of hiking on a specially organised day tour.

There is a move to link the resorts in the future. Our prediction at PlanetSKI is that it will happen but it may take a while.

We will be doing a special feature on the plans to connect the resorts later on PlanetSKI.

Update:  Since posting the article James has skied the interconnect and here is a video interview with one of the guides, Bob Merrill.


Alf and James head for some funAlf and James head for some fun












Bit of walking to do on The InterconnectBit of walking to do on The Interconnect













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