SALT LAKE CITY — Ever since 1985, the slogan "The Greatest Snow on Earth" has been a common sight on Utah license plates, But why is the snow so great?
Storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean are full of moisture, but when they cross the coastal mountains, they drop a lot of their precipitation. Then the storms move over the desert and even more moisture gets drained out of them.
Utah is one of the driest states in the country, and by the time the storms get to the Wasatch Range, the snow tends to have a low moisture content.
The cold, dry conditions and high altitude allow the snow crystals to have a structure that makes Utah snow unique. The snowflakes tend to be thick and symmetrical, and float slowly to the surface accumulating as fluffy "powder".
Besides the quality of the snow, we can get a lot of it! This is often due to lake effect.
A lot of the storms that move across northern Utah are followed by a northwesterly flow of cold air across the Great Salt Lake, which never freezes. Even more moisture is drawn from the warmer waters of the lake, and with winds aimed directly at the mountains, snowfall can continue for another day or two even after the main storm has passed. As a result, skiers and snow boarders can find several feet of powder at the resorts.
Utah's Cottonwood Canyons are some of the snowiest places in the world, with Alta averaging 551 inches of snow annually. On top of that, Utah has an average of 18 "Powder Days," which means 12 or more inches in a 24 hour period, throughout the winter.
If that's not great, what is?