Goldilocks snowstorms and how they impact the slopes and snowpack

Dec 15, 2022, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:04 pm


Skiers wait in line at Alta Ski Area in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

SALT LAKE CITY — Goldilocks snowstorms are not too big and not too small. They are just right for snowboarding and skiing, creating a fluffy and firm middle ground.

Jim Steenberg, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah, spoke with Dave and Dujanovic about the snow in the snowstorms and its impact on the snowpack. 

“This is the best snow you can possibly imagine,” said Steenberg.

“Just lots of very nice ice crystals falling that have low water contents, they have lots of pore space in them, gaps and other things, so they stack up at very low density. It’s easy for shoveling and it’s really great for skiing.”

Steenberg said while this snow is great for those hitting the slopes, the snow water equivalent was not high. Thus, the amount of water that’s in the snow and the depth of the snow make up the snow water equivalent. 

Steenberg continued, “The average water content of snow is 8.4%. What that means is for every, say 13 inches of snow that you get, you get an inch of water.”

“The funny thing about this storm is it’s produced over 50 inches of snow Alta. But it hasn’t been a high water content storm. It’s produced maybe a little over two inches of water. If we had 50 inches of snow, say with 10% water content, it would have been over five inches of water.”

The difference in water snow equivalents is why it’s important for the snowpack needs to get wet storms early in the season. Like the ones in October and November, said Steenberg.

“You want those to be high water content storms, really high-density snow that sticks to everything and built the base up fast,” said Steenberg.

Listen to the full Dave and Dujanovic segment below:


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Goldilocks snowstorms and how they impact the slopes and snowpack