How limited snowfall affects Cedar City’s winter outdoor activities

Utah’s drought and diminishing snowfall can be a detriment to winter outdoor sports and activities which can be especially hard for national and state park sites.

Southern Utah University has been trademarked as the University of the Parks because of its proximity to numerous national and state parks and monuments. With the proximity to Brian Head and Cedar Breaks, there are plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors near campus.

Winter especially tends to mark high visitor numbers for these places since they can offer outdoor sports like snowshoeing, tubing, skiing and snowboarding. The lack of winter storms makes these harder to offer, however.

With less fresh snow, these sports are becoming harder to participate in. Cedar Breaks offers snowshoe tours every year but these tours are becoming more of hiking tours due to the weather.

William Heaton, an SUU student who helps run these tours, said that Cedar Breaks started doing tours again after taking a few years off and that, while no one has complained about the lack of snow, a lot of people on the tours have commented on it.

Brian Head is also dealing with low snowfall. On average, the resort gets nearly 360 inches of snow a year but so far has only gotten 85 inches as of Friday. There is only 40 inches at base depth, one of the lower depths of the resorts in the state.

In early January, it did not seem like the lack of snowfall was going to have too much of an impact because of the high snowpack, or built up snow reserve, in many areas. Southwest Utah had 177% of the average. The snowpack percentage has since started to decline across the state.  

David Church, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, said that the state is not getting snow like it should be and that the latter half of February could provide some relief but is still unknown.

Article by: Callie King-Stevens

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden on Unsplash