Snow has been somewhat reluctant to leave Utah this year. In fact, in some high places it may not disappear at all - at least not this summer.
It wasn't that this past winter was especially harsh or the snows particularly deep. Snowbird received just over 500 inches, which is very close to an average snow year.But it was a strange year. Snow came late and then fell steadily, right into summer. On June 16 and 17 more than two feet of snow fell in some areas more than 9,000 feet in elevation.
William Alder, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service's Salt Lake office, attributes the holdover snow to a wet spring, a late snow and cooler than normal temperatures.
"Which means that we may keep some of the snow at higher elevations, and with the slow melting we're going to have a good flow in our rivers and streams all summer," he said.
The recreational results of all this being:
- Campers got a very late start into some of the state's more popular spots. Areas typically open by late May didn't welcome campers until June, and those usually opened in June didn't open until July. And even then, areas always open by the Fourth of July didn't open until the 24th. The reason: deep snow.
This was not isolated to northern mountains. Down in the Dixie National Forest, the Boulder Top area was closed over the Fourth because of snow; on the Ashley National Forest, Paradise Park in the Vernal District was snowbound over the early July holiday; on the Fishlake National Forest the road to Kent's Lake was still closed because of snow; and Skyline Drive and Twelve Mile Flat were closed on the Manti-LaSal National Forest, just to mention a few.
The U.S. Forest Service reported all campgrounds are now open, but there is still snow in some of the higher areas. This brought out a warning that skidding on these late snowfields can be dangerous, especially in the early-morning hours when the surface is hard and crusty.
Forest officials also reported that this year there are more downed trees than normal. Because of the saturated ground, root systems have been unable to hold some of the larger trees during gusting winds; as a result, some mountain roads are blocked by trees.
- The wet spring did bring out an abundance of wildflowers. Some of the high-country meadows are a carpet of vivid colors right now.
- The wet spring and late-arriving summer fostered a bumper crop of flies and mosquitoes, which prompts a strong suggestion that people bring along lots of repellent when heading outdoors.
- Diehard skiers were able to ski later than normal. A popular practice with many skiers is to hike in shirt-sleeves and cutoffs to accessible snowfields as long as they're around. July Fourth is usually a good bet for the last good skiing snow. Keeping with tradition, a group of skiers hiked to the highest peak at The Canyons, called "Ninety-nine 90," and found a field of snow much larger than normal. They spent the afternoon hiking and skiing what they called "great spring snow."
For some skiers it was snow that kept them from a favorite summer spot - Devil's Castle near Alta, for instance. Heavy snow blocked the Albion Basin road that leads to a trail to the snowfield. The road, in fact, didn't open until July 24th. The Forest Service campground there was among the last to open in Utah.
- Fruitgrowers are reporting later-than-normal blossoms. Apricots, which they say normally bloom around July 4, waited until July 24.
- Officials of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources report that many of the higher passes in the Uintas may not be snow-free this summer. In some cases the snow may stop people from visiting some of the more popular backcountry lakes.
Lower lakes are open, but snow did delay by a few weeks the scheduled first fish planting of the summer.
- Because of the heavy pack and late thaw, which has resulted in an ongoing runoff, fishing in lakes and streams is expected to be better this summer. The reason: Fish like colder water, and the prolonged runoff is expected to keep waters cooler than normal.
Typically, water temperatures rise in the summer, which pushes fish away from shores and into deeper waters. This is especially so with larger fish.