Words by Alf Alderson
There’s an urban myth that the Inuit have around a hundred words for snow, although a recent article in the Washington Post claims the figure is actually 50. But North American marketing men seem intent on pushing the number of English words for the white stuff even higher.
Steamboat Springs has its ‘champagne powder’ (a trademarked term), British Columbia skiers float through ‘white smoke’ while in Utah you’ll be skiing the ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’.
Or will you? Last month my friend James and I decided to challenge this rather outlandish claim in the most practical way possible – we’d go and ski half-a-dozen of Utah’s best resorts on a mini-road trip and decide for ourselves.
But before I relate this traveller’s tale, some science…
Utah’s claim to enjoy the ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’ is based upon it having a combination of snow with a relative low moisture content, typically 8.5 per cent compared to over 10 per cent in the Alps, along with enough ‘body’ to allow you to float through it. This is the gift of storms passing over the Great Salt Lake to the west, which results in a phenomenon known as the ‘Lake Effect’.