Alta’s Trees and How The Snow Did This WeekendBy Jill Adler
It almost feels like old times. It snowed a foot all day Sunday and we woke to gorgeous blue skies and temps in the 20s Monday to keep our new gift light and fluffy. Now, it really would be old times if there was a December base of 75 inches instead of 39 inches but beggars can’t be choosers. It snowed on and on and it was a lovely sight. Alta was reporting five inches of new and 10 inches in the last 48 hours. Sunday was supposed to be sunny or at least partly cloudy. But this is what it look like all day long. So much for weather forecasting. The storm total came out to about a foot.
You begin to appreciate trees in a whole new way when there's zero visibility, and, trust me, right now you want to see where you're going. Despite the new snow and the additional off-trail terrain opening up, there are landmines everywhere. I stood in the Race Arena as Ryan buzzed past me only to watch him flip up in the air and crash into a twisted heap halfway below all because of an underlying rock.
Alta has arguably the best tree skiing in the Wasatch so we headed over to Wildcat after giving his head a rest at Watson. In the trees, you can actually see the potentially hazardous stumps and rocks. We had the area to ourselves. The only signs of others were the soft moguls they left behind. The aspens and pines blocked the fog but embraced the new falling snow so we danced Kitty laps for the rest of the day.
Alta works closely with TreeUtah to preserve their groves. The non-profit is dedicated to planting trees throughout the state and educating people about the environmental and social benefits we get from them. The resort recognizes that trees are part of the product they’re selling. Crews of sawyers are constantly out glading to remove dead timber which could invite beetles or other infestations and this past summer they planted nearly 2000 pines and spruces; not just for looks and powder stashes in the winter but to keep our planet alive. Did you know that in one year, it takes one-acre of trees to provide air for 18 people?
The chlorophyll layer just under the bark of the aspen allows trees to synthesize CO2 even in the low light of winter. So while you’re tree skiing, air is being created all around you. Trees lower air temperatures by releasing water vapor through their leaves so the snow they trap stays better longer. Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water. They also prevent erosion as the snow is melting, absorb noise so your runs are filled with the sound of silence and provide habitats for the animals you’ve sent scurrying with your turns. There’s a lot to love about resort trees.
The trouble is that livestock grazing, wildlife chewing and butting trunks, fires, development and people carving their love letters into our trees have thinned out the tribes. No wonder we need to keep planting! The next time you’re playing off the Kitty or beating it in Eagle’s Nest take a moment to appreciate the terrain. You can help with simple things like not carving (it’s ok to pee) and having a voice at BLM meetings where hunters cry for larger elk herds. If you don’t have time to become more involved in how our lands are managed at least lend support to the people who can. TreeUtah works year round. Their next event is a Snowshoe Tree Hike at Wasatch Mountain State Park in Heber on January 10, 2015.