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Utah Claims to Have the Greatest Snow on Earth, But How Does Steamboat's 'Champagne Powder' Compare?

February 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM | by | ()

We told you about the sexy, clothing-optional Strawberry hot springs and showed you photos of a pretty amazing ski day, but now it's time to get a little nerdy. For years, Utah has claimed to have "the greatest snow on earth" with its classic trademark, but Steamboat Springs and its "Champagne Powder" might have something to say about that.

We'll save you the science lesson, but what it all boils down to is the amount of water in the snow. A study conducted by the University of Utah concluded that while other areas may get similar snow fall, it is the low water content of Utah's powder (along with smart marketing) that gives it its worldwide reputation.

Ian McCubbin, Manager of Storm Peak Laboratory, one of the country’s highest climate laboratories located at an altitude of 10,568 ft outside of Steamboat, thinks the same could be said for his ski town, whose powder averages 6% density. In other words, ten inches of melted snow from Steamboat produces six-tenths of an inch of water. According to the aforementioned study, Alta Ski Area's average water content is 8.2% -- slightly higher than the numbers reported by Steamboat. In a ski world where we accept that drier is generally better, Steamboat sure seems like it has a case.

But who really has the driest? Who freaking knows. The way numbers get thrown around these days, it's almost impossible to know with certainty. But the bigger picture is that if Utah is considered as having some of the best and driest powder in the States, then Steamboat should probably be in the same conversation. Yet, when it comes to Colorado, it's always Vail, Breck, and Aspen that get the attention.

The phrase "Champagne Powder" was coined by a local farmer well before the ski resort even opened in Steamboat. The legend goes that as this farmer was skiing deep powder on the terrain that would eventually become today's ski resort, he said the light, fluffy snow "tickled his nose like champagne" as he skied through it. How much champagne he had consumed before making this statement is unclear.

When we skied Steamboat over Super Bowl weekend, we were treated to a storm full of said Champagne Powder, and having skied other Colorado and Utah resorts thoroughly, we can tell you that it was the best snow we've yet to ski in Colorado and on par with what we've come to expect from Utah. With direct flights from the east coast/midwest and a location less than three hours from Denver (a closer drive than Aspen), don't sleep on Steamboat when planning your next ski trip.

[Images: Ryan Dearth]

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