December 7, 2007

Got Snow?



Some places do, some don’t

If you’re like us, you’re a really big fan of snow and snowstorms and blizzards—most anything to do with snow. During the winter, you check the weather report several times a day. The majority of your “favorite” saved websites on your computer are weather-related (currently we have 10 such “favorites” on our saved list—almost all of which are checked several times a day).

Like us, you’re mindset is summer is great but winter is awesome.

That’s why, when you’re looking at a map or driving around in the summer or winter and you come across a place with the name “snow” in it, your heart just about skips a beat.

Over the years during our travels all over the snow belt, we’ve come across dozens of such places. Some of those locales live up to their name and some, well, not so much.

When it comes to making the most out of the word snow, the downhill ski industry has it figured out, with several resorts in the West using “snow” in their names. There are such places as Snowbird and Snowbasin in Utah, Snowmass in Colorado, Snow Valley in California, Snow King in Jackson, WY, and the list goes on.

But you know what, that marketing ploy is a given. Don’t you expect a ski resort to somehow work snow into its name? Who is going to go skiing at Bare Mountain Ski Resort?

Most of the places we ride have had their names long before snowmobiling was ever thought of. In fact, we don’t know any snowmobile-specific places that have been named for or by snowmobilers (although locals usually have their own names for their favorite riding spots). Although, that could be kind of fun. Like, how about Get Stuck Creek or Powder Mountain or Boondocker Basin or Hell Hole. Maybe they wouldn’t have “snow” in the name anywhere, but it would be fun to come up with a few of our own names.

Anyway, back to the snow in named places.

Our interest in places with the name snow in them started years ago while driving through Snowville, UT, in a raging blizzard and thinking, “yea, that name fits.”

But it was a drive through Christmas Valley, OR, last winter on our way back from snowmobiling in Klamath County that we finally decided to write some sort of story about snowy places. There was not one spec of snow in Christmas Valley and we were thinking, how does a place get a name like that when it should at least have some snow.

With the creation of the Internet and the relative ease of being able to do research, we started casually searching for other places with snow in their name. Add to that the dozens of places we traveled through with the name of snow in them, such as Snow Mountain in Oregon, Snowline, MT, Wyoming’s Snowy Range and more.

We wanted some cold, hard facts so we got a little more serious in our snow research, discovering many places with snow in their name are less than deserving of the title. No offense, Snowville, UT, but that includes you. Despite our blizzard experience years ago in Snowville, weather records show the tiny northern Utah town (pop. 167) gets about 21.2 inches of snow every winter.

Then there’s Snow Creek in southern California which gets a minuscule 1.5 inches of snow every year. Or Snowflake, AZ, which manages just 17.8 inches a winter.

On the flip side, though, some places are more than deserving and do the name proud. How about the Snowy Range in southeast Wyoming. Fox Park, located in the southern part of the Snowies (as the locals call them) averages 180.2 inches of snow a winter at its 9,000-foot elevation.

While we think most ski resorts tend to exaggerate their average snowfall figures (the common number seems to be 300 inches per winter), we think Utah’s Snowbird Ski Resort is pretty spot on when it comes to true snowfall totals. Snowbird claims 500 inches of snow each winter. Official weather records show Alta Ski Resort, just two miles up the road, averages over 512 inches a winter. In fact, Alta has the greatest average annual snowfall for Utah and hold the winter snowfall record at 846.8 inches. So it’s very believable that Snowbird, which is just a few miles from Salt Lake City, gets the snowfall it says it does—and does its name proud.

This next area doesn’t have snow in the title but it’s a wintery kind of fun named place. It’s the Never Summer Wilderness in northcentral Colorado. We rode around this Wilderness last winter and gazed at its towering peaks, some snow clad, some not (depended on which way the wind blew how much snow there was). There are 17 peaks in the Never Summer Wilderness that rise above 12,000 feet. There is one snotel site in the Wilderness, sitting at 10,280 feet. Last winter didn’t produce an average snowfall in this part of Colorado so when the snotel site showed the deepest the snow got was 65.2 inches that was probably off from a normal year. The town of Grand Lake, which is just south and a little east of the Never Summer Wilderness gets an average of 144 inches of snow at the weather recording site, which sits at 8,700 feet. The law of averages tells you that when it comes to mountains, the taller ones get more snow so if we could assume, then you’d have to think that the Wilderness area is usually awash in snow—snow that doesn’t melt over the course of the summer, at least at the higher elevations.

We could go on and on about specific locations in the West with snow in the name because we did a fair amount of looking those places up.

One of our favorite websites is www.topozone.com. Go to www.topozone.com and start searching for places with “snow” in them and you’ll get dozens and dozens of results. We entered snow mountain, snowy peak, snow creek, snowy creek, snowy lake, snowy mountain, snow peak, snow river and just plain ‘ol snow and came back with more than a hundred results. You could probably spend hours (we already did) if you were to continue on with more snow names, i.e., snow canyon, snow valley, etc.

Just an interesting side note to the www.topozone.com website. When we entered all those snow-related names, we didn’t get a single return in the state of Colorado. We’re sure there are snow-named places, but we couldn’t find any, except of course Snowmass. Then, when we entered Snow Mountain, there were six such named places in California alone.

Here are a few snow-named areas in more detail, some of which live up to the lofty expectations of having snow in their name and some which don’t. And there is no rhyme or reason to the places we picked. If we were to do it again, we might come up with a completely different list. Remember, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of snow-named places.

 

Snow Mountain, Oregon

 

Elevation 7,163 feet

Annual Snowfall 100 inches

Location Northwest of Burns, OR, just about on the Grant/Harney county line. The snowfall for Snow Mountain is merely a quasi guess on our part. There is a snotel site on Snow Mountain but it sits at 6,220 feet, nearly 1,000 feet from the mountain’s summit. Interestingly enough, on Sept. 11, 2007 the snotel site read 7 inches of snow. The deepest snow reading from last winter was 36.2 inches. The closest official snow readings we could find was Seneca (elevation 4,660 feet), which averages 57.1 inches of snow. It’s about 25 miles away from Snow Mountain as the bird flies. We think 100 inches is a pretty good guess for snow mountain.

 

Snowline, Montana

Elevation Approximately 6,500 feet

Annual Snowfall 40-55 inches

Location Exit 9 off Interstate 15 in Montana. Snowline is just north of the Monida Pass, which crosses the Continental Divide between Spencer, ID, and Lima, MT. Lima’s (elevation 6,270 feet) annual snowfall is 51.5 inches while at Monida (6,790 feet) the snowfall is 37.9 inches.

 

Snowville, Utah

Elevation 4,540 feet

Annual Snowfall 21.2 inches

Location Northern Utah, near the Utah/Idaho border

 

Snowflake, Arizona

Elevation 5,640 feet

Annual Snowfall 17.8 inches

Location The northern edge of the White Mountains in eastcentral Arizona. Jordan Flake purchased the land where present day Snowflake is and the town received its name from a visitor to the area, Erastus Snow, who, according to the town’s chamber of commerce suggested the “colorful name as a humorous suggestion.”

 

Snow Laboratory Central, California

Elevation 6,910 feet

Annual Snowfall 470.7 inches

Location In the Uhlen Valley off Interstate 80 west of Truckee and north of Crater Lake

 

Snowball Ranch, Nevada

Elevation 7,160 feet

Annual Snowfall 44.8 inches

Location In the Antelope Range just about smack dab in the middle of the state of Nevada.

 

Snowshoe Lake, Alaska

Elevation 2,300 feet

Annual Snowfall 49.1 inches

Location North of the Glenn Highway, west of Tazlina Lake and the town of Glennallen.

 

Snow Creek Upper, California

Elevation 1,940 feet

Annual Snowfall 1.5 inches (yea, 1 point 5)

Location West of the Salton Sea in the Lower Borrego Valley in Southern California, just southeast of Ocotillo Wells, which gets 1.8 inches of precipitation a year and has less than five days when it rains.

 

Snoqualmie Pass, Washington

Elevation 3,020 feet

Annual Snowfall 440 inches

Location East of Seattle on Interstate 90. Yea, we kind of cheated on this but three of the four key letters—sno—are in the name so that works for us. Besides, this place gets a lot of snow and deserves a little recognition.

 

Snowy Range, Wyoming

Elevation 7,000-11,000 feet

Annual Snowfall 300 inches

Location Southeast Wyoming. This information differs a little from what was mentioned in the main story but we’re using other information we’ve gleaned over the years from riding in the Snowies and also taking into account that Fox Park is about 9,000 feet and you can ride up to 11,000 feet in these mountains, where the snow piles up even deeper.

 

Christmas Valley, Oregon

Elevation 4,330 feet

Annual Snowfall 30.1 inches

Location Southcentral Oregon. This is another no-snow named spot, but hey, Christmas Valley conjures of images of snow. However, when we drove through this tiny town (pop. 979) last February there was not a lick of snow in sight except way off in the distance (mountains to the south).

 

Snow Creek, Idaho

Elevation 7,679

Annual Snowfall 200 inches

Location Northeast of Mesa Falls, within a couple of miles of the Yellowstone National Park boundary.







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