Alta 16,000 Years Ago

By | December 4, 2009

When I first got to know my wife I was introduced to a world of rocks and ages that I never even considered up until that point. Danette studied Geology at USU and her passion for that science was contagious. I still always bug her with silly questions about Geologic time scales and rock formations. 🙂 So anyways I was checking out the Alta Historical Society website earlier, and how freakin’ cool is this…

During the Wisconsin Glaciation the Wasatch Mountains trapped precipitation in such quantities in the winter that snow remained throughout the year and glaciers formed. These glaciers carved Alta’s distinctive terrain, broad U-shaped valleys, dramatic headwalls, hanging valleys, and steep gulleys. Today the Wasatch Mountains are the first major barrier to storms east of the Sierra Nevada Range. As Pacific storms cross the high desert of Nevada they grow colder and release their moisture as light, fluffy powder on the glacier-groomed slopes of Alta Ski Area, producing some of the finest skiing in the world. The geometry of Little Cottonwood Canyon with Alta at the mountain divide captures every possible flake of snow from passing storms and the “lake effect” of the Great Salt Lake adds to snow totals. The steep north-facing glacial headwalls of Mt. Baldy, Devils Castle and Sugarloaf Peak shade much of the area from sunshine preserving snow quality through much of the winter. All of these features combine to make the foundation of the totally unique Alta experience.

Read more from “Geology & Skiing Experience” and “A Geologist Describes 20 Favorite Runs at Alta” for cool tidbits like…

As you stand above the limestone outcrops at the top of Alf’s High Rustler, take a minute to imagine this place 16,000 years ago. The ice was 1500’ thick, almost up to your skis, two miles across, fifteen miles long and moving an average of about 10’/day.

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