600+ inches of snow in a single winter. Even after living through all 90+ days with snowfall, I still can’t believe it. That’s 50 feet of total snowfall that we’ve received at the cabin since it started accumulating in October and it never stopped. To show for it, our driveway is lined with 12+ foot snowbanks and mounds of snow around the house climb up to our second story, covering the windows. We can walk directly off our second story deck right onto the snow. We could even walk (ski) right off our roof. Our neighborhood plow truck quickly became useless, and required our area to use a tractor with a massive blower on it, in order to throw the snow off the road and up and over the 12 foot snowbanks that also line the roads. Houses even began to fail under the tremendous weight of the winter’s snowfall, with people’s roofs caving in, decks falling off, and sheds collapsing. This will be a winter that we will never forgot, but of course, we hope to never have to experience again. Last year, our first winter in the cabin, we were lucky to have very little snowfall, only 199 inches in total. But this year was 3 times that winter’s total. I know I can’t complain, because Utah needs the water, but damn, it was one tremendously difficult winter to get through, but we made it through!
How does one handle that much snow?
The best way to describe it, might be by the numbers. Since the first snow in October of 2022 until mid April, I’ve had to snow-blow 44 times, for a total of 55 hours of snow-blowing, and have walked a total distance of 31 miles in that time. Most mornings start out in the dark, snow-blowing for an hour before work and some nights before bed. Some times it required snow-blowing again if a storm cycle lasts the full day. Even if there is no new snow, you’ll spend an afternoon moving snow piles to prep for the next storm cycle. And that’s is just our driveway, which doesn’t include helping out the neighborhood streets with by driving a plow truck. And even that doesn’t include the time spent digging snow piles away from the sides of the cabin that have stacked up from sliding off the roof. The mounds of snow have climbed up to the second story, covering some of our windows. That being said, it requires a snow-thrower that can throw the snow over 15-20 feet high, otherwise, the thrown snow will just hit the side of the mounds of snow and slide back onto the driveway. Shoveling will not work, simply because there’s no where to move the snow to, without throwing it up and over the 12ft tall mounds.
If you had told me a few years ago, that I would be living in Utah during the snowiest winter on record, I would have been ecstatic! No doubt I would be skiing deep powder everyday I could. My friends and I would be skiing through chest deep snow, with a smile you couldn’t wipe off my face until June. By the end of the season, I imagine I’d ski over 100 days and have amazing bottomless days at the resort and countless days far in the backcountry. In reality, that couldn’t have been further from what actually happened this year. And by the end of this winter, I only began to resent snow more and more, and it pushed me further and further away from wanting to ski.
Beyond snow removal, what is it like?
This much snow makes everything twice as difficult. Leaving the neighborhood, you have to ensure the plow has gone by or else you can’t leave your house. And no doubt people will try anyway, and they get stuck, which means you are regularly helping tow or dig out stuck vehicles on the roads. With all this snow, brought colder temperatures, which meant a huge amount of heating needs within the home. Many cabins ran out of propane to heat their homes, and people had to heat their homes with small space heaters since the propane trucks can’t access homes in winter. Some that didn’t get back-up heat on in time, ended up with frozen pipes and water damage. Even we ran out of wood to heat our home, after burning through 10 cords of wood this winter! We thought we were set, but because our back-up wood pile is currently under 10 feet of snow, we just can’t access it until spring. So we’ve had to find wood for sale in Salt Lake to get us through the last few weeks of winter. Beyond the travel and temperatures, being stuck in a snow globe for 7 months can be quite a suffocating feeling. No matter what you do, you can feel trapped by winter here, when in contrast just a few miles away, the town of Park City is living a normal life and going about business as usual.
Not only were the people affected, but also the wildlife. All over the Wasatch Mountains, the big wildlife was struggling due to the deep snowpack. We witnessed it first hand when we had moose hang out in our driveway for a few weeks this winter because they simply could not travel in the deep snow any longer. Regularly we saw Elk, Deer, and Moose hanging out on the roads or at the lower elevations near the highway, just to try and escape the deeper snow we had around the cabins. And worse yet, because the snow was 10 feet in some areas, the source of food for these animals were completely buried, and has strained many of the herds and faced starvation this winter. Luckily, the DNR officers were out in the field dropping off hay bales for wildlife to get them through the toughest weeks in hopes they can make it to the spring melt.
Was it worth it?
Of course, we made it work. We still made it down the hill and into town nearly every day for either work or fun. Did it take more time and usually accompanied with greater frustration, yes. Were we constantly having to dig out everything outside from our cars to the wood pile, yes. And despite all of the struggles, it is stunningly beautiful to look out over the mountain and see nothing but a white sheet of snow blanketing the entire landscape. Not only was it visually beautiful, but it was perfectly quiet, which is a rare occurrence these days. We would get out for snowshoes, ski tours, and of course on the snowmobile to tour the neighborhood when we had the energy. The dog seemed to thrive in it much better than we did, being able to romp around all the snow piles, hanging out with the neighbor dogs via a long trench between our houses. He would follow me around every day when I would snow-blow in hopes that I would throw him a snowball to chase. The daily snow removal and shoveling even became a morning exercise routine where I’d listen to long podcasts and just zone out, which all became a sort of meditation of mine. But nothing gave us more perspective than when friends and family would come to visit and see more snow than they’ve ever experienced in their life (outside of a ski resort). All of this, has really added to us gaining perspective on living this cabin life. This winter challenge, lasting months, and seemingly endless, was ultimately empowering. Was it incredible difficult, absolutely. But was this also one of the most incredibly rewarding experiences of our lives, yes.
Hi there, my name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.