Winters in the Rocky Mountains are certain to include snow—and plenty of it. This seasonal snowpack may make getting around on steep mountainous roads treacherous at times, but it also is frozen life-blood, sustaining the region’s year-round health.
As snow falls, the winter tourism industry comes to life, spurring a healthy economy based on skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. Places like Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, offer ice festivals and winter fests to celebrate the beauty of the snowfall, especially sweet when juxtaposed to frolicking in the hot springs that dot the region. But snow is more than a playground. The winter’s snowpack provides water for drinking, agriculture, and industrial uses year-round across the western United States, with reservoirs capturing some of the snowmelt for use through the dry summer days.
On February 9, 2020, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of snow across the Rocky Mountains. Utah’s Great Salt Lake can be seen just outside the snowline in the southwest, while the bright blue Bear Lake, which straddles the border between Utah and Idaho, sits in a field of bright white snow. The image shows parts of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.