a.winter Author Alaynia is a junior studying Journalism at the U. She is a Salt Lake City native and a proud dog mom of an 11-year-old pit bull named Maynerd. When she's not studying or writing for Wasatch, she is hiking, skiing, gardening and doing photography. She is passionate about environmental and social justice issues. Some things you are likely to find in her apartment include paraphernalia of The Beatles, David Bowie, and Star Wars. After graduating, she hopes to become a photojournalist and travel.

Most Polluted Snow on Earth

Anybody visiting Utah in winter has seen it, smelled it, and maybe even tasted it. Our polluted air, which brought us into first place for the worst air quality in the U.S. last week, defines the state.  Even non-skiers pray for snow days to clear out the brownish-yellow haze that looms above us. Storms mean clear skies and fresh air, for all is well again, right? Maybe things aren’t as pristine as they seem.

David Whitman, a research professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah, explains that a snowstorm followed by a few days of clear skies sets up a “cold-air pool”. Whitman says that these cold fronts and snow storms cause cold temperatures near the ground. As air temperatures in the afternoon become warmer, pollutants mix and are carried over the mountains away from the Wasatch Front. This causes temporary “clean air”. But, when one of these cold-air pools sets up, there is less vertical mixing and pollutants become trapped within the valley. Snowstorms are simply a cover up, not a solution for Utah’s pollution problem.

Additionally, pollutants and temperature could be changing the snowfall more than we thought.

It’s widely known that dust and pollutants cause the snow to melt faster, but the U’s Atmospheric Science Department conducts research and experiments to see just how pollutants such as dust, aerosols and carbon gas emissions affect snowfall and snowflake formation. The studies, led by Professor John Horel, David Whitman, Tim Garrett and others, show that crystal structures are dependent on chemical influence and temperature. A change in these variables changes the structure. According to the studies, not only do pollutants make snow melt faster, but these added environmental variables make it more difficult to form in the first place.

Our Wasatch Front is famous for its signature fluffy, powdery snow. Utah’s desert climate and dry weather conditions give us the claim to fame of “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” but our world famous powder has to form under the correct conditions. A snowflake’s water content determines its shape and heaviness. More pollution means warmer weather, and warmer weather means more moisture in the air, which leads to heavier snow.

What does this mean for the future of snow in Utah? It could mean more artificial snow needed each year to keep resorts running. With rising temperatures, this also could mean less world famous powder and shorter seasons. While snow can be produced in a lab, a changing climate might forever change our renowned powder.


Photo by Carolyn Webber


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Air Purifying Plants to Help you Through the Inversion

It’s that time of year. Everyone is sick with the never-ceasing headache, stuffy nose, runny nose, and cough combo. Utah’s polluted air makes it hard to take a deep breath and clear our sinuses. In addition to the car exhaust and factory pollution that sneaks its way into our living rooms, the EPA ranks indoor air quality as a top five environmental risk to public health. EPA studies found indoor air pollutants from sources like burning candles, paints, fabrics, and cleaning products are two to five times greater than outdoor pollution levels.
Luckily for us, Mother Nature has provided us with a natural way to help our lungs fight back against these self-inflicted winter ailments– plants. That’s right, buy house plants! We all know plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, but did you know they also filter out particulate matter and carcinogens? According to the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, plants improve indoor air and make interior breathing spaces healthier. Basically, plants rock.
In addition to improving air quality, plants are nice to look at and will help alleviate some of that cabin fever. Here are some magical air-filtering and practically indestructible plants for your apartment or dorm that are budget friendly.

Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is one of the most unique and beautiful plants. Its pastel green color and spiny leaves look great on bookshelves and, well, anywhere. Everyone knows of its skin-healing and anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s also a superstar at filtering out formaldehyde. Aloe Vera doesn’t need too much sun, so put it in a well-lit room, water it every three to four days, and it (and you) will be a happy camper.

Garden Mum
Cute name, tough plant. If you want to add some color to your pad, Garden Mums, aka Chrysanthemums, are the perfect choice. They come in many different colors and filter out all the bad stuff. Ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, benzene-you name it. In addition, these are very affordable, typically costing less than $5.

Snake Plant
If you have a gift for killing every plant you come into contact with, this is the choice for you. Snake plants are known for their hardiness. They like to be watered occasionally and have some sun, but you can put them anywhere in your space and it will do just fine. In addition to formaldehyde and benzene, this plant friend filters out trichloroethylene and xylene.
You can find these plants and more at a number of garden stores in the downtown area. I recommend Paradise Palm on 307 E. Broadway or Western Gardens, located right behind Trolley Square. However, there are a number of local shops and nurseries like Thyme and Place, Cactus and Tropicals, or Millcreek Gardens that will have what you need and more.


Photo by Alaynia Winter


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Grandeur Peak: A Grand Adventure Year-Round

Winter in the Wasatch brings crisp mornings glinting from a fresh layer of frost. It’s dark and sunless until close to 8 a.m., making the brisk air sharp in your lungs without the tempering warmth of the sun. If you are anything like me, your summer is filled with hiking, biking, and climbing. Then, at sign of first snow you immediately retreat into hibernation mode. Mornings and weekends once filled with adventure are now spent indoors binge watching Netflix and eating an assortment of Holiday-themed comfort foods. However, winter hiking is a great way to get through the winter blues and has many perks that summer hiking doesn’t provide: no bugs, no crowds, and no smog. Grandeur Peak is the ideal snowshoe or hike if you like a challenging trail with spectacular views of the valley and neighboring mountain ranges, without the near death experience. While this trail isn’t the most difficult or treacherous, it’s still no walk in the park. With an elevation gain of roughly 2,600 feet and approximately five miles round trip, the hike finishes at 8,299 feet.

There are two ways to approach this hike: from the steeper west face, accessed from Wasatch Boulevard at about 2900 South on Cascade Way via Frontage Road, or from Mill Creek Canyon beginning at the Church Fork picnic area via 3800 South in East Mill Creek. There is a small toll fee of $3 if you are entering Mill Creek Canyon, so keep this in mind.

The west face hikes begin just out of the parking lot. Walk up the dirt road and take the first right fork. This trail is a little less marked than the Church Fork trail, but the rule of thumb is “just stay right”. The trail begins on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and (depending on snow levels) is a bit icy and rocky for the first mile. Wear waterproof hiking boots and bring trekking poles. You’ll spot scrub oak, sage brush, snow, more snow and a deer or two. Grandeur Peak is a dog-friendly trail, so feel free to bring your four-legged friend with you. You’ll indefinitely meet a few other furry friends along the way.

About a mile in, the trail gets significantly steeper. If you are snowshoeing, wear rolling or mountain terrain snowshoes. These have larger decks and more traction, which makes them better suited for icy, steep terrain and deep powdery snow. About two miles in, the mountain becomes a true winter wonderland. Nothing but bright white, glistening snow for miles around. From the false summit, look down at a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley. It’s tempting to stop here, but don’t. The trail becomes very steep and one final quarter-mile push gets you to its peak. Here you can stop, pat yourself on the back and have lunch while taking in 360 degree views of surrounding peaks, such as the majestic Mount Olympus to the south. To descend, simply follow the trail back down the way you came. Remember to bring plenty of water and don’t forget your thermos.


Photos by Alaynia Winter


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What Kind of Adventurer Are You?

Author of “Desert Solitaire,” Edward Abbey, says there are three types of adventurers: Desert Rats, Mountain People, and People of the Sea. If you’ve ever wondered what type of Adventurer you are, answer these simple questions to find out. “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”

You have the weekend off, what would you rather do?

A. Sail in the Great Salt Lake

B. Summit Mount Timpanogos

C. Climb sandstone pillars in Indian Creek in southern Utah

What motivates you?

A. Having a clear goal or set destination, and reaching it.

B. Being the first to reach my goals and making sure everyone knows it.

C. Having no set expectations, just enjoying the moment.

If you had a slogan, which would it be?

A. “If in doubt, paddle it out.”

B. “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

C. “Sand runs through my veins.”

If you had to be consumed by an animal, which would you choose?

A. Killer Whale

B. Grizzly Bear

C. Vulture

Who is your favorite poet or author?

A. Walt Whitman

B. Henry David Thoreau

C. Edward Abbey…duh.

What statement would you say best describes you in relationships?

A. My relationships are usually short lived, but my devotion is as deep as the ocean.

B. I enjoy company, but get cranky and need my space. I ultimately want to share my successes surrounded by people I love.

C. I need alone time and a lot of it.

Which of these smells turns you on?

A. Salty Breeze

B. Pine Needles

C. Sage Brush

If you answered mostly A, you are a Person of the Sea. People who know you may call you a Beach Bum, Sea Creature, mermaid or merman, or any other aquatic nickname. You tend to be wise and methodical in your decisions and a team player. For your next adventure, try floating the Great Salt Lake or rafting down the Green River.

If you answered mostly B, you are a bonafide “mountain man/woman”. You are brave outgoing and daring. You live for the moments where you can stand on top of the world where few others have stood. Take a weekend trip to Rocky Mountain National Park or hike any of our beautiful trails on the Wasatch mountain range. Try hiking up to Bell’s Canyon or Lone Peak on your next adventure.

If you answered mostly C, you are a Desert Rat. Congrats, Edward Abbey would be proud. You are now an honorary member of the Monkey Wrench gang. Well, maybe not. You enjoy challenges and being outside your comfort zone. You see beauty where others don’t. For your next trip, try backpacking in Moab or near Grand Staircase National Monument.


Photo by Carolyn Webber


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Free Skier Society – Supervention II Screening


Whether you’re an experienced skier or just getting started, you should know about the Utah Freeskier Society, a student-run organization started in 2001 whose goal is to promote the sport of skiing on campus at the U.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, they will screen Supervention II, a new ski documentary by Field Productions. This screening will be the premier in the United States, so ski bums and film lovers, rejoice. This event is not to be missed. Tickets are $5 at the door for members and $10 for non-members. There will be an accompanying raffle with the chance to win free skis, poles, goggles, gift cards, and outerwear, along with many companies and brands giving out free schwag.

The event will be held in the U’s College Of Social Work Auditorium. Raffle begins at 7:15, so mark your calendars and clear your schedules. Visit the Utah Free Skier’s website here or follow them on Facebook to find out more and stay in the loop on all the upcoming events.

Through a Utah Freeskier Society membership, you can get massive discounts on season passes at Brighton, Alta, Park City Mountain Resort, and more, plus huge gear discounts on tons of big name brands. They host ski-related events and activities throughout the year.



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How to: Winterize Your Bicycle

Winter is fast approaching here in the Salt Lake Valley, and if you are like the large number of college students whose main form of transportation is bicycle or foot, it can be a hassle to get around. It’s time to prepare your two-wheeled ride for the snow. These simple hacks will make your winter cycling a little easier.


The first thing you need to do to is replace your brake pads. You can get them for less than $10 at any local bike shop or online retailer. Having fresh brakes on your bike is like having good soles on your shoes. The sidewalk can get very icy so when the rubber hits the road, or hits the snow in this case, you have a better chance of staying upright.


Cooking Spray isn’t just for the kitchen. Pam spray or coconut oil spray is a cyclists’ best friend in the wintertime. It can be used as an undercoat for a metal frame and cleats, or temporary lube for your chain. It will make wiping off all that sludge and grime much easier. Spraying it on your frame before you go out also gives your bike a buffer from the elements.


Checking your bike’s tire pressure is always important, but especially on snow and ice. Invest in a small, portable tire pump that will fit in your pack. When filling your tires, fill them at a slightly lower psi so they are flexible and better in bumpier road conditions. Shoot for somewhere around 70 to 80 for narrow road tires and 50 to 60 for hybrid tires.


Thanks to good old daylight savings, the sun sets around 5 p.m. in winter months. Being seen is the most important measure you can take, besides wearing a helmet, to protect yourself from accidents or injuries. Most bike lights run on batteries and the cold will zap them of their juice much faster than in the summer. Try storing your lights in your backpack or attaching them to your helmet when you go indoors to maximize the battery life. Reattaching them before you ride can seem like a hassle at first, but so will having to replace your batteries all winter long. Plus, Mother Earth will thank you for it.

Happy cycling winter warriors.

Photo by Alaynia Winter


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Super Moon to light up the sky tonight

The moon has always been an object of fascination for humans and has long been explored in science, literature, and art. Whether you’re an astronomer, a romantic, or just enjoy looking at the night sky, make sure you look up tonight and tomorrow.  The anticipated “super moon” will be the biggest, brightest, and closest to earth than it has been since 1948. The next time the moon comes this close to Earth will be November of 2034.

A super moon is when the moon is full as it makes its closest pass to Earth. The point at which the moon is closest to Earth is known as perigee. At perigee, the moon can be as much as 14 percent closer to Earth than when the moon is farthest from it, according to NASA. The full moon will appear larger in diameter and because it is larger, shines approximately 30 percent more moonlight onto the Earth. That’s a lot of extra moonlight. As a bonus to an already spectacular astronomical evening, if you’re lucky, you may be able to see the Geminid meteor shower dotting the night sky.

If you’re wondering when and where to catch a front row seat of the cosmos, here’s what you need to know: the moon will be at its fullest at 6:52 am MST (Mountain Standard Time). So get up early, or stay up late, to see the moon in all its glory. Here are some of the best spots to take advantage of the lunar views this Monday.

Emigration Canyon —

Emigration Canyon has many great pull-out spots along the road so you can observe the night sky.  Just a few miles up the canyon and you are above the haze and light pollution from the valley. If you have a telescope, it will be a great place to set up. Remember to bring a blanket and warm clothing as it can get chilly at night in the canyon.

Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon —

Drive up the canyons and park near one of the ski resorts to really escape light glow from the city. The air is cooler and crisper, making it easier to see astronomical phenomena. Plus, the backdrop of the mountains is incredible for photos or simply viewing.

Antelope Island —

About a two-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Antelope Island State Park offers the ability to camp overnight, allowing for uninterrupted viewing time. The Ogden Astronomical Society also hosts star parties regularly. Check their website here for more information on any upcoming events.


Photo by Kiffer Creveling


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Birding on Utah’s Salty Shores

Despite its seemingly dead appearance at first glance, the Great Salt Lake is a fascinating ecosystem rich with life. It happens to be one of the most important bird migration stops in western North America. Thanks to the mostly arid Utah climate, birds congregate around bodies of water, making the vast lake home to millions of shore birds, water birds, songbirds, and birds of prey, such as bald eagles and falcons. Birding enthusiasts and conservationists flock to the lake from all over to experience its diverse and colorful bird life. In late summer, watch in awe as giant flocks of red necked phalaropes create their signature whirlpools in the salty waters, stirring up brine shrimp and other invertebrates to feast on before their long journey to South America. In the winter, spot a majestic barn owl on the hunt catch a rabbit in its powerful talons.

One of the hotspots for bird watchers is Antelope Island. This 28,800 acre state park is open year round and hosts antelope, bison, and bighorn sheep. Don’t let the dropping temperatures fool you, now is prime time to bring your binocs and watch the show. Some birds to look for in the winter months include grebes, tundra swans, horned larks, and chukars.You’ll find tundra swans aren’t hard to miss with their symphony of honks, while horned larks are a bit more subtle with soft calls, sometimes seen singing with their yellow colored faces and white underbellies visible while perched on rocks or signs.

Before you embark on your birding adventure, you’re going to need some essentials.

Binoculars: These will transform tiny flying specks into colorful and detailed patterns and feathers. A pair can range from $30 to upwards of $500. With a bit of research you can find the best pair for your needs.

A field guide: Specifically a field guide with pictures, so you know what you’re looking at. You can get a reputable and relatively low cost guide for under $10 from National Geographic or the National Audubon Society. You can also find guides regional to Utah for under $5 at most bookstores.

A camera: One with a telephoto lens if possible. Short-range portrait lenses don’t capture detail from a distance, much like your naked eye.

If you are interested in going full-on bird-nerd and learning more about the Great Salt Lake and its feathered friends, the Salt Lake Audubon Society is hosting their biennial Friends of The Great Salt Lake Birds n’ Bites: Highlights of the 2016 Great Salt Lake Issues Forum on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7:00 p.m., at the Tracy Aviary Education Building.

You can also check out the Great Salt Lake Audubon official website for a calendar of events, including a number of guided field trips with bird watching experts.



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The fate of Bears Ears

If you’ve been following the Bears Ears National Monument issue, you may have felt the rising heat over this topic. Last Thursday, the Bennion Center held a panel discussion to educate students and the public about the recent proposal to designate 1.9 million acres of land, spanning from approximately Lake Powell to Moab as the Bears Ears National Monument. What does this all mean?

Bears Ears is rich with breathtaking scenic hiking and backpacking trails, natural resources, cultural artifacts, and spiritual sites. The land is home to over 100,000 cultural and spiritual sites, making it a prime target for lootings. More than a dozen damaging cases of looting and desecration of graves were reported between May 2014 and April 2015. The Cedar Mesa and White Mesa regions in the proposed area are especially controversial, as these stretches of land contain oil and uranium. Recently, oil and gas companies have been pushing for leases allowing oil development and mining in Bears Ears. Natives believe that once disturbed, these resources and the land’s cultural integrity will be lost forever.

Photo by Alaynia Winters

Photo by Alaynia Winter

The Intertribal Coalition says a national monument designation will improve management of off-road vehicles that damage cultural sites, increase patrol to stop looting and gravesite robbing, and protect the land from contemporary threats of energy development. However, many San Juan residents are skeptical of the monument. At Thursday’s panel, Devin Bayles-Hancock, a resident of San Juan County, argued against the desire to shift toward a tourism economy, saying “tourism is not the answer. It is an unsustainable source of income.” The tribal coalition maintains that a national monument designation will bring more sustainable jobs with the ecotourism industry as well as opportunities to educate and inform visitors about the land and the culture surrounding San Juan County.

Forrest Kutch, member of the Ute Nation and panelist, told students and attendees, “Our time to be heard is now. Educate yourselves. Educate yourself about our state, our land, and pollution. Pollution is the name of the game, folks. We cannot afford to be silent anymore.” What can we do as students? Environmental Studies major Molly Scoville, who attended the panel, says, “It’s important we have open dialogue with both sides represented. We have to let go of labels in order to move forward together.” Have discussions with other students about this issue, regardless of which side you fall on. Most importantly, as students and residents of Utah, let’s celebrate the beauty of this remarkable place right in our backyard. If you want to check out the area for yourself, try planning your next climbing trip at Indian Creek, floating the San Juan River, or backpacking through the stunning Valley of the Gods or the Grand Gulch. You won’t regret it.

Photo by Carolyn Webber

Photo by Carolyn Webber


Feature photo by Alaynia Winter


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