Students prepare for winter commute

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

Although snowfall in the Salt Lake Valley has declined over the past four years, U commuters are still preparing for the low temperatures, early morning flurries and slippery roads ahead.

Eric Lo entered his final year at the U this fall and decided he could not take one more winter commute to the U.

“I lived in Murray and commuted from there for two years,” said Lo, a senior in biology. “(Winter) is a big reason why I moved to 1200 East (near the U). Driving to the U in the winter sucks.”

The snow season officially runs from Nov. 6 to April 18.

The Salt Lake Valley’s snow season has shortened over the past 10 to 20 years, said John Horel, a U professor in meteorology.

“(The snow season is) 10 days less than it used to be about 50 years ago,” Horel said. “That’s tied into global warming. We’ve had several years in a row with less than average snowfall.”

Lo listed parking issues, freeway hazards and slow snowplows as primary reasons for his move. He switches between driving and walking to the U now, but because of parking and road hazards caused by snowfall, he expects to walk more often during the winter.

During the winter, when the campus has continual snowfall, the parking lots become chaos, Lo said.

“Early in the morning, like 8:00, nothing has been plowed, so everyone just starts making their own (parking) spots, and of course, they are off, so it limits the parking even more,” he said.

A late call to plow snow leads to backed up parking lots, said Sue Pope, the landscape maintenance and transportation supervisor. Campus landscape maintenance still tries to keep the sidewalks and roads clear for commuters’ safety.

“For the first snow, when (commuters) come up here, they expect all the snow to be gone and we try, but sometimes (it’s not possible),” Pope said. “We will work late, working overtime, 10- to 12-hour days.”

With an early warning, snowplows start at 2 a.m.

Road clearance depends on commuters’ schedules, said Will Farr, a junior in meteorology. He said he commutes to the U six early mornings per week and does not expect to drive on clear roads this winter.

“When you are driving at 5 a.m. (snowplows) usually don’t have the roads clear yet,” said Farr, who purchased off-road tires for this winter’s commute. “You need snow tires, or off-road tires and new windshield wipers,.”

Haly Coconis, a junior in biology, said she plans on taking advantage of TRAX and buses this winter as she continues to commute by bicycle for her second year.

“You don’t have to ride the whole way (on your bike),” Coconis said. “You can do half with TRAX and buses, where you can take your bike on.”

Coconis said that even with TRAX, bicyclists need to make special preparations for their winter commute.

“I got fenders recently, so I could ride without getting a stripe up my back,” she said.

Preston Jacobsen, a local bicycle shop manager, said he has started to see more winter items fly off his shelves. Jacobsen recommended fenders, extra layers of clothing, outer shell coats and pants and lights for a winter commute by bicycle.

“We’ve been selling a lot of lights, because it gets darker earlier,” he said. “We definitely sell more clothes during the winter.”

The Salt Lake Valley accumulated a total of 44 inches of snow last year. The average snowfall is 58 inches. Despite a low total, Salt Lake’s record snowfall for last winter hit 23 inches in 24 hours.

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