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Loving Winter: It’s All Academic

The University of Utah: Best College for Winter Enthusiasts

The University of Utah recently made the top ten in yet another national ranking.

In this instance, U.S. News and World Report put the U in its list of the “Best Colleges for Winter Enthusiasts”. For some, that’s a no brainer.  After all, Utah is a four-season climate, and the campus is nestled in the foothills of the Wasatch range. That means you can count on snow for five months of the year, and in less than an hour, you can bask in the landscape and atmospherics that provide some of the world’s best skiing/boarding.

Yes, there is a reason that the department of atmospheric sciences has a web page dedicated to “Utah Ski Weather”.

Yet even folks who don’t take advantage of “The Greatest Snow on Earth” for recreation benefit from it. Utah’s mountains and weather provide vistas as dramatic and inspiring as anyone could need—to think, create and work to the utmost of their abilities, regardless of their discipline.

However, should the outdoors inform your academic as well as recreational interests, the U offers a host of programs, degree options, and classes in a wide range of fields. Here is just a sample of areas to explore:

Study mountain meteorology. Through the department of atmospheric sciences, you can experience an interdisciplinary research program that focuses on weather and climate in regions of complex terrain (like Utah), with particular attention to ecological, water resource and air quality issues facing the increasingly urbanized western United States.  *

Specialize in environmental and natural resources law. Learn from faculty at the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and Environment, whose teaching and research on wide-ranging environmental issues–from water rights to wildlife conservation to ecosystem management–is informed by the ‘living laboratory’ of Utah and its environs.

Prepare yourself to manage a commercial resort. You can choose to emphasize Commercial Recreation Management in a degree through the department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. Learn business, marketing and management skills in a recreational setting that is second to none.

Combine your interests in science and humanities. The Masters degree in Environmental Humanities is designed to accommodate growing interest in merging a humanities perspective on environmental areas of scholarship. Utah is a perfect site to explore how human perspectives intersect with and influence public policy, scientific, legal, industrial, and corporate concerns.

Is it true that “people go to the U just to ski”? Roughly 20 percent of the U’s out-of-state students come from the northeast and Midwest—suggesting that about 1,100 students prefer to add some vertical to their winters. But that simple “just” statement overlooks something as deep and valuable as the snow: the landscape here draws people of talent from around the globe, provides unique learning experiences, and inspires all of us, whether or not we count the snow as a blessing.

* Jim Steenburgh, chair of Atmospheric Sciences, has his own opinion about this ranking–and about weather in general.  You’ll want to read his take on the blog “Wasatch Weather Weenies”.