Snow Reports – What the Ski Areas Don’t Want You to Know
March 4, 2021
Even in Covid times when there is a lot to figure out before one heads for the slopes, the most important thing we want to know is – how is the damn skiing!! If the skiing isn’t good, why figure out all that other stuff. As you might suspect, we at conSKierge look at many reports from many different ski areas. We are routinely struck at the numerous different ways a resort can either, in excruciating detail, tell you nothing useful about the true conditions or just simply provide few details.
Let’s start with a little history. While we aren’t sure of the correct dividing line, if you are over 50, you most likely grew up with the reporting scale that all areas used that ranked the conditions from poor to excellent. It resulted in very short, useless reports that would perhaps give snow depth (more on that in a bit), say the conditions are for example “poor to fair” or “good to excellent” and perhaps give a hint as to whether the surface was frozen granular or powder (with seemingly nothing in between!). Given the subjective nature of such reports, it was not surprising that we got wildly varying reports from neighboring areas.
The good news is that reports have improved, and the poor to excellent ratings have gone the way of Cubco bindings. But they leave much to be desired, and you won’t be surprised to learn there are some common aspects to current reports that irk us.
Our first pet peeve, while arguably small, relates to how hidden the snow reports are on many websites. Often it takes 4/5 clicks on the computer to get to any real information about current conditions. No, we didn’t want to know how you have reimagined the mountain experience; no, we didn’t yet want to buy a ticket; and no, we didn’t want to see the two night packages you have available in May. WE WANT TO KNOW IF THE SKIING IS ANY GOOD!
Pet Peeve #2 – snow depth. When was the last time you saw someone out there with a yard stick digging in the snow to really figure that out? And how many times have you been skiing over bare spots when the report says the minimum depth is 40 inches!? Maybe we need to drop that stat and replace it with whether some key feature or trail is open. For instance, is that big rock face on Catamount (Mad River Glen) covered or is Whitney’s Gully (Snowbird) open? Then we will really know what the coverage is like.
Pet peeve #3 – overall snowfall received to date. Let us count the ways folks manipulate this one. Does it include that 30 inches you got in October that is gone in two days? (Snowbird) Where are you measuring that – at the summit only? (Jackson Hole) Did you get that all in December and it is now February? (seemingly every CA resort). And in a way does it matter whether I have 3 feet below my skis or 10 feet?
Pet peeve #4 – primary surface. What is packed powder anyway? We suppose it is helpful to have some information about what the area claims is the primary surface. But be honest! One inch of new on top of ice sheets is not packed powder. 3 inches of sleet is not packed powder. 6 inches of fluff on top of grass and rocks is not packed powder.
Pet peeve #5 – Honesty! Tell us the truth please. If the conditions aren’t great tell us what they are, and let us judge whether we want to get away from our mother n law and just want to ski anyway. You will get more business out of us if we can trust you. If we take our first run and realize you have duped us in your report we are not likely to come back.
So what do we want? How about this:
- One click access to conditions report
- Total season snowfall to date from both base and summit; break that out by month; don’t count early season snow that is gone before you open
- Snowfall (base and summit) in last 7 days; last 3 days and last 24 hrs
- Last time you got immature snow (aka rain)
- Percentage of trails open broken out by difficulty of trails (If only 10% of black diamond trails are open that tells us lots) and percentage of trails without snowmaking that are open – mostly applicable to the East
- Honest narrative describing conditions throughout the resort; videos can be helpful if truly representative of conditions (no “hockey stops” to spray snow unrealistically and don’t just film the one good corner of the resort)
- List of open/closed lifts; if lifts are closed tell us why – is it wind; nothing open off that lift or does that lift just operate on the weekends?
- Links to the weather forecasts – the ones the resort uses
We will leave you with an excerpt from a recent Mad River Glen report that strikes a good balance of humor and reality and leaves you no doubt as to the conditions:
“Skiing conditions for Thursday remain much the same as yesterday, with some unpredictability where windblown drifts of soft new snow on top of an older hardpack create inconsistency and make it difficult to find a rhythm, mostly on steeps and moguls. Lower-angle trails are a bit more consistent and forgiving at this time. There is plenty of snow to ski in the woods for those seeking an adventure, but good edges will go a long way in helping to charge through the buried crust layer that can make it challenging to connect turns. All in all, the groomers have been the saving grace in these past few days, and today is another great one for corduroy laps if you’re simply looking for smooth, predictable runs.”