Many avid skiers and snowboarders rely on local snow predictions for planning a ski vacation. These reports can help you find the best resorts for your favorite ski conditions.
National Weather Service Snow Predictions
Using the National Weather Service is the easiest way to read snow predictions. Type in the zip code of the resort that you plan to visit. If you are planning in advance, be sure to click on the the 10-day forecast. The National Weather Service website also lists the ski conditions for resorts throughout the country.
Snocountry Snow Reports
Snocountry is a non-profit, independent company that features snow reports for ski resorts throughout the world. Their media partners include USA Today, The Weather Channel, Associated Press and the New York Times. This site is updated 24 hours daily and seven days a week.
Best Ski Weather Snow Reports
An accurate snow prediction website can be useful, but a ski resort webcam says a thousand words. In addition to its snow predictions and weather reports, Best Ski Weather features the webcams of ski resorts throughout the United States. The site's parent company is called Freese-Notis Weather, Inc.. It was founded by Harvey Freese and Charlie Notis in 1973.
After obtaining their MS degrees in meteorology from Iowa State University, Freese and Notis decided to form their own company. The similarity of the names "Freese Notis" to the words "freeze notice" did not go unnoticed. In fact, it seemed like the perfect excuse to offer snow predictions for ski resorts.
How To Interpret a Ski Report
Weather stations and ski resorts use a good deal of jargon when referring to ski conditions. These terms have been endorsed by the National Ski Areas Association as a means of eliminating subjective descriptions of snow conditions. The conditions reports often accompany snow predictions.
- Average Base: The average base refers to the depth of the compacted snow that covers a slope. In general, a minimum of an 18-inch average base is preferable.
- Powder: The word powder is used to describe the deep, fluffy snow that has not been compacted. While deep powder snow is usually seen in Western states, it may occasionally appear in the East under odd weather conditions.
- Packed Powder: Packed powder is snow that has been compacted by the grooming machines, or by skier and snowboarder traffic. You are likely to encounter packed powder conditions during weekends or holidays, when the resort is crowded and there has not been any fresh snow.
- Loose Granular: Loose granular snow is the result of rapidly changing weather conditions. It refers to snow that has been thawed, refrozen and then groomed by the grooming machines.
- Frozen Granular: Frozen granular is a hard surface of old snow that is formed by the granular freezing that either follows rain or warm weather.
- Wet Granular: Wet granular also forms after rain or warm weather. It differs from frozen granular in that it is loose and somewhat sloppy. These conditions are typical in the Pacific Northwest.
- Wet Snow: Wet snow often occurs when snow mixes with rain. Like wet granular, it is often found in the Pacific Northwest.
- Ice: Ice is the hard, glazed surface that occurs due to rapid freezing of snow. Ice is typically found in Eastern ski areas.
Once you understand the meaning of the different ski conditions, it becomes apparent that it's not just snow prediction, but the combination of snow and general weather that should be considered.
Snow Report Ethics
Despite efforts of the National Ski Areas Association to promote objective conditions reports, some ski areas have a tendency to exaggerate their claims. Reporter Bob Berwyn pointed this out in an article in the Summit Daily, the newspaper that serves the ski towns of Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and Keystone. As a self-proclaimed "weather geek," Berwyn stated that he wished that the ski industry was more "transparent" about their snow and condition reports, but he concedes that "snow equals money." The comment cost him his job.