With all the
talk (and posts) about skiing recently, snow enthusiasts are no doubt plowing through local resources to find out the
latest conditions. Eight inches of new snow in Mammoth Mountain? Ten feet of base in Telluride? It’s
these daily statistics, this winter equivalent of yelling “Surf’s up!” that whets the chops of skiers and
snowboarders around the world, sending every manner of them scurrying up the nearest mountain in search of white
There’s only one problem: Eight inches doesn’t always mean eight inches.
Sadly, conditions reported in the morning snow report that so motivated you to skip work aren’t always the
conditions you find upon reaching the ski resort. Journalist Jane Engle explores the many reasons why this is often
the case in a recent LA Times article.
The theme here is that every resort measures snow in a different manner—there is no standardized method which
all resorts adhere to.
A place like Mammoth Mountain, for example, measures their snowfall at the main lodge. This is actually a
lower elevation and therefore likely to underreport the conditions on the slopes. Other, unnamed resorts measure
their snowfall on the snowiest part of the mountain even if there are no runs nearby, thereby over reporting.
Some mountains report only morning readings, while others update throughout the day as conditions change. And
then there is the actual method of measurement: old fashioned ruler, or high-tech sonar?
It’s all very confusing. I always knew that numbers could lie, but I never thought my local ski resort
would do the same. It really makes me think twice about calling in sick tomorrow.