Snow Reporting Research – Interesting, but Flawed
I saw this story about a Dartmouth study on ski resorts and their snow reporting, beguilingly titled “Wintertime for Deceptive Advertising?“, on NPR.org a few days ago. I immediately sent it to our snow reporters, so I could kid our weekend reporter about how he “exaggerates” more than our weekday reporter, but all kidding aside, I will personally vouch that they both are exceedingly careful about the information that they communicate. They get snow amounts via our grooming crew, who physically take readings from snow stakes, as well as automated weather stations which are available for anyone to see here and here. Myself and anyone else in the marketing department do not touch these numbers, unless we are making a mid-day update, which allows us to keep our snow reporting as accurate as we possibly can. I think this is important because it’s a rather simple expectation that if a resort reports a foot of new snow, that a visitor should be able to find a foot of new snow somewhere on the mountain!
This all said, I was disappointed in how the researchers used other data sources to dispute ski resorts’ snow reports, the SNODAS data is from a 30-arc-second-grid, which I’m not very familiar with, but a 930 meter by 660 meter plot is one would cover an extremely large a variable amount of topography of any ski resort and the NOAA matching data is even broader as they used stations of which, “The average matched station is 26 miles away and 160 feet below the summit for Eastern resorts and 52 miles away and 280 feet below the summit for Western resorts. Twenty-eight out of 437 resorts do not have matching weather stations due to the elevation restriction (19 of these are in Western Canada).” To put this in perspective, 52 miles away could put a weather station match for any of the Wasatch Mountain resorts in two completely different mountain ranges – the Oquirrh or Uintah mountains!
In the real world, snow reporting will vary dramatically depending upon a whole slew of variables, but the biggest issue is the fact that snow doesn’t accumulate evenly as rainfall does, due to wind, settling and many other factors. This means that snow measurements can vary greatly over the course of even just a few yards, but when a snow plot is in place, measurements will be taken from there. So, to my mind a large section of this report is missing a very important facet.
However, the numbers that show a higher amount of snowfall being reported on the weekend definitely says that many resorts do obviously feel some pressure to promote their weekend snowfall numbers which may certainly be the result of the factors described in the report…I haven’t seen this from any resorts here in Utah, but unfortunately the authors chose not to segment even by state.
Anyone else have anything to say about this report – positive, negative, indifferent…please leave a comment and let me know, thanks!
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