The Problem with 24-hour Snow Reports

On a morning like today’s, where a big storm is expected to dump anywhere from a few inches to a foot at all Colorado resorts, the 5:00 AM “snow report” can be a bit misleading. If the snow in the past 24 hours stopped 22 hours ago, are you really going to be skiing 6 inches of snow today? Not likely.

Here’s the scenario: yesterday (Tuesday), we saw a lot of snow in the morning which carried over from a storm on Monday afternoon. By lunch on Tuesday, no new snow had fallen at all. Here’s a quick illustration to help explain what I’m talking about:

24 hour snow totals versus Since Mountain Closed

So, it may be with some surprise to wake up on Wednesday morning and see “6 inches in the last 24 hours” but nothing truly “new”.

This is why I applaud Vail Resorts this year as they’ve started reporting the “Snow Since Mountain Closed”. In some cases, that number may be 0 which may change how you plan your day (and paint a picture of what conditions may look like).

In other cases, when the 24 hour total and “since closed” total are the same, you know you’re going to have all that virgin snow first thing in the morning. The 24 hour (and 48 and 72) totals still tell me a story over the past few days: I can expect new terrain to open, I know there will be a good base for any snow that falls today, etc.

That’s not to say one number is better or more accurate than another. The point is: providing more information allows us (the customers) to make better informed decisions which makes for a better experience and sets better expectations.