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2011-12: How Bad Was It? - Page 4

post #91 of 100

OK, everyone.   Go back to the table on the first page and see if you see what I see.

 

Look at the red-coded skier visits column.     

600x618px-LL-358faa5a_SnowTrend12.jpeg

 

 

 

In every overall-bad year  --except 2011-2012--   junk snow in the west has been counterbalanced by decent or really good snowfall numbers for the Northeast.  1981 is arguable.

 

2011-2012 is the first red-coded year in which western snow deficit clearly coincided with NE snow deficit.   THAT is what makes it bad beyond previous years.


Edited by cantunamunch - 7/16/12 at 2:32pm
post #92 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post

Nice link, glad to make your acquaintance. My family and I ski whenever we can up your way. Wonder if that ice hotel northwest of Quebec is still making money? 

 

I didn't spend much time on Epic, I just started recently. I used to spend time with Tony mostly on FTO, but it's been pretty quiet overthere. I'm also over in a few other forums under a different alias. Trying to put more focus on one location, my blog, instead of repeating myself in 3-4 ski forums. If there are thinks that are relevant, I would post a link instead of double posting.

 

Ice hotel in norhwest of Quebec??? The only ice hotel that I know of is the one in Quebec City open during the Carnival.

post #93 of 100
Thread Starter 
Quote:
In every overall-bad year  --except 2011-2012--   junk snow in the west has been counterbalanced by decent or really good snowfall numbers for the Northeast.  1981 is arguable.

I would not call 81% in 1981 or 85% in 1992 "decent or really good" in the East.  There is a myth that western and eastern snowfalls are negatively correlated.  They are essentially independent over the whole dataset, the extreme case of 1977 notwithstanding.

 

It's hard to argue that 2011-12 was worse than 1980-81:

6 regions under 70% in 1980-81 vs. 5 bad regions in 2011-12, 3 of those being under 70%.

No regions above average in 1980-81 vs. 2 regions that had very good years in 2011-12.

 

You can weight the East more with respect to skier visits but that still won't make it as bad as 1980-81.

 

2010-11 was more of an outlier on the high side than 2011-12 was on the low side.  With respect to snow coverage and retention it was referred to in many places as "the season without a spring" due to April snowfalls well beyond normal winter months and May temperatures and snowfalls typical of a normal April in several western regions.  Snowpacks lasted into the summer probably even longer than the oldtimers remember from big seasons long ago.  Some memories are short and perhaps the longer ones aren't precise.

 

I'll defer to beyond's analysis of Asia.  But I don't see effects upon skiing yet in western North America not only from snowfall numbers but by personal observation and experience.  I am a big fan of late season skiing (which shouild be especially sensitive to rising temperatures) and see no degrading trend of quality over my ski lifetime of ~35 years.   I was more concerned in 1992 given what the previous 8 seasons had been like.  Anybody else remember how low Lake Tahoe was then?  That sustained period of subpar snow is easily visible in my chart.

 

I'll also defer to the eastern snowmaking comments.  I suspect the technology is somewhat mature by now and the impact of fewer snowmaking days in the future would be negative.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 7/16/12 at 9:51pm
post #94 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

 There is a myth that western and eastern snowfalls are negatively correlated.  They are essentially independent over the whole dataset,

 

 

I would never argue otherwise.

 

 

Quote:

You can weight the East more with respect to skier visits

 

 

I think I would very much like to see that done.     Do you have numbers better than these: http://www.nsaa.org/nsaa/press/historical-visits.pdf ?

 

I don't really like the region breakdown posted above; it trims off the SE/MA, it doesn't seem to separate Quebec/Ontario/Maritime skiing from Alberta/BC skiing (unless that's all lumped into the northeast?)

post #95 of 100
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I think I would very much like to see that (skier visit weighting) done.

The rightmost column of my table is a weighting by skier visits.  There are 2 significant differences between my weighting and NSAA's.  NSAA uses data from the Kottke report, which is US only and thus excludes Canada.  My data exercise is to track snowfall, not the more subjective, "Was it a good or bad ski season," as reflected in skier visits.

 

For the US, I generally used Kottke as a baseline and browsed for state or area data to make adjustments where my regional definitions are different from theirs.  I did this after my 2010-11 analysis generated a lot of controversy from the easterners on FirstTracksOnline.   I'll repeat here my perspective from last year's thread:

 

Quote:
My subjectivity is mainly in the region definition. The Northeast is 1/4 of skier visits but 1/8 of my weighting. My interest is tracking areas which have some national interest and in particular where natural snowfall has key importance in the quality of the ski season. This is true in upper New England and Vermont in particular. In southern New England, MASH, the Laurentians, the Southeast and the Midwest average natural snowfall is in the 100 inch range and skiing quality is driven mainly by temperatures/snowmaking. Is it relevant for a national ski area snowfall average if Hunter or Tremblant get 170 inches vs. normal 120? Or if some Midwest molehill gets 90 instead of 60? The same argument can be made for Big Bear, but I use one number for all of SoCal (which includes natural snow dependent Baldy and Waterman) and that number has a 1/13 weighting in the California total along with another 1/13 for Arizona Snowbowl and the rest for 11 areas in the Sierra Nevada.

I have no claim to a perfect model here, so I'm willing to entertain suggestions for improvement. But for the avid skier market, as represented on ski forums, Powder magazine subscribers (for whom the model was first constructed in 1995) etc. I think I'm providing a definition that reflects what's important to them.

The specific skier visit weightings are:

 

California: 7.8 million, same definition as Kottke Pacific Southwest.

Pacific Northwest: 7.1 million, half of that is Kottke Pacific Northwest, the other half is Whistler + Vancouver local areas + Vancouver Island

Interior Canada: 4.8 million, Alberta + British Columbia - the coastal areas included above under Pacific Northwest.

U.S. Northern Rockies: 3.2 million, Kottke Rockies minus Colorado, Utah, New Mexico

Utah: 4 million

Northern and Central Colorado: 8.8 million

Southern and Western Colorado: 4.0 million, Colorado - Front Range areas above + New Mexico

Northeast: 15 million, Kottke Northeast + Quebec = 20 million.  I'm assuming 5 million of that comes from areas under 150 inches average snowfall for which temperatures/snowmaking are much more important than snowfall.

 

I collected the original part of this data set 20 years ago. I devised the regions then on what I thought was a broad climate zone basis. When it was being refined for publication by Powder Magazine in 1995, my editor Leslie Anthony (who is from eastern Canada and now lives in Whistler) did request that I gather more Northeast and Canadian data than I had at that time. However he did not dispute my regional breakdown or request info from the under 150-inch areas that I have ignored.

 

It also turns out the the 8 regions I have defined each contain between 7% and 15% of North America's lift served ski acreage. The ski areas excluded for under 150 inch snowfall in total contain about 6% of ski acreage.  I realize these exclusions include a few obscure snow pockets like Tug Hill, Newfoundland and U.P. Michigan.

 

But in summary I'm providing info representative of 94% of North America's ski acreage covering regions with over 150 inches average natural snowfall.  My thread title, "How Bad Was It?" could perhaps have been more precise in terms of confining the issue to snowfall.  In terms of skier visits, Kottke has covered that ground with respect to the U.S.  The dip from last year's 60 million to this year's 51 million is comparable in percentage terms only to 1980-81. The Kottke reports do not go back as far as 1977.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 7/17/12 at 2:35pm
post #96 of 100

^^^^ I'm interested (still) in the rationale behind the geographic groupings you use. For instance, I have read several meteorological analyses of storm patterns and snow densities that would group these resorts together: Park City, Sun Valley, Jackson, the Front Range region. And would separate those from the central Utah resorts, while the southern Utah resorts group with Arizona and NM. Or again, the patterns and densities at Tahoe are quite different from those at Mammoth, and neither has much bearing on Baldy. Patterns in the Quebec region east do not group with Vermont, although they do with Maine. By contrast, the patterns in what you lump together as the northern Rockies (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho?) are quite disparate for each of those states; from a meteorological perspective Montana probably belongs to interior Canada and Wyoming and Idaho with central Colorado. OTOH, Banff is quite distinct from places like Revelstoke. 

 

So seriously, how did you originally define "climate zone?" As far as I can make out, it's not actual climate. Is the basis simple political boundaries that correlate to reader identification? Destination travel outcomes? Subscription patterns?

 

And then your weightings appear completely arbitrary, given that by your own admission you don't deploy weights that have any systematic relationship to demographics. "National interest" sounds great, but what does it have to do with climate? Bet you'd get about the same results if you weighted by voting patterns, red states and blue. 

 

Look, there's nothing wrong with defending this as a nice rough sketch that plays well for readers of Powder. And gets us talking about skiing in the dog days of summer. All good. But when you start trying to act like it has some scientific foundation, that's just silly. 

post #97 of 100

Did you use resort data or snotel? Or both? Most resorts only collect snowfall when the lifts are running, not year round. What measurement of snowfall? Inches reported? Base depth? Snow water content? Snow water equivalent inches? 

 

Also, I suspect this is the sort of climate based grouping that beyond was talking about. 

 

http://www.epa.gov/wed/pages/ecoregions.htm

post #98 of 100

Really?  I think Jackson Hole starts counting from the first snowfall, even before they open, based on this press release:

 

 

 

Quote:

Opening Weekend At Jackson Hole – November 26-27, 2011

After going from no snow to a 29″ base and a 81″ season total in what seemed like a matter of days, Jackson Hole opened its lifts to 3,000 vertical feet of skiing this past weekend under bluebird skies. While it’s still pretty thin and there’s plenty of terrain still to be opened, it was a great start to hopefully a great season.

 

How can they have a "season total" as they open unless they are counting the stuff the week before or whatever?  

 

More: 

 

Quote:

 Pre-season snowfall, October & November 2011, was actually still a little above average in Jackson Hole, but nowhere near the amounts seen pre-season in 2010. (See graph below left).

 

Slide15.jpg

I think you will find that what is included is NOT consistent across all areas, which is one of Tony's problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post

Did you use resort data or snotel? Or both? Most resorts only collect snowfall when the lifts are running, not year round. What measurement of snowfall? Inches reported? Base depth? Snow water content? Snow water equivalent inches? 

 

 

post #99 of 100
Thread Starter 

It's all snowfall.

Quote:
Most resorts only collect snowfall when the lifts are running, not year round.

Due to the trend over the past decade or more to report season-to-date snowfall online,  lots of places are counting from November 1.  In some cases they are starting even earlier, and I try to exclude that.  April is more spotty but I'm still getting info from most places, occasionally an estimate from closing date to April 30.

Quote:
So seriously, how did you originally define "climate zone?" As far as I can make out, it's not actual climate. Is the basis simple political boundaries that correlate to reader identification?  Destination travel outcomes?

That's probably accurate.  In the ski press (including industry publications like Kottke) the regional divisions are far cruder, and I believed I was refining them to have a somewhat better relationship to climate.   But defining by political boundaries does make it easier for readers to know where to look up a particular area.  And more precise climate definitions would have resulted in several more regions, some of which have only a handful of ski areas.

Quote:
Park City, Sun Valley, Jackson, the Front Range region.

Park City definitely correlates closer ~80% to the Wasatch front (even though it gets only 60% as much snow) than to Jackson or Sun Valley ~60%.  The Front Range correlation with Jackson ranges from 55% for Steamboat down to 35% for Berthoud Pass.

Quote:
Or again, the patterns and densities at Tahoe are quite different from those at Mammoth, and neither has much bearing on Baldy.

Donner Pass and Mammoth are 86% correlated.  Southern California is 64% correlated with Mammoth.

Quote:
the southern Utah resorts group with Arizona and NM

That's ONE small resort, Brian Head.   It correlates closest 69% to Arizona Snowbowl.  FYI Arizona Snowbowl correlates 71% to Southern California vs. 57% to Taos.  Setting up a separate Southwest region would have been a much smaller ski region in terms of resort acreage.   The correlations show the Southwest not to be that distinct anyway.  AZ correlates closer to SoCal that to Taos.  Taos correlates closer to Wolf Creek or Red Mt. Pass than to AZ.  Even Brian Head is 62% correlated to the Wasatch. 

Quote:
you lump together as the northern Rockies (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho?) are quite disparate for each of those states; from a meteorological perspective Montana probably belongs to interior Canada and Wyoming and Idaho with central Colorado.

Actually Whitefish, NW Montana and the Idaho panhandle belong with Canadian areas along the border while Bridger/Big Sky belong with Wyoming and the rest of Idaho.  You and I know this but most readers of ski publications, even most of the junkies, don't.  If I were to add another region for refinement this is the one where I would be most tempted as I spend quite a bit of my ski time in this area.  But I suspect it would be confusing to many people.

Quote:
OTOH, Banff is quite distinct from places like Revelstoke.

Agree.  The "interior Canada" group could be broken down into at least 3 climate groups, maybe more.  But again the resulting groups would be small and perhaps confusing to many and I'm trying to strike a balance between what makes climate sense and what's user friendly to readers.

Quote:
Patterns in the Quebec region east do not group with Vermont, although they do with Maine.

Quebec City and environs, yes.  The Eastern Townships are an extension of the Vermont Green Mts.

post #100 of 100
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I think you will find that what is included is NOT consistent across all areas, which is one of Tony's problems.

In-season reporting is not necessarily consistent, though I make the effort to exclude October if I can.  What I collect at the end of the season is month-by-month, should be much cleaner, and it's fairly easy to spot inconsistencies and get them corrected or occasionally excluded if I know they are incomplete.

 

 What's not consistent is the Jackson reporting quoted by sibhusky.  In recent years Jackson likes to quote its snowfall from a site near the top of the Bridger gondola.  Fortunately Jackson continues to show on its website in smaller print the figures from the long term mid-mountain site at 8,250 feet.  This is far more representative of ski terrain (of which there is still quite a bit more below 8,250 than above) and is the location for which I collect monthly data at the end of the season.  The long term average at 8,250 is 370 inches (Nov-Apr) so the 188% being shown for 2010-11 is an apples vs. oranges comparison to a higher location with more snowfall.  Jackson's mid-mountain record is 572 inches in 1996-97, and had the Bridger snowplot existed then I suspect it would have received more snow than in 2010-11.

Quote:
Look, there's nothing wrong with defending this as a nice rough sketch that plays well for readers of Powder. And gets us talking about skiing in the dog days of summer. All good. But when you start trying to act like it has some scientific foundation, that's just silly.

I concede this is a hobby and not a scientific study.  Nonetheless I've made as strong an effort as possible to calculate snowfall on a consistent Nov. 1 to Apr. 30 basis.  As I've noted many times and also explained on my website, for areas with incomplete data this is done by indexing to common months of a closely correlated area with extensive November-April data.  The indexing is done only with December-March data, thus avoiding distortion from possibly incomplete November and April info from the areas with less information.

Quote = http://bestsnow.net/colhdnet:
Average annual snowfall. By utilizing the extensive monthly statistics compiled for avalanche forecasting, we can project reliable seasonal averages for the period November 1 through April 30. Within each region there is at least one area with a minimum of 30 years (average for index areas is 39 years now) of complete monthly data that can be used to index snowfall to any closely correlated area in that region. Discrepancies between averages presented here and those advertised by ski areas are due to several factors: 1) ski areas don't always measure snowfall over the monthly periods required to make such broad, even comparisons; 2) ski areas may not keep long-term snowfall data, and utilize averages over shorter periods of time--typically five years--for marketing purposes; 3) ski area snowfall figures are often "white" lies--marketing directors blow smoke with anecdotal information and inflated figures, for example, estimating snowfall from water content numbers, or portraying data from the choicest snowfall area as representative of the entire mountain.

The ski areas now average 116 months of December-March data.  There are a handful of newer ones with 25-30 months where it will take some more years of data  to gain better confidence in a long term average.  But for most places I think there's quite a bit of confidence already.  Extreme seasons like the last 2 are moving the long term averages for most areas only 1-2% now.

 

My website explanation above and popular opinion both overstate potential issues of fudged reporting.  In season reporting is occasionally cherry-picked. There are a handful of areas with "marketing brochure quotes" of annual snowfall that have no basis in reality.  But most ski areas have snow safety people maintaining snowplots in sheltered locations and to accepted scientific standards.  I have quite strong confidence that month by month totals collected from those snow safety people are accurate, even at the same places with questionable "marketing brochure quotes."


Edited by Tony Crocker - 7/18/12 at 3:36pm
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