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Exaggerated Snowfall Totals

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Sorry to rehash a topic that has probably been argued before, but is anyone else out there a little bit suspiscious about posted snowfall totals at various ski resorts. Its something that really bugs me.

A couple case in points:

I live in a snowbelt in Ontario, Canada where lake effects snows off Georgian Bay (Lake Huron) are significant enough that on most winters, you cannot see the streets when walking on sidewalks, due to snowplowing. On more days than not (last year being the exception), it seems I'm shoveling about a foot of snow out of my driveway. Everyone owns a snowblower. However, the local resorts report just 110-120" annual snowfall.

http://www.skitown.com/resortguide/s...4/BlueMountain
http://www.skitown.com/resortguide/s.../MountSt.Louis

When growing up, I lived on the Canadian side of the border close to Buffalo, and frequented Holiday Valley in Western NY - a resort in another snowbelt thanks to Lake Erie lake effect snow. At no time other than blizzard years did I remember the snowpiles around Holiday Valley to be as impressive as what I see here. So, I did a little research and found some snowfall maps.

If you look into the link below, the snowfall in my region is over the reported 110-120" (~300cm). The 400-799cm (160-320") on the map is a lot more than what the local resorts are reporting in their annual totals. (sorry, you're going to have to zoom in on the area just southeast off Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, about 100-150km northwest of Toronto)

http://atlas.gc.ca/site/english/maps.../land/snowfall

Looking at an unbiased map of the Holiday Valley region it looks like the annual snowfall is in the 100-110" range, and not the 180" as reported by their website.

http://www.cas.buffalo.edu/commentar...o-weather.html
http://www.holidayvalley.com/winter.cfm?subpage=310


Another couple of areas I was thinking of were Jay Peak and Mt Tremblant. Early last year when I was at Tremblant (around the time of the 24hr ski marathon) it snowed the whole time I was there. We got stuck several times, and were constantly knocking snow off my car on our trips into Ste Jovite (darn Tremblant resort food prices!!!).

Anyhow, when I got home, I was interested to see how much snow actually fell over the weekend, so I checked out the resort website, and the numbers were absolutely paltry!!! (Sorry I don't have numbers, but it was nowhere near the snow I would have thought that fell... can anyone back me up here?) I would have expected a company like Intrawest to have overstated the numbers, and I was hoping to send the snowfall links to friends who bailed on the trip just to rub it in (sorry again, i don't remember the exact numbers).

In March I made it down to Jay Peak a little after the March "epic" snow. Looking on the side of the highways on the trips from Newport into Jay peak, I was sure that the resort is overstating their total snowfalls! There's no way they get the 300+" they say they get. I would seriously doubt if they get an honest 200". I was skiing on ice all over the place. We never get anything like that at my home resort (Blue Mountain in Collingwood, ON) even after long dry spells. And I'm sure our six-pack high speed quads and low vertical have our skiers per acre way over Jay.

Can anyone report similar experiences?
post #2 of 15
Here is my experience with over/under reporting:

Jay Peak

This mountain gets serious wind. Therefore, a lot of snow gets blown off -- ice is very common. I skied blue ice at Jay on the ridges when they reported 30-40" new. However, that amount was present in the glades. Stay in sheltered pockets.

Sierra

The snow is so always so wet that you never ski in feet. I have never experienced more than knee deep even during/after 100" blizzards. Cliff bands get covered up, contours change -- but it is rarely a powderfest.

Washington State

Very honest. The cloudy weather can keep the snow deeper than the Sierra for similar totals. No sun. No compaction. I'l take 3 ft in the Cascades over 5 ft at Kirkwood anytime.

Alpine Meadows vs. Squaw Valley

Separated by a ridge, Alpine ALWAYS reports more snow. Always. I trust the Squaw totals more.

Telluride, CO

I ski here a lot (ski bum bro). Gold Hill and the Prospect Bowl get about 50% more than reported. These parts form a natural bowl and trap more snow.
post #3 of 15
As chris mentioned, the snow at Jay is in the trees b/c of the wind. You're looking in the wrong places.

Also, Holiday Valley and the like will tend to get more than surrounding areas due to elevation. You won't find a map with a great enough level of detail to capture the impacts of elevation and microclimate in a prticular situation. That said, resorts defintiely do exaggerate. But Jay, for all the criticism it receives, is a perfect case in point. Down in the town of Jay at the base of Rt 242, the snow banks are usually only 2-3 feet high, if that. By the time you get to the base of the ski area, the banks are visibly MUCH higher. The Jay Cloud is very real, and is a function of the large difference in vertical between 4000' Jay and the Canadian tundra to its west.
post #4 of 15
I'm in the Mid Atlantic so I have an easy test to tell if the resorts are exaggerating their snowfall.

If they report snowfall...they're exaggerating.
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisc
Sierra

The snow is so always so wet that you never ski in feet. I have never experienced more than knee deep even during/after 100" blizzards. Cliff bands get covered up, contours change -- but it is rarely a powderfest.
That's not to say we don't get the reported snowfalls. It just so heavy that it's rarely 'powder'.


Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisc
Alpine Meadows vs. Squaw Valley

Separated by a ridge, Alpine ALWAYS reports more snow. Always. I trust the Squaw totals more.
Just through principal I'd always trust Alpine sourced information over Squaw's. I believe that Alpine measures their base snowfall in a tree protected area that may catch more snow. Plus the Apline's base is higher than Squaw's.
post #6 of 15
I hadn't seen that Canada map before. But maps like that rarely capture microclimates like Jay accurately. Jay did change its reporting around 2000, but on their website they show "upper" and "lower" numbers. The "lower" numbers average about 85% of the upper and are consistent with long term historical data. Still highest in the East at about 330 inches long term average.

At Squaw/Alpine snowfall is huge on the Sierra Crest and declines as you go east. Squaw's base is farther east as well as lower. Squaw has also been measuring at 8,000 feet (top of Funitel, Gold Coast) for 12 years. Average snowfall there is 436 inches, vs. 264 at the 6,200 foot base. Snowfall average at Alpine's in-between elevation of 7,000 is 367 inches.

Most conspicuous exaggerator of snowfall in the West is Park City.
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker
I hadn't seen that Canada map before. But maps like that rarely capture microclimates like Jay accurately. Jay did change its reporting around 2000, but on their website they show "upper" and "lower" numbers. The "lower" numbers average about 85% of the upper and are consistent with long term historical data. Still highest in the East at about 330 inches long term average.

At Squaw/Alpine snowfall is huge on the Sierra Crest and declines as you go east. Squaw's base is farther east as well as lower. Squaw has also been measuring at 8,000 feet (top of Funitel, Gold Coast) for 12 years. Average snowfall there is 436 inches, vs. 264 at the 6,200 foot base. Snowfall average at Alpine's in-between elevation of 7,000 is 367 inches.

Most conspicuous exaggerator of snowfall in the West is Park City.
thanks for the insights Tony. You are the best at this. PCMR measures up near Jupiter Peak, correct? I think all three PC resorts get a "free ride" on the rep for great, and deep, Utah snow. Their lower elevations and locations to the East of the higher peaks of the Cottonwoods Canyons area means they get a LOT less snow (PC itself gets what - 100" a year?) and heavier snow at that.
post #8 of 15
Tony & Tin:

What I have found with the PC resorts is that they don't necessarily exaggerate or lie about their snow depth/totals, they simply report the best value they have from their multiple measuring stations on the mountain. For example, PCMR has three stations: Payday Base, Summit (top of Bonanza) and the top of Jupiter Lift. Now of course, Jupiter usually gives the best snow depths, as it is at the top of the mountain. PCMR's daily, published total is usually from that measuring stick. I look at all the stick almost every time I'm up there, and I can tell you it is accurate, so there is no lying involved. They just choose to use the most favorable value.

Now about the differences between town and Jupiter Peak: The Wasatch, known for its deep snow, really only extends part of the way to Park City (the town). By the time you get to the town level (coming down from Jupiter), you pretty much run out of deep snow and come across high plains/desert conditions. I regularly see mid-winter bases of 2-3' at Payday (base area) and 10'+ up in Jupiter. The real snow band around Park City doesn't start until about 8K', 1/3 the way up the mountain. Give or take a few hundred feet, I'd be willing say that from there on up, the three PC resorts do resemble the rest of the Wasatch areas and its famous snow to go with it. I spend a lot of time in the BC on both sides of the Wasatch Crest (the ridge line between PC and BCC), and I assure you, that snow depths from that 8K' line up are very similar between the PC side and BCC side. In fact, as our local avalanche experts will tell you, the lee side bowls (Empire, Jupiter, Western Monitor, 9990, Square Top and Murdoch) all get MORE snow than the windward side of BCC due to wind loading.

As an aside, I actually love the fact that the lower parts of PC get less snow, as going about my daily tasks in town are a lot easier with a few feet of snow as hindrance vs. the huge piles you see at the bases of LCC/BCC resorts. Spring happens sooner here and we tend to get tamer winters IN TOWN. High on the mountain is another story.

Powdr
post #9 of 15
My opinion is that Jupiter is not unlike BCC in snowfall and coverage but that the other 90% of Park City, plus all of Canyons and Deer Valley are substantially less. I have some 1970's data from Summit House, which when indexed to 35 years of data in BCC, show an average of 290 inches. This compares to 385 at the Brighton parking lot. I think that is very consistent with what we observe skiing.

Summit House is more than fair in representing Park City's snow, particularly considering the average at the base is only 153. But for the past 20+ years I've never seen Summit House data reported publicly.
post #10 of 15
Tony,

Not to split hairs, but I'd say that at least the top 1/3 of each PC resort is similar to BCC. Anyway, Summit House data (actually collected on Pioneer Ridge, just below the top of the Thanyes Lift) is used early in each season when Jupiter isn't open yet, as PCMR cannot represent skiing conditions in an area not even open. By about Christmas, they switch over to Jupiter, so any data from the last 30+ years actually includes Summit House reports from the early season, so your getting a blend of seasonal data. That's probably why your Jupiter data is slightly less than the 350" the Jupiter actually gets in a season. I actually prefer using SNOTEL data that uses unbiased, non-human interacted reports from their automated (and validated) stations.

http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/Utah/utah.html

Now, just like any snow total report, the results are subject to elevation and location, but you will find that Thaynes Canyon on the PC side and Brighton on the BCC side are very similar in SWE (snow water equivalent) and snow depths in the Winter (data only available in winter months). The Thaynes Canyon station is located a few hundred yards above the bottom of the Thaynes lift and the Brighton station is located in the flats area adjacent to the parking lot. I pass by each station several times each winter and both are in undisturbed, wind protected areas. The point is, that most people would consider Brighton's conditions from the base on up to be about as good as you will find anywhere. Thaynes Canyon, from The Thaynes lift up, it would then stand to reason, would have similar conditions, which is exactly my observations.

I think the best way to put up realistic numbers would to list base and summit values, like some resorts already do. That way, anyone could read the daily report and get a good idea of the conditions througout the resort.

Powdr

Edit: meant to say above (bolded item) instead of below.
post #11 of 15
I believe that snowfall drops off as you go leeward of the crest of the Wasatch, much as you see in the Sierra and Tetons. When you take the long catwalk west from Summit House to the base of Jupiter you can see the snow improve, and vice versa coming back from Jupiter to Thaynes. By Google Earth the top of Jupiter is the same distance (1 1/4 miles) from both Summit House and the top of Great Western at Brighton. I've actually seen the cloud sitting over Jupiter with snow flurries while the rest of Park City is basking in the sun.
post #12 of 15
Well Montana Snowbowl claims 300" of annual snowfall, which is complete and utter BS. From what I've been told by the old timers up there, it's more like half that in a good year, but hey, it looks good in the brochure. Last years miserable total was short of 100", a friend on ski patrol told me they were at 75" a couple weeks before the season ended with some decent snowfall.

Snowbowl does measure top and bottom throughout the season.
post #13 of 15
i agree with Powder's comments about the snow band at Jup.
At DV. Empire and Northside can just get nailed with bigh dumps, while the rest of the resort has half the amount. DV also has two 'protected' snow stakes( blocked from wind) and they take an avaerege for those 2for reporting purposes. You can also get current weather, as well as the weather of the last hour, at each station.
http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/slc/snow/
is where i get my snow reports for the Utah mtns. Some of the links my be off line till the weather changes, or the resorts activate thier stations. Just tried the Empire, it's is off line at theis time.

Then you have to consider, some resort will use the marketing way of reporting, then these off the wall web snow reporting sites will take that info and report it.
I would really only trust those reports where the info is gathered by regioanl ski resorts assocations, ie: www.skitahoe.com www.skiutah.com and http://www.coloradoski.com/

I would not trust newspapers for the local report, cause thier info in most cases is way off. Due to the fact most print in the late night for morning delevery.So what they are reporting was for the day before.
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker
Most conspicuous exaggerator of snowfall in the West is Park City.
Tony, I have to agree with POWDR in that I don't recall hearing Park City exaggerating their snowfall; it's just that the reporting location they chose to report from tends to confuse things. Personally, I think it makes sense to publish snow totals from Jupiter and the Summit House, but I'd have to bet that the names would confuse more than a few people - doesn't it sound like the 'Summit' House should be at the top of the mountain?! Something else to remember is the historical importance of snow stakes for snow safety. I know for a fact that Park City has data from the Jupiter snow plot for several decades and that info is an integral part of their snow safety program.

This topic (not just about PC) has been debated many times on this forum, just do a search for 'snow total' or 'snowfall'!
post #15 of 15
Well, there was a year not long ago when Powder Magazine published the totals reported by ski areas for the previous ski season, and Park City's number exceeded Snowbird's. I would be astounded if that has ever happened.

I also know informally that some other ski areas/info sources in Utah are not pleased with Park City's reporting.
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