EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › "Depth of base" - can somebody explain?
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"Depth of base" - can somebody explain?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi all.
Sorry for the newbie question.

I'm trying to understand once and for all the definition of "depth of base". Where do they calculate it? Is there even a standard? Is it just one point or is it an average of multiple points ?

I've been to too many resorts in PA over the past few miserable weeks where the depth of the base was at least 1-4 feet and yet I there were tons of bare spots. It seems like the only place to justify this kind of a base was typically right under the snowmakers in the beginner areas, if that's all they measure, what's the point in that?

Also, why don't they provide a double number like he depth of the hardpack and then above it of what might be powder?
post #2 of 14
Every area that makes snow knows which parts of its slopes require the most attention to keep the ground/rocks/etc. hidden. The process of checking snow depths usually is done with long rods with a "T" handle that someone drives manually through the snow/ice until striking the ground. Often someone else will record the depths. It may take a two-man team all of a day to check actual depths at the critical points. Along the way they usually also will be testing a range of additional spots. Their findings will be averaged. Differentiating between the "old" snow that has become compressed into ice like in a glacier and whatever surface of new snow you might encounter on top with actual measurements would be meaningless because as soon as someone skis or runs a groomer over the new, it's not new anymore. But most places report new snow depths as "snowfall in the last 24 hours" or some similar terms that can give an indication of what you might expect. Again, if they've groomed the new snow, it'll just be mixed into the top layer of the underlying base of ice.
post #3 of 14
To put it simply:

Eastern base depths are reported as measurements somewhere on trail. This usually includes snowmaking depths. Resorts pick favorable sites or conditions and will report where they know there is a healthy depth, overlookng bare spots (never reporting 0"). These locations seem to roam for Eastern areas.

Western resorts have fixed snow stakes just off a run where measurements are taken. Although they are honestly read every day, the location of these stakes are sometimes questionable. Some stakes are at the top of the mountain, others are mid mountain, and others yet are an average of several mountain wide locations.
post #4 of 14
And some resorts lie out their teeth.
post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr View Post
To put it simply:

Resorts pick favorable sites or conditions and will report where they know there is a healthy depth, overlookng bare spots (never reporting 0"). These locations seem to roam for Eastern areas.

Western resorts have fixed snow stakes just off a run where measurements are taken. Although they are honestly read every day, the location of these stakes are sometimes questionable.
I suspect they measure the depth at the lip of the jumps in the terrain park :
post #6 of 14
Or, it's just done with this:

http://www.campbellsci.com/sr50a

Most places I've been to measure snow way off the trail where it's not likely to get disturbed.
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
So in other words, if I'm in the mid-atlantic, there's no point using that number to try and pick a resort.

I think that this winter we should go with something like "percent coverage" or something like that.

My experience so far is that 7 springs PA lies insanely (trails with barely anything not even listed as having any limitations), whereas Sno Mountain (Montage) in PA are fairly reliable (at least when you call and talk to a human being about the conditions)
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilT View Post
And some resorts lie out their teeth.
Some?

If all mountains had a bare spot or two or 20, and one mountain reported that their base was 0"-20" to reflect the full range of actual base depths, and everyone else was reporting 10"-20" to report the average good base or snowmaking base or whatever, who would go to the mountain trying to be honest if they had a choice?

It is the way the industry is, and it is not about to change. You don't have to agree with it or accept it, just understand it.
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by eblackwelder View Post
Some?

If all mountains had a bare spot or two or 20, and one mountain reported that their base was 0"-20" to reflect the full range of actual base depths, and everyone else was reporting 10"-20" to report the average good base or snowmaking base or whatever, who would go to the mountain trying to be honest if they had a choice?

It is the way the industry is, and it is not about to change. You don't have to agree with it or accept it, just understand it.
Some mountains don't need to exagerate.
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by uricmu View Post
So in other words, if I'm in the mid-atlantic, there's no point using that number to try and pick a resort.

I'm in NC , I look at the live webcams before deciding where to ski:
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry_Morgan View Post
Some mountains don't need to exagerate.
Yup. I've noticed that snowbird's snowcam quite often gets less snow than a majority of the mountain.
post #12 of 14

a throw-back...

For mountains that rely on snowmaking for their base, the whole snow depth measurement is pretty meaningless. I think that it is a throwback to the days when natural snow was the primary base, and it was some measure of how much snow had fallen, what was left after the last thaw and how likely you were to have to ski on rocks, moss, grass and the like. Now, most eastern areas won't open a trail unless it has good cover.

For western areas, it provides some indication of general snowpack thickness. For instance, if Alta is reporting 140" at their mid-mountain snow stake, it doesn't guarantee that there won't be areas that are wind-swept down to the ground, but it does mean that your chances of hitting random rocks and stumps is way down.

However, a lot of eastern areas don't bother to give base depth anymore. A better way of assessing snow coverage in the east is to see if the natural snow trails are open.
post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry_Morgan View Post
Some mountains don't need to exagerate.
You talk big oh "Mister I live where it snows every day". Let's see how things look in your neck of the woods in a year when you don't get as much snow.
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by eblackwelder View Post
You talk big oh "Mister I live where it snows every day". Let's see how things look in your neck of the woods in a year when you don't get as much snow.
Been there done that. We had our worst season in history in 04-05. We got only 465". It was a lot like a New England winter - only with snow.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › "Depth of base" - can somebody explain?