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The Ski Guru Blog

Bluster in the forecast

You don't say.

A study by two Dartmouth College professors (via VPR) has concluded that many ski areas exaggerate snow totals. And you were surprised when those three feet of reported powder turned out to be frozen granular.

The 32-page report, published this past June, concludes:

Ski resorts self-report 23 percent more snowfall on weekends; there is no such weekend effect in government precipitation data. Resorts that reap greater benefits from exaggerating do it more. We find little evidence that competition restrains or encourages exaggeration. Near the end of our sample period, we observe a shock to the information environment: a new iPhone application feature makes it easier for skiers to comment on resort ski conditions in real time. Exaggeration falls sharply, and much more at resorts with better iPhone reception. In all, the results suggest that deceptive advertising varies sharply with incentives, both within resorts (over time, at high-frequencies), and across resorts.

You want to know why ski resorts are taking social media so seriously? Check out this chart from the report detailing the number of iPhone reviews posted on Skireport.com earlier this year via their fantastic conditions app.

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That's a significant spike. Another potentially great iPhone ski conditions app I've found is the North Face Snow Report, which encapsulates both official resort and public Twitter feeds into the conditions for each mountain. It seems like it's going to be a fascinating tool in determining which mountains have the best conditions based on not only the snow report, but what fellow skiers are saying.

I only say potentially because, of course, the opportunity to use it (45 degrees, rain in the forecast, etc.) would be nice. While many folks seem optimistic about opening this weekend in Vermont, Wildcat, Attitash, and others in New Hampshire have already delayed their openings until next week. On the bright side, Killington re-opened today with 13 trails, and both Sunday River and Sugarloaf are expanding terrain. Bretton Woods continues to have the most trails open with 16.

Update (12/3):

Killington's Tom Horrocks has been pretty vocal the past few days in dismissing many of the report's findings. He clarified some points today on Killington's blog:

1. The report actually concludes that the National Weather Service does also report that there actually is more snow on the weekends studied.

2. The assumption of weekend exaggeration for promotional purposes is illogical. Travelers do not want to drive in snowy conditions and bookings for lodging are made in advance of the weekend (often midweek).

3. Elevation Variance. In Vermont, there might be a significant difference in elevation between an official weather station and a ski resort. At a ski resort, there may also be a variance in elevation between base elevation and summit elevation reporting sites.

At Killington for instance, our nearest official weather reporting station is located at the Rutland/Southern Vermont Regional Airport, which is approximately 11 miles away and at a significant lower altitude (approx. 650 feet vs. our official measuring stations at 2,000 and 4,000 foot levels) than Killington Resort.


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