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Early, Late, Before, After? Hitting the Sweet Spot for Resort Snow Reporting.

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My snow report sketch last week got some interesting feedback. Especially the idea of sending it the night before.

But not wanting to get the cart ahead of the horse, I decided to take a quick look at how snow reporting stands now and the best practices that exist. To find my answer, I went to my not-in-the-industry-anymore-but-knows-100x-more-than-me source, Alex Kaufman.

Gregg:First, give me a few reasons why it’s best to send a snow report early. Make a case for that practice.
Alex: Early being around 5 am… the biggest single reason? Aggregation. If you want to ensure today’s report makes it out to the bazillion outlets that use these feeds, the earlier the better. Same applies to reaching the morning TV/weather people who prep at crazy early hours. If you miss these, then often you’ll see a list of ski areas with new snow tallies from today while your resort is either missing or showing zeros. Also if you operate in a drive market, many of your skiers could be departing their homes (and deciding where to ski) between 4 and 6 am with available info.

Whenever I hype the “most new snow feature” on Ski The East out to our channels on storm days there’s always a few resorts missing. These are the ones that did not update their reports early enough or sometimes at all. Example in action. The kicker is when aforementioned resort (or passionate skier of) then chimes in with, “hey why didn’t you list us?” The answer is because you didn’t do your own snow report, but I find a better way to say that to first time offenders.

Gregg:How about later, closer to opening, what’s the benefit of waiting?
Alex: Late being between 6:30 and 7 am… The biggest benefit here is accuracy. Those 5 am details can be pretty useless by even 6:30 am. Lift plans change, snow accumulates, winds increase etc. It’s far easier to incorporate what Patrol has to say at this hour than at 5 am, when they are generally not on site yet. Also you get to see what your competition has put out there and choose to top it if you think you can pull that off (or have management that likes to play that game.) Your snow reporter gets an extra hour of sleep, which might help them to make it through the entire season of being the most scrutinized hourly employee at your resort.

Gregg:So, as you look at the two sides, how do they shake out? Is one clearly better than the other?
Alex: As usual, it depends. If you’re in a geographically competitive area with many drive options, it serves to be early to maximize your reach. If you’re isolated, like a Sun Valley or Steamboat, then perhaps an extra hour or so to save resources and keep it simple (not having to update the report a lot) is alright.

Gregg: What else makes this a tricky question? What am I missing?
Alex: What worked 10 years ago does not work anymore. The amount of resorts doing one morning report per day and calling it good has shrunk to near zero. As you could guess, it’s the internets fault. Customers on and off site have endless ways to know exactly what is going on around the mountain and expect your resort to be keep up with the crowd sourced chronicle. If it were my call, I’d figure out a way to “mail it in” on basic level super early in the day to hit the TV and aggregation outlets, then get my guests trained to watch for the 7:15 am facts of life update once Patrol and the daylight has their say. Yup. The cycle should happen twice. Once for the world at large data sweep (early). Once for the onsite or soon to be public (later once you’re not guessing).

Forgetting all of the above, perhaps the most underestimated part of snow reporting is the PM report. Some mountains just leave the prior day sitting there. Some set expectations for the day to come. If you don’t do a 4-6 pm update that you ride for the overnight, you’re missing a great opportunity to cross sell tonight’s events and set proper expectations for the day to come. It also is a much better experience for the folks looking at it at 4:56 am while they hit refresh.

  • Shredthegnarpow

    Ooo great insight. I like all those ideas. Especially the late day reporting. And with this whole internet fad really taking off :) I think it would be sweet for some resorts to have a “cat crew” report that refreshes for the new day,(say 1am) giving an idea of how much has fallen since the resort has closed. Wind direction, accumulation, groomed/un-groomed runs. This guy/gal could end up being a “rock star” for the ski community. The more info the better.

    • Kevin Forrest

      I like the “cat crew” idea.

  • Kevin Forrest

    Boomerang for Gmail is pretty good too…you could have the “cat crew” put the data in and it will send as scheduled to meet your needs to lead turn the media cycle.

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