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Before Jumping on the El Nino Bandwagon, Please PLEASE Check the Actual Forecasts

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A couple weeks ago at dinner the topic of El Nino came up. Before the conversation went anywhere, however, my wife simply asked:

“This may sound dump, but what exactly is El Nino?”

It’s a question many resort marketers need to be asking. My response was simply:

“A big blog of warm water in the Pacific. The rest is simply correlation.”

Because as we are innundated with headlines like:

Resort marketers are starting to jump on board.

In fact, I’ve heard of or seen (positive) El Nino references from nearly every state and province so far.

There’s just one problem.

Open Snow’s Resort-Specific Forecasts
Open Snow has taken on the challenge of using all this data that’s leading to El Nino hype and actually turning it into resort-by-resort forecasts for the entire season. This, however, doesn’t come without limitations:

“Producing a winter forecast in October means that we’re making a six-month forecast, extending from November through April. Even the best meteorologists cannot produce perfect six-month forecasts year-after-year, but we are giving it a shot and are encouraged by our results.”

But even more than that, here’s their take on accuracy:

“On average, for our winter snow forecasts made in early October, we will get the forecast right about 2/3rds of the time. This level of accuracy can certainly help skiers and riders gain insight into which ski areas could see above average or below average snowfall this winter.”

And here’s what they’re seeing:

OpenSnow Winter Ski Forecast 2015-16 (1)
source: OpenSnow

The scale takes a second to wrap your head around, and Joel cleared this up in a reply to Dave Belin’s comment.

“Every year there is a chance of above average, average, or below average snow. We chose to present the data in a possitive light and look at the chance of above average snow. If chances for above-average snow are low, then, well, the chances are higher for average to below average snow. The graphics for each individual resort show the range of the forecast.”

For example, here’s Mammoth’s showing a prediction of anything from average to bit above average.

source: OpenSnow

A Caution
In a sentence: El Nino could be a great thing for some resorts.

But notice the two words in that sentence – could and some. El Nino may indeed be “too big to fail” but that doesn’t translate to any guarantees for any one resort. Or, as SKITHEEAST put it:

Maybe resorts have already cried wolf too many times, but if we haven’t, ride the bandwagon at your own risk.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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