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

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November 21, 2013 -- Gregg Blanchard

This week, 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.

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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 a.m. And 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 a.m. 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 snocountry.com reports early enough, or sometimes at all. The kicker is when the 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 a.m. The biggest benefit here is accuracy. Those 5 a.m. details can be pretty useless by even 6:30 a.m. 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 a.m., 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 him or her 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 all right.

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 Internet's fault. Customers on and off site have endless ways of knowing exactly what is going on around the mountain and expect your resort to keep up with the crowd-sourced chronicle. If it were my call, I'd figure out a way to "mail it in" on a 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 a.m. update once Patrol and the daylight has their say. Yup. The cycle should happen twice. Once for the 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 to 6 p.m. update, you're missing a great opportunity to cross sell that evening's events and set proper expectations for the day to follow. It also is a much better experience for the folks looking at it at 4:56 a.m. before they hit refresh.

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