Snow reports: why money changes everything
You have to be practised in the art of reading between the lines with snow reports.
Swap out if you will for a moment your local ski hill for your favourite surf beach. If, unbeknownst to you said beach was serving up one foot slop in driving rain, would you want to know about the chips Donna is serving up at the canteen? Or the spectacular granular qualities of the sand? Or the fact that li-los are half price at Bob’s Beach Store across the road?
As a surfer, you’d probably want to know more about the conditions and perhaps less about whether Donna uses tallow or canola to fry her taties. And chances are you’d get that information rather than the diversions because no one owns the beach and needs you to be there.
Rocks … or diamonds? Same day different conditions in Australia
Now, and I’m getting all Old Spice Man here, imagine your favourite ski hill was owned by a benevolent trust. It ran in most aspects the same as a regular resort but there wasn’t an emphasis on profits. It was a facility for the people and ran as the conditions dictated.
What do you think the snow reports would be like from this resort?
Money, as Cindy Lauper once told us, changes everything.
Cindy Lauper. For women’s ski week see: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
As soon as a commercial imperative becomes involved reality becomes skewed. And I am not just talking about resorts. Anyone with a financial interest in the snow is reluctant to talk down conditions.
I don’t want to pick on anyone in particular in this regard but I will give an example of some recent reporting on the conditions in Australia. Let’s call this particular snow site Fountain Crotch. Now, I have no beef with Fountain Crotch but I found one of their recent video reports interesting. The footage was, shall we say, very tightly shot as the riders zoomed past the reporter. It all looked pretty good. It stated what lifts were open and nothing seemed particularly out of order on the surface.
Yet imagine if this scenario was flipped. You filmed down at one of the lower points of the resort; where there was no snow. Your footage showed skiers and snowboarders with planks in hand crossing rocks and dirt. Equally true. But would this ever happen in a commercial snow report, let alone from a resort?
My polite suggestion that perhaps the Fountain Crotch Twitter report which spoke of extensive snow making and a great weekend was perhaps a stretch was met with: ‘We didn’t say the snow was great, just it was going to be a great weekend. It’s what you make of it.” Depends on your perspective I suppose. Resorts like Perisher are doing a terrific job with what little snow there is but let’s not get carried away.
I think if you start trotting out terms like “great” as the conditions currently stand, where the bloody hell do you go with things when it actually is great? All time? Out of this world? Niseko meets Alaska via Chamonix on speed?
For the record it was great this time last year. No two ways about it. I was there. A couple of feet of snow in Thredbo Village and there was fantastic top to bottom riding. Was it Alta via St Anton? No. But it was Australia and it was bloody good.
Perhaps in a perfect world you’d have the ABC doing snow reports but I reckon even then it wouldn’t be so perfect. As soon as the resort lobby group saw one too many negative reports there would be an outcry that the national broadcaster was “anti skiing and snowboarding” and acting “un-snow”. Or something like that. They’d be bashed on The Bolt Report and/or have their budget cut.
Snow reporting is really just a microcosm of what goes on in the rest of the media. For the mainstream news websites that means an abhorrence of the middle ground. It is snowmageddon or the worst season in 50 years. There’s been an epic dump or we’re in need of an epic dump. It can’t be an average season or day because average doesn’t invoke, provoke or most importantly – sell.
Like any media these days my suggestion when you are looking at snow reports is consult widely, throw in first hand accounts/social media, consider what the vested interests may be and then draw your own conclusions.
If a half a dozen or so pisted runs works for you, go out and enjoy it. If it doesn’t save your dollars for when it gets better.
With some luck that’ll be in the next week or so.