The Snow Gauge

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Are these the best snow reports you’ll ever read?

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in United States | 8 comments

Before I stepped foot in Kirkwood, California I had enormous respect for the place. In part it was due to its fearsome big mountain reputation and tales of 600-inch snow years. But a big component was also the snow reports.

Of course there’s epic powder days. But at how many commercial ski areas would you also see these types of comments in your reports:

“The weather pattern is setting up for unseasonably warm days with max temps some 10-15 degrees above normal and nearing records for early Feb …”

“Rain top to bottom all day yesterday my friends, ouch but temperatures have dropped significantly here since 3am its now [email protected] base and [email protected] summit, winds SW 35/40mph across the ridge tops with gusts upwards of 45+…”

“Take the day to get your affairs in order, ‪#‎POWHunting‬ season is well underway – We will keep you in the know …”

[email protected] base with 14”+up at the summit… Not quite ‪#‎ColdSmoke‬ but certainly not ‪#‎SeirraCement‬! … Let’s level set the day mis amigos, We will start the day out with snow-safety holds on all front-side lifts 1,5,6,7,9,10 & 11 …”

Take a few minutes and go to the Kirkwood Facebook Page to read some of the clearest, honest, sometimes amusing and very insightful reports that I have ever come across. Then ask yourself this question: In the age of social media, why can’t this be the standard everywhere? Surely we are all adult enough to understand this is an alpine environment and that a range of conditions could and should be expected.

The man behind the reports is Kevin “Coop” Cooper, a 23-year veteran of the resort. The self-appointed “director of stoke” is a dude alright, and a dude that seems to call it as it is. He’s recently taken on a dual communications role with nearby Heavenly and we can only hope that this brings his insight and honesty there – rather than diminish what he does at Kirkwood.

The fact that Kirkwood is a Vail-owned ski area and yet is prepared to take this line is a positive. It shows that, regardless of what you think about the corporate ski machine that they’re at least prepared to allow this factual reporting to go ahead.

Compare and contrast this with some of the guff you can get elsewhere (and yeah, that means Australia sometimes). I wrote about the problems last season. Despite the existence of snow cams, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and supposedly independent reporting from outside the ski areas we still seem to get the obligatory carefully framed visuals, no or extremely vague mentions on where the snowline sits (a key issue Down Under) and an almost passionate avoidance of the ‘r’ word.

With Perisher owned by Vail Resorts I see no reason why they can’t lead the way and take this kind of approach to reporting this southern hemisphere season. The snow-loving public will respect you the more for it.

As for Kirkwood itself, I’ll save a detailed trip report for another place and time.

Suffice to say that anyone who appreciates big mountain terrain without filler, this is a must visit. There wasn’t a whole heap of fresh in the two days I got there and not much in the way of blue skies but  with some of the steepest inbounds colouirs you’re likely to find and 17-year resort veteran (Aussie Sam Mullens) showing me the ropes it was hard not to fall for this Tahoe gem.

Like most places it wasn’t perfect and not for everyone (some slow lifts, a rough drive in when it’s snowing and limited intermediate terrain and dining options) but – in the mould of its snow reports, Kirkwood doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. Others take note.

Glenn Cullen was a guest of Vail Resorts.

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8 Comments

  1. Back in the day, Tim Cohee’s tag ling was “it’s phenomenal!” With the advent of webcams, it’s hard to lie about snowfall.

    • Amazing how it can be talked around though, particularly that mystical rain/snow line which admittedly impacts some places/countries more than others!

  2. Great read Glenn and yep we’re long overdue for something like this at home.

    • Thanks Nick. From all reports Falls are leading the way here (I look there a fair bit less than NSW). Let’s hope they lift over the border!

  3. So true Glenn. Honest reporting is what we want. The sooner it comes to Australia the better it will befor all who love the sport.

  4. Maybe Vail could send Coop down under!!!!!

    • Ha – he’d be most welcome!!!

  5. “A RESORT YOULL HAVE TO RESORT TO”
    Always been that way .
    Special
    Ed
    Resident
    Since 99
    First skied the Wood 76
    hardwoodfloors-fs.com

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