How to track down powder

Think you’re powder obsessed? Pah! Meteorologist Joel Gratz devotes his life to tracking the biggest storms and skiing the huge dumps they leave behind. Here are his top tips for tracking down fresh snow

Follow Joel's advice to find tracks like these | Photo Fotolia.com

Follow Joel’s advice to find tracks like these | Photo Fotolia.com

1. Use weather forecasting websites that are local and focused on snow

There are two types of snow forecasts: those made by humans and those made by computers. While computers are great at forecasting temperatures, they falter when forecasting snow in big mountains. So seek out local websites that show snow forecasts crafted by human beings. OpenSnow.com is the best for many US locations (well, I would say that as I’m it’s founder, but I think you’ll agree it’s amazing!) and you should also look for local bloggers. If you want to get geeky and forecast your own snow, go to twisterdata.com for the US, and for worldwide models, wxweb.meteostar.com

2. Know the stats

Some ski areas get more snow than others. Dig into the numbers for North America at bestsnow.net and check the averages for each resort. For Europe things are harder to track. And plenty of resorts don’t push their snow stats so heavily, as none are in the world’s top 20. But you can often find details tucked away somewhere, or in a stellar year, on resort websites/social media.

3. Ignore (most) seasonal forecasts

You’ll naturally gravitate to the seasonal snow forecast that looks best for your holiday, but don’t let your mind play tricks on you. Almost all seasonal forecasts are inaccurate, and in a sense they don’t really matter. Finding powder and good snow comes down to the weather pattern during your holiday, not a seasonal average. Dry years can still have periods of great snow and visa versa. If there is a strong El Niño (warmer water in the central Pacific Ocean) or a strong La Niña (cooler water in the Pacific), this can help seasonal forecasts be more accurate.

4. Be flexible, travel with options

If finding powder is your number one objective, relish the opportunity for adventure. Book flights to a central area and get lodging at the very last minute once you know where snow will fall. Even better, book on an airline that doesn’t charge a fee to change (in the US check out Southwest Airlines) and rearrange things at the last minute. If this sounds like a lot of work and uncertainty, then just…

5. Travel with people you love

And get them to do the donkey work! More seriously, powder is great, but people are better. And any ski holiday can be a great one if you spend it with your best friends and family, even if the snow conditions leave room for improvement. Of course the goal is to combine the great people and pow, so start geeking out on weather and embrace a flexible travel schedule. The best day of your life awaits…

Most forecasting sites send us to sleep immediately. Joel’s is streets ahead, very funny, and totally ski focused. After a tip from a reader, we used it for visits to Colorado, Utah and Wyoming last season and were rather impressed. Check out opensnow.com

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