Three years ago, I interviewed Joel Gratz, the founder of OpenSnow.com, a snowfall forecasting site and a go-to source for powder aficionados in the U.S.
Watching the snow fall (and fall, and fall) in South America this summer, has me dreaming of a massive El Niño winter for Colorado.
Dreaming of deep snow made me think of Joel.
And thinking of Joel made me realize it was time for an OpenSnow.com update.
The Interview, 2015
BSM: You’re a meteorologist by training and a skier by choice. How do these two passions combine in Opensnow.com?
JG: I started forecasting powder days for myself and my friends in about 2005. I was tired of seeing “30% chance of snow” in the forecast and wanted more information about where and when it was going to snow.
It took me a few years to learn the local weather patterns of Colorado, and I was wrong a lot. But I became a better forecaster and then started to share my predictions beyond my friends through an email list and eventually a website.
BSM: When did you found Opensnow.com and how has it grown and changed over the years? What are your plans for the site during the upcoming ski season?
JG: After four years of weekly email newsletters that I called “Colorado Powder Forecast,” I created Opensnow.com as a home for myself and other forecasters who were making snow predictions in other regions (Lake Tahoe, Utah, etc).
What started as a 37 person email list now reaches over 1.5 million skiers each season in the U.S., and I’m so excited that my passion has also become a sustainable and growing business.
This year, we are going to add longer-range (entire season) predictions into the site. This length of prediction is not always accurate, but especially during a season with a strong El Niño, it might prove useful and will at least be interesting to watch the accuracy of such predictions play out in real-time.
BSM: Weather forecasting? Science or fiction? What’s a skier to believe?
JG: To have confidence in the specifics of a storm, you’ll need to wait until about 1-2 days before it’s arrival. The predictability window extends out to about one week when all we care about is knowing if “some type” of storm is coming.
In some seasons, like this one, a strong El Niño can give us decent odds of predicting generally where the most snow will fall, but detailed forecasts weeks to months ahead are not possible.
BSM: How can skiers and snowboarders find the best powder using Opensnow.com?
JG: Read the forecasts from our local folks as they will give you an idea about where and when the most snow will fall. They’ll also talk about how confident they are when predicting snowfall amounts, and whether the storm will bring snow that’s warm and wet, cold and fluffy, or in between.
BSM: If you could ski anywhere, where would you go?
JG: My go-to answer on this one is that I would love to be anywhere as long as my fiancé Lauren and my best friends are with me. I grew up skiing on the east coast in Pennsylvania, and we had about 3 true powder days in 17 years, but I have the best memories from that time of my life.
Having fun on skis is more about who you’re with than just the quality of snow. BUT, skiing deep powder is hard to beat, when it happens.
BSM: Finally, what are your predictions for the upcoming season?
JG: A strong El Niño generally means more precipitation for the southwestern and northeast U.S. and less precipitation for the northwest.
Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colorado, and southern Utah have good odds of beating their seasonal snowfall averages.
The BSM Adds…
Thanks Joel. And thanks for building the El Niño stoke. Fingers crossed…
If you haven’t yet visited OpenSnow.com, join the 1.5 million skiers and snowboarders who receive Powder Alerts, via email or the OpenSnow.com app.
OpenSnow.com forecasters produce Daily Snow reports for Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Hampshire and Maine, Vermont and Northern New York, Lake Tahoe, the Northwest and the Upper Midwest throughout the season.
And if you’re really into it, get the OpenSnow.com All Access pass. For $19 a season, you can support the OpenSnow.com team, get discounts at Liftopia.com and Skis.com, along with 10-day forecasts, snow alerts, webcams and no ads.
Bienvenidos El Niño! (C’mon, really, please. We need you, little one.)
More On Snow and Where It Falls…
- What’s the Forecast? Open Snow Personalizes Your Weather, July 9, 2012.
- Wondering Where It Snows? July 13, 2015.
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