Snow Hunting (101?)
When I plot my annual trip – in which I strap sticks to my feet and aim for the best powdered ice I can afford to find – I perform a few rituals to stoke the snow hunter inside.
First of all, I start watching films by Warren Miller, Teton Gravity Research, etc. (I was fortunate enough to win most of the TGR films at a premier a couple years ago) This helps me get excited. I’ve got no desire to pull 360s (well, maybe a little) but seeing people attempt moments of awesomeness on snow is exciting.
Second, I start reading snow forecasts. This doesn’t do much good until a couple weeks out, but it can still get the blood pumping. (Either triumph in not going too early or heartbreak at missing the epic snow of the year) So, without further a due, let’s get to the snow hunting toys.
1) Freshy Map – This is a great use of spatial data. It’ll give you a quick view that you can drill into if you’re really on the hunt for snow. Currently it seems to only have the western United States covered. Sorry East Coasters.
2) Open Snow – These guys are great. They have a widget that you can source into your web site if you like. They have dedicated forecasters who focus on powder and they write up some interesting blog posts about their conclusions along with their hopes and dreams for the coming of The Powder.
3) Pre-trip deal hunting. I tend to haunt Winter Park because they’re a fantastic value. They’re also a pretty good drive for me. I head there from Missouri, take a run through Denver (sometimes with a stop in Boulder to drop off a friend). Winter park is pretty short drive from there. Other spots like Steamboat are a good clip away. My second favorite drive is probably Breckenridge – a place that really really wants 2-300/night for a decent room. Breck is a great place for a larger group, Winter Park is my choice for small inexpensive trips. Each town has it’s own flavor – I suggest exploring to find the right fit.
I’ve noticed a trend with resort web sites. They always have some sort of ‘deal’ which usually ends up being the standard price anyway. I have better luck watching the sites and getting a feel for the normal price. Once in a while there’s a really good deal – like free lift tickets with the hotel. It’s all subjective.
4) The season pass pondering. Sometimes, it’s really truly worth the money to buy a season pass. A WP pass can be a heck of a deal. Buying it in the summer is always cheapest. But it can reap some great benefits. The vouchers will save your friends and family $20-30 depending on the time of year. You’ll usually find discounts on gear and lessons with the pass too. That can really pay off. Saving 10-20% on gear or lessons can help your trip funds last longer. It can also save your wallet – they can typically tie a credit card to your pass for on mountain charges. Less digging around to pay for emergency chap stick is often the best thing ever!