Feb 12 2010

Knowledge is powder – 10 great ski and snowboard websites

Can surfing the internet lead to this?

In the old days (say 10 years ago) if you wanted to know, for example, if it was snowing in Vail, you had to either be in Vail or be talking on the phone to someone who was. Nowdays, thanks mostly to the internet, it’s almost impossible to not know when it’s snowing in Vail. You’ve got your Vail webcams, I-70 road reports, and Vail local blogs, not to mention emails and alerts from the mountain itself. This is both a blessing and curse – you’re never going to miss a powder day because of lack of information but neither will any of the other 3 million potentially interested parties who live in the Denver Metro area. But since there’s no going back to simpler times, you might as well embrace the new reality and man, is there a lot of it out there.

No longer a secret - Knife Ridge at Wolf Creek

Now, while I may occasionally get slightly bitter about the fact that it’s almost impossible to keep a powder stash secret anymore (and yes, I know I’m contributing to this problem by writing this blog) I’m generally thrilled and amazed by what I can discover just sitting at home surfing of my laptop. Besides the real obvious stuff like snow totals and weather reports from around the world that are listed elsewhere on this site – I’d like to point 10 websites that have really caught my fancy lately.

First, let’s talk about the compendium sites – those that aggregate data from multiple sources. My favorite of all of these has got to be (1) Western Snow Info. If I was limited to just one site to get snow info, this would be the one as they list daily and weekly snow totals, detailed weather reports and webcams from 16 major ski resorts spread out across the western US and Canada in a very user friendly layout. I will warn you, however, that visiting this site can cause severe bouts of powder envy when your local area is not doing so well. Another great compendium site specific to Utah can surprisingly be found on the (2) Salt Lake City National Weather Service page. Not sure why Colorado doesn’t do this, but this page combines snow, weather, avalanche and UDOT reports along with webcams for all Utah ski resorts – what a jackpot! For sheer reach, it’s hard to match (3) Mountain Weather which features weather forecasts from Jackson Hole, Alaska and the Himalayans. And for a great example of a local’s site that has everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask check out (4) Tahoe Loco for all the latest in what’s happening around the largest alpine lake in North America.

I have become quite the weather buff over the years by necessity and obviously the web has long been the motherlode for finding meteorological information. But if you live in Colorado and haven’t already seen it, (5) Colorado Powder Forecast is a tremendous new addition to the scene. Written by Joel Gratz, a Boulder resident, it is a regularly updated specific forecast for all areas of Colorado designed especially for skier/riders. Not only is it informative, funny and full of all sorts of extra goodies (and more importantly generally very accurate), but Joel will personally answer your forecast questions if you post to the comment section. Just today he’s added a video forecast and can’t wait to see what’s coming next – a definite must stop on the internet powder tour. Another interesting ski specific weather site that Joel turned his readers on to is (6) Utah Ski Weather which is run by meteorology grad students at the University of Utah. And for those of you who like radar imaging, the (7) National Weather Service Enhanced Radar Image Loop can be quite hypnotic.

Then of course, we have what got me started on all this – ski and snowboard blogs. I first started checking out what I call the industry blogs like ESPN SnowboardingSnowboard Magazine and Teton Gravity Research which given their reach and resources often have interesting posts and videos. I soon found, however, that I prefer the smaller more personal sites like (8) Mountain Goat Ski Guides based out of Silverton or the beautiful photos that can be found in the backcountry skiing/snowboarding section of (9) Jack Brauer’s Mountain Photography site. These are kindred spirits whose souls are nutured by untracked turns in the backcountry. To access a huge variety of snow specific sites I often check out (10) Lou Dawson’s Backcountry Skiing Blog which has links to dozens of fascinating sites. And the list goes on and on with new ones coming online everyday.

The kind of surfing I'd rather be doing

In the end of course, I’d much rather be surfing some untracked slope than the internet but it’s nice to know that there are other folks as equally enamored (or should I say obsessed) with skiing powder as I am. It also helps to get through those times when there’s not a lot of new snow coming down locally (like this entire ski season in Northern Colorado). And now that the internet has answered the eternal question of “where is it snowing”, we can move on to more important matters – like how can I get there before it’s all tracked out…