I saw down with first-year snowreporter Joe Schufman to discuss weather stations, how Big Sky Resort's snow report is gathered each day, and what it feels like to provide the world with great powder news from Big Sky Resort.
What time do you usually wake up in the morning?
I wake up at 3:45 a.m., but usually don't get out of bed until about 4:00 a.m. Once you are used to waking up this early it's no different than waking up at 8:00 a.m.
What's the very first thing you do when you get into the office?
I head straight to the computer to figure out how much snow we received overnight and what is going to happen with snow and weather today. To figure out snow totals we use automated weather stations and an on-mountain camera. These stations provide accurate totals for most of the mountain below treeline, for upper mountain totals we need to wait until about 8:00 a.m. for Ski Patrol to get on Lone Peak, and then they radio us with what the upper mountain snow totals are.
We use the best information we have available to determine snow totals, but it's not an exact science when 5,800 acres of terrain is combined with wind, aspect, and elevation. To counter the variable snowfall totals we report a range of snow - the lower number of that range represents the amount of snow the entire mountain received, and the upper number represents the areas that received more snow due to wind loading or elevation.
Can you give me a step-by-step of who you talk to in the mornings to get the snow report out to the public? Where do they get the snow report from?
Once I have the weather information I record a message on the Snow Phone with the pertinent information for the day: Current temperature, expected high temperature, low temperature, winds, skies, snowfall and snow totals: since lifts closed, 24-hour, 48-hour, and 7-day. If there are major events happening at the resort I include those too.
Next, I send out the information via a fax and an email and then I update five websites: Beta Scout, OnTheSnow, SnoCountry, Ski Montana, and a European site, Ski Resort Service International. Then I re-update the Snow Phone and the call two local radio stations. Depending on how hard it's snowing in the morning we can update our channels as frequently as every 30 minutes.
After this we start building the grooming report, which also reports similar weather, snow, events, and, obviously, groomed trails. Paper and electronic copies are distributed around 7:00 a.m. resort-wide.
Where are the weather stations located?
Our automated weather stations are located all around Big Sky Resort, and we even use some of the Yellowstone Club's automated weather stations. I use the instruments at Bavaria, Andesite, Lobo and Lookout Ridge. If you check out http://www.mtavalanche.com/weather there is a map with the locations of all the weather stations in the area pinned.
Where do we pull temperatures from?
Sten, our web guru, programmed the temperature feed from our Lobo Weather Station. Lobo is a mid-mountain weather station that is more or less an average temperature for the entire resort. The difference of the peak and base area temperature is about 10 degrees, so the peak and base area are + or - 5 degrees of what is reported by this feed. Typically Lone Peak is slightly cooler than Lobo, and Mountain Village Base Area is slightly warmer than Lobo, but sometimes Big Sky Resort experiences temperature inversions. When an inversion occurs it means that higher elevations are warmer than lower elevations. Make sure to check out Big Sky Resort's online Snow Report or call the Snow Phone as we report inverted temperatures.
What's your favorite thing about doing the snowreport?
It's really cool to be the first person awake on a powder day and getting to report the great news to the world. Other perks of the job are I get to work in an office with an outstanding team, I get time to ski almost every day because I have half of my work day done by 9:00 am, and finally we get to work on projects that we find interesting. It's great to work in many areas of the resort and learn how many departments operate.
Least favorite thing?
No secret here, waking up early and getting to ski every day means you go to bed early and are almost exclusively dedicated to the job and skiing.
People often ask the snowreporters or other team members at Big Sky Resort why we have one report for the entire mountain. Why do we do this? Or why do you think we do this?
We have one report because it adequately describes the conditions. The nature of any mountain means different snow conditions exist in different areas depending on winds, aspects, and elevations. Big Sky Resort is bigger than most mountains, but this doesn't mean we need to have four separate snow reports for the different areas of the mountain. What we do, that most mountains don't, is use a range of snowfall to accurately represent the minimum amount of snow the entire resort received and the maximum amount that skiers and riders can expect to find.
What is the trickiest part about reporting on snowfall over 5,800 acres?
Figuring out the right numbers. Conservative or liberal snow numbers mean that people won't get what they expected, which may lead to very dissatisfied guests. The reports that we create need to accurately describe what is happening at Big Sky Resort, so that people know what to expect.
Any other comments?
The office that I work in is great. Everyone is dedicated to their job, and watching the Sales and Marketing Team work together is like a v12 engine running on all cylinders. Ana, a second year Big Sky Snow Reporter, is an amazing coworker. She is an exceptionally fun person with tons of character. She applies her personality and passion for skiing and riding to her job, and the results are great.
Snowreporter Joe Schufman
Snowreporter Ana Dostert
"Photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe ... we can hold the whole world in our heads-as an anthology of images. To collect photographs is to collect the world."-Susan Sontag On Photography
These photographs of the last two weeks at Big Sky Resort reflect our world and reach those near and far through the medium of blogging. Living Big: Stories from the Big Sky Life blog presents one way we can admire the massive amounts of snowfall we've received, but I urge you to come see for yourself. As living a life through photographs may show us the world, but it will not enliven our senses.
Photo: Perry Rust
Photo: Lonnie Ball
Photo: Lonnie Ball
Photo: Lonnie Ball
Last Saturday Big Sky Resort hosted the 9th Annual Headwaters Spring Runoff. This was my first annual runoff and the first time a monoskier (two bindings on one board) took on The Headwaters. It was also a first for many competitors with 10 who had never competed in a big mountain competition before, and an additional half dozen who had never competed in the Headwaters Spring Runoff. I was not alone in my new surroundings, but gained a sense of belonging from this event's community. More than one-hundred spectators littered the snowy knoll above the finish line with youthful, albeit dirtbag, cheers. None of the 39 competitors came to the hi-vis finish without a cowbell, a yodel, or a friend handing out gummy bears to bring them home. Even Big Sky Resort's videographer, whose footage you're about to see, yelled out a congrats or two. The vibe was alive in the Stillwater Bowl that day. I can't wait to see what the juniors are going to bring this Saturday in the second leg of the Headwater Spring Runoff. Check out the two videos and the entire list of scores for the adult competition below.
Cinematography and Edited by Chris Kamman
Jamey Stogsdill has shredded Big Sky Resort and numerous Montana mountains since she was young. When she had an accident a few years ago she knew she wanted to keep shredding those mountains. About a week ago Jamey broke the boundary and became the first female monoskier (and third ever monoskier) to shred the Big Couloir. As someone who has yet to ski the Big, I find each person who goes over that edge to be inspiring, but Jamey's story breaks that inspiration into something more. I tear up every time I watch this video. Not at the part where Jamey talks about her accident, but at the part when she gets to the bottom of the Big. The joy she expresses in that moment is true insight into life.
Cinematography and Edited by Chris Kamman
Favorites ... Everyone has one. Mine just so happens to be a steep and twisted cirque on the north side of Big Sky Resort known as The Headwaters. After many years of hiking and riding the beautiful and sunny A-Z Chutes one day I found myself being strangely drawn to their darker and mysterious big sister The Headwaters. What I found was a whole new inbounds ski experience unlike anything I had ever seen. One that offered the relative ease of access provided by lifts, signage, a passionate and capable ski patrol and maintained hiking trails but... ended in obscurity. Standing atop the hike laid out before me was nothing short of a labyrinth. Interconnecting chutes, spines, rocky buttresses, hanging snowfields and massive amounts of exposure as far as my eyes could see were all open wall to wall. My partner and I sat a long time studying the cirque, watching other skiers and riders make their way, and getting comfortable with our new surroundings. The vibe of this place was intoxicating yet it's philosophy quite sobering: If you can see it you can ski it. In the world of resort skiing this was where the sidewalk ends. In The Headwaters the only limitations were my own.
It's been several years since that day and my passion and respect of The Headwaters has only grown. Each season I patiently watch and wait as the snow and winds shape and reshape the terrain. This season long study comes to a head each spring with the Headwaters Spring Runoff and the Subaru Freeride Series World Qualifier. These freeride competitions are held each year in the Headwaters venue and allow local and regional skiers and riders the chance to compete for fun, prizes, points and even a chance to compete on the Freeride World Tour. These conditions blogs below are my weekly observations of the venue and will hopefully serve as a resource for other competitors to stay safe, get creative and prepare for these events. Tune in here as well as Big Sky Resort's Facebook Page, Twitter, and Event Calendar for the latest news and info on conditions and competitions.
March 15: Adult Headwaters Spring Runoff (Click HERE to register)
March 22: Junior Headwaters Spring Runoff (This event is FULL. Click here to be put on the Wait List)
April 2-6: Subaru Freeride Series FWQ
Last Update March 12, 2014:
It's a powder day! Big Sky Resort just received 22-29"/24 hours. Mid-mountain base depth is 76" and the upper mountain base is 109". Winds are out of the NW at 5 mph. Skies are mostly sunny with temps around 25 degrees. Snow is a little heavier than normal and control work left a lot of debris in the run outs, but overall the skiing/riding is good. Forecast is calling for sunny skies and highs in the low 30's the next few days.
The 9th Annual Headwaters Spring Runoff Adult Venue
Shots of The Headwaters from March 12, 2014:
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