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Snow Reporting FAQs

Breckenridge Snow Stake

How do you report your snow amounts?

At Breckenridge, we are committed to reporting our snow accurately and transparently, according to strict standard operating procedures for the industry. Although measuring and reporting snow is a simple and straightforward process, interpreting what the snow report means to the skier can be challenging. With 2,901 acres spanning five peaks and 3,400 vertical feet of elevation, Breckenridge Ski Resort is a vast area. Snowfall from each storm can vary widely across our mountain, but reporting standards and consistency require that we measure snow at a single location every day, season to season. 

Our snow reporting location is in the Back Bowls on Peak 8, near the bottom of 6-Chair. At 11,237 feet, this site is almost exactly at the middle elevation of the resort (which spans from 9,600 ft to 13,000 ft). Most resorts report from within the upper third of the their mountain's elevation. The snow stake you see on our web cam is located at this site, and this is the single location where we record the official snowfall data that that is passed on to the media. We have been recording snow at this location for more than 20 years. 

A small team of specially trained ski patrollers reads the snow stakes at just before 5:00 AM each day. Therefore, the official 24-hour snow report is the amount of snow which fell between 5:00 AM one morning to 5:00 AM the next day. We also read our stakes at 4:00 PM each day. That way, we can also report the amount of snow which fell overnight (from 4:00 PM to 5:00 AM) which is a fraction of the total 24-hour snow total. Most skiers like this report since it shows the amount of snow which fell after the area closed the day before. It is the fresh snow which hasn't been skied yet. 

In addition to the 24-hour snow stake, we also have a base stake that records the amount of snow on the ground at this site. Base readings are always much lower than the total amount of snow that has fallen over the season due to settlement, melting, and sublimation. 

What time do you report your snow? 

Before 5:00am. Usually the ski patroller calls the Communications Center between 4:45am and 5:00am. The amount of snow at the stake is recorded into our database which is then automatically delivered to the websites, email system, text message system, and third party websites like OpenSnow.com and OnTheSnow.com

 What’s your average annual snowfall?

353 inches or 889 centimeters 

Where do you measure snow? 

The official snow stake cam is located in our back bowls on Peak 8, near the bottom of 6-Chair at 11,237 ft. 

 Why is the snow stake located where it is? 

To get the most accurate recording of snowfall, it is important to measure the snow in an area that is not overly affected by external factors such as wind drifting or settling by the sun. The snow stake therefore must be in a flat spot that is out of the direct sun and protected from the wind to avoid drifting and scour. Industry standards for ski area snow reporting require that official readings be made from no higher than the lower portion of the upper third of elevation of the resort. Our stake is situated well below this standard at 11,237 feet which is almost exactly at the middle elevation of our skiable terrain. We work with the CoCoRaHS measurement system to ensure our snow stake is built properly and in the right place. 

How do you measure snowfall and settled base? 

Daily snowfall measurements are made on a flat white board with a stake on it that is graduated in inches. The height of snow can be read directly from this stake at 5:00 AM each morning. After each 5:00 AM reading, the board is swept clean. The height of snow on the board at any time is therefore the amount of snow that has fallen since the previous 5:00 AM sweep. 

 In addition to the 24-hour snowfall measurements, we also record the settled base snow depth each morning at 5:00 AM. This figure is read from a permanent stake that measures height of settled snow above the ground. Reading this stake is a bit more complicated due to fact that a settlement cone typically forms around the permanent stake since heat from the stake itself causes the snow next to it to melt or settle faster than it would in a regular field of snow. Base depths are therefore read as the level of snow outside the influence of the settlement cone, or about 2 feet from the stake. To make this measurement consistently, the patroller averages the height of snow against the stake in front of and behind the stake. 

Are there ever mistakes?

 Mistakes happen. We are humans working with complex databases and computer systems. Although we strive for accuracy every day, every report has checks and balances to keep things done well. The most common mistakes that occur are typos, when someone mistypes a number. These errors are usually obvious, and are rectified quickly.

 If you ever have a question, concern or notice an inconsistency, please contact us immediately. Contact info news@vailresorts.com

Who’s responsible for checking the snow stakes? 

Eight ski patrollers are trained specifically as official weather observers. These are the people who check the stakes each morning by 5:00 AM and call in the results to the Vail Communications center. The weather observers also create the avalanche forecasting and grooming reports that are used by the ski area staff to plan daily operations. 

How do you clear the snow stakes? 

The 24-hr snow stake is swept off automatically by a robotic system at 5:45 AM each morning. The stake that measures settled base is never swept. This is a measurement of the depth of snow on the ground. base of the snow stake stays static. 

Why is your settled base reported as 18” at the beginning of the season?

 Following industry standards, we report a base of 18" when the majority of skiable terrain is on manmade (snowmaking) snow. It is assumed that at least 18" of artificial snow is present on these trails even when the natural snow base is less than 18". Even in early season, ski patrol still records natural settled base for our records, but when most of the open terrain is on manmade snow, we report 18" since that is what our customers will be skiing on. 

Do you lie about your snow totals? 

No. The snow totals reported to the public are the direct measurement of snow on our official snow stakes according to simple but strict standard operating procedures.

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