I received a couple of emails about our "who most to trust" story of last week. Almost all were in huge agreement with our assessment of an independent reporting service being the best source for the most accurate information.
Taylor caldwell of Baltimore, Maryland (name used with permission) wrote, "I think you could have used a better illustration than that of who best to get input from about movies. Although I listen to the producer’s trailors, and I read or hear about movie critics comments – I always get the best information from the people who have already seen the movie, like friends, family, etc. Your site has been my favorite stop every morning for a decade of ski seasons now and will continue to be. Thanks for getting started so early this year!"
We received several others related to that one. Thanks for each of you who took the time to write and say such nice things. You ARE appreciated!
WE DIDN’T SAY NOT TO TRUST THE SKI AREA’S REPORT
The story we posted said "who should you MOST trust". It did not say that you could not trust individual ski areas. Some resorts do a great job of reporting and among those that do, there are often periods within each season that even those resorts fail to mention bare area or thin coverage until after we mention them. Additionally some ski areas are simply overwhelmed and understaffed and too often go days and even weeks without updating snow reports. Sad but true.
The issue becomes distorted when national snow reporting services pick up precisely (and ONLY) what the ski areas post and generate. So the subsequent visitors too often see dated and incorrect information. That is the case with national snow reporting services as well as many ski area associational websites. Member ski areas update the report and that is what is displayed until it is updated by the ski area again – whether that is daily, twice a day or once a week. We’ve seen base depths go unchanged for a solid MONTH and that is simply not possible that base depth don’t rise and fall.
However that doesn’t mean you can’t trust the ski area’s reports. I can’t tell you how many times last season that we bragged on Sugar Mountain doing the best job of snow reporting. See this archived story from January 2009 http://www.skinorthcarolina.com/article.php?table=article&article=2435
We wrote, "…we want to congratulate them on being DEAD ON – or even slightly under-reporting their snow, etc – all season long. They are reporting only TWO INCHES of snow from Sunday and according to three reports and the official station up there, Sugar has 3.2" of snow and that takes them to 33" on the season. That is at least the third time we’ve seen Sugar under-report a natural snowfall this season. Way to go up there Sugar!"
The thing to know is that WE get our first reporting from the resorts themselves and then integrate that with our reporter’s input, photos of the day that we are sent and first hand knowledge – and then we update our reports. Most often our reporting is nearly in 100% agreement with that which we get from the ski areas. Sometimes the only change is our mention of some thinning coverage or bare spots, slush, etc – that you simply won’t get elsewhere.
Anyone following this website over the years knows that this site was started out of nothing more than a desire to inform the visitors to our region what’s happening at the ski areas. We didn’t even offer advertising space for the first nine years, so all those countless hours of updating reports, photos and weather was simply out of a true appreciation of the area and winter sports. True we had a bunch of lodging clients who used us as a source of traffic and that quickly became a byproduct of what we were doing, but it all started simply because we loved skiing and saw a need for "no bull" reporting.
THERE WE GO AGAIN – What do you mean "No Bull Reporting"?
Before I get to the stuff that tends to rub a few ski area managers the wrong way, let me mention that about four years after we started this website, someone up in Vermont created a great little website called "Vermont’s No Bull Ski Report" and you can still visit the site at www.nobullski-vermont.com as it’s now been running for ten seasons. The site has never enjoyed the kind of traffic success that we have – gaining only 1105 unique visitors in all of January 2009 – but we’ve enjoyed the site from time to time and laughed a bit at some of their commentaries. One such comment was, "Do you completely trust advertising, or do you need a more independent view compiled by an independent organization?"
At one point during this past ski season they wrote, "So far conditions this year have ranged from outright fantastic to downright awful. Be informed!"
Readers of our website know that we’ve long been all over the ski areas for faulty base depth reporting, and "No Bull" has some interesting commentaries on that subject as well. Here’s a couple of the more interesting:
"Ski areas like to show an increase as the season progresses. Beware of a ski area that doesn’t report a decline in base depth during a thaw. It could mean other parts of the report might be suspect too."
"Rain. This is a word that is rarely used. Indeed, for a long time Killington scribes could be fired for using it!"
While compiling data for the new website that we’ll be debuting early in October, we researched how many inbound links were coming to us and found that we have 20,937 links coming to us with a wealth of links going directly to our slope conditions (soon to be renamed "Snow Reports" page. That prompted us to make some contacts with the many television station and newspaper websites that are linking to us and we posed the question, "We appreciate your link to our slope conditions report and simply wanted ask if you’d take a moment and complete a survey to help us to an even better job in the future. One of the survey questions was "What made you decide to include a link from your website to our Slope Conditions page""
The answer in various forms was ‘…we’ve found your reporting to be unbiased, spot on, more accurate, fair, and just (all words used by them, not us) than those coming from the resorts themselves.’
Although not mentioned, we tend to think that it might also be because we update our reports every single day, whether or not the individual resorts update their reports or not. As we stated earlier, many resorts don’t touch their reporting pages, whether on their own websites or state and regional association websites. The reason that associational websites such as GoSkiNC.com or SoutheastSki.com (operated by the North Carolina Ski Areas Association and Southeastern Ski Areas Association respectively) appear to be so inaccurate a lot of times is not the fault of the website managers – it has more to do with the fact that they only post what ski areas send them…and if they don’t send them a report, the information posted is dated, and sometimes by several days and longer. For the most part only member resorts and a few uninformed media people frequent those kinds of websites which is probably the main reason that THE MOST visited associational site in the region only saw a TOTAL of 7,033 visitors in December of 2008. One association’s website is in the process of taking things to a whole new level of marketing and they have a long way to go to increase their traffic over the grand total of 322 unique visitors that they pulled in all of January 2009. We’ll see how that goes.
WE’RE GETTING THERE…
It has taken 13 years of reporting for some of the region’s ski area marketing and management staffs to begin taking us seriously. We’ve had some major bumps in the road and one ski area that rhymes with "booger" still loathes our existence and yours truly on a personal level. I’ve heard from friends that when and if yours truly is ever spotted skiing there, that management is to be notified so that they would have me arrested and thrown off the resort. Since I plan to ski there at least 2-3 times this season, that might be ONE FUN DAY and a certain Kodak and video moment!
Another unnamed ski area has come to terms with us and now has their top brass in relatively constant contact with us, even though at least one of their staffers is still out and about making some negative comments about what we do around here. Seemingly a great rapport, built over ten years can be destroyed with one bad review.
So here we are now in season fourteen and we have 15 of the 16 ski areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic that support the job we do around here. Most like the job we do, a few ski areas have expressed the word "LOVE" in describing what we offer and our relationship with them, and a couple could care less either way (opting to operate oblivious to any snow reporting service).
We’re never going to please everybody, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t attempt to do so. Thanks for thirteen years of making us your favorite stop for news and information about skiing in the southeast. Your patience during the last couple of seasons of growing pains has been appreciated and we’re going to reward you guys with our best effort for the 2009-2010 ski season.
me visitors in January 2009 and 956,783 unique visitors during that month!
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