Hello Everyone –
There was a time when the television in my office during my years at Snowshoe Mountain rarely came off of The Weather Channel (TWC). It was a time I considered the weather forecasters at the weather service the foremost experts when it came to letting everyone know what to expect when it came to predicting weather. That situation is no longer the case and I am here to explain the reasoning behind my lack of viewing of The Weather Channel and what was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.
Let’s remember back to the early 2000’s when the “green” blob starting showing up that didn’t take into consideration enough elevation changes in states like where ski resorts in the southeast are located. I would be in my office at about 4800 feet, watching The Weather Channel, it would be snowing outside my office and TWC’s weather map would be green indicating rain. Yes, it was raining at the base of the mountain at 2800 feet but it was quite different at the top of the mountain but you couldn’t tell that by viewing TWC, it just indicated rain. Many times if it was affecting the southeast region the “green” blob would stretch over the mountains from Tennessee to Maryland and I know there were many times that it was snowing at Sugar or Wintergreen or Wisp and possible skiers and snowboarders were told it was raining. Not exactly the word resort operators wanted to get out there. I even called the meteorologist on the air one time when he said “the folks at Snowshoe probably aren’t enjoying the rain” to inform him that in fact it was snowing and even held the phone out my door to show him the snow. After looking at a different radar that took the higher elevation into account, he said, “why it is snowing.” No kidding Einstein, but you know what never went away, the “green” blob.
Please understand when MTV first came on the air in the 80’s, I actually watched the channel because there were music videos on the cable channel. Yes I enjoyed Bruce Springsteen dancing on the stage, ZZ Top with their sharp ride and Dire Straits giving us an animated robot. Along those same lines, when TWC came on the air and through the middle of the 90’s, when you turned to get weather on TWC, that’s what you got, weather. Then the change came and MTV turned to showing music videos that really didn’t suite my musical style and shows that had nothing to do with music began airing and with MTV that’s where we stand today, no music just shows that really don’t add anything to my day whatsoever.
Switching to TWC, you’ve got time it just right these days to find out what’s happening in your world when it comes to weather. Yea I know there is that local button and everything but I may be traveling and want to know what is going on elsewhere. I don’t care about storm chasers or other type of shows that don’t help my day when it comes to what I need to wear or be prepared for as the day goes along. Don’t tell me to go on the internet as I know that and do it to some extent, but I still like to see that weather person on the set telling me what is going to happen. Call me old school, but that’s just the way I roll when it comes to gathering my weather information.
Next up is the advance forecasting that seems to being stretched out there more and more these days. First it was three days out, then five days, then a week, followed by two weeks an now you can get a forecast for the next month. During a meeting with the lead meteorologist at TWC in Atlanta, I was informed that the most reliable advance forecasting is 48-hours out. After that it drops significantly every day into the future the forecast goes. So my question, why do it if it isn’t reliable when your credibility is on the line. I know the phone rings at resorts when someone has a winter trip booked a few weeks out and TWC begins to forecast rain two to three weeks out, they don’t realize the forecast is based on historical data and probably will change ten to 20 times before the actual period arrives. The whole advance forecasting weeks upon weeks out just creates headaches for resort customer service reps. I know you are saying all the weather sites do it, that still doesn’t mean the biggest should. Check out the National Weather Service sometime, they only look a week out and that isn’t that bad.
Now for that straw, it happened last winter when TWC started naming winter storms. I guess they just wanted to start a trend and well that trend just flat stinks. At first a number of local meteorologists started using the name and I even saw Associated Press using the name. Thank goodness most have stopped other than TWC itself. I know if they name hurricanes, why can’t they name winter storms? Well, they are the National Weather Service and they don’t and aren’t going to and they are the ones that set those rules and that’s the way it should be.
So as you can tell I am not a big fan of TWC and it used to be “THE” channel I was glued to, but that glue has worn off and I pretty much just rely on looking out my front door to figure out what is going on. Remember, I said old school earlier in this column.
That’s it for this column, more to come as the season continues, just remember whether it be cold or whether it be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. Think about it! See you on the slopes.
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Joe Stevens, a member of the southeast ski industry since 1990 is a regular columnist for skisoutheast.com and serves as the Communications Director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.