Shocking: Ivy League study confirms ski areas embellish snowfall tallies

Posted By: The Ski Channel on December 3, 2009 7:27 am

Well for anyone who has ever expected to find ‘packed powder’ at their ski area after reading a resort’s snow report, only to discover ‘boilerplate’, you might not be so shocked by the latest study performed by two Dartmouth College economics professors.

The newly released report from the Ivy League powerhouse, claims that ski resorts typically exaggerate true snowfall totals to entice skiers and boarders to come to the resort on a given day. The study was performed over a four year period, and compared snowfall tallies from various resorts, with those of nearby government weather stations. The results were pretty striking, as they revealed an unusual variance in the reported weather.

The study claims 10 to 15 percent of resorts are guilty of embellishing their published numbers.

Professor Jon Zinman said, “We found on average resorts report substantially more snow on weekends. There’s no reason you’d expect a resort to get more snow on a Saturday than a Tuesday. That’s just not how weather works.”

However, some resort officials have contested the validity of the study, claiming the data figures are not necessarily comparable numbers. They argue that it is common for ski area snowfall to vary significantly from nearby weather stations, citing changes in altitude.

The professors’ study attempted to alleviate these data concerns, as they did not use data from government weather stations that were more than 1,000 feet below the summit of a ski area. The more glaring issue in this study may be the actual distance from ski areas, not elevation differences. The average distance from a ski resort to a government station in the East was 26 miles.

Regardless of the findings, most ski resorts take the view that it is the customer who ultimately enforces the accuracy of snow reports. With the advent of Twitter, and other communication outlets, resorts can no longer project false information without word of mouth quickly spreading. 

“You know, it’s gotta pass the straight face test no matter what you put out there,” said Killington Ski Resort official Tom Horrocks.