Live from the slopes
By Karen D. Lorentz | January 22,2013
Andy Davis, the snow reporter at Mount Snow Resort, uploads photos to Web sites.
The job of a snow reporter — compiling daily reports on snow conditions at ski resorts — might seem like a glamorous gig for those who love the opportunity to ski or ride.
But, as one new reporter discovered, such workers don’t always get the day’s first tracks, although they do get several runs most days. The bigger benefit to this seasonal job? It provides a good education and a chance to move up to full-time, year-round positions throughout the ski and tourism industries.
“We now have two former snow reporters working full-time, year-round in our marketing department,” said Bonnie MacPherson, public relations director at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, as proof that the entry-level, seasonal position is an important job that prepares new hires for various year-round positions.
Lindsay Colburn has served as Okemo’s snow reporter. “My duties and interactions with multiple departments around the resort as snow reporter certainly helped prepare me for my current position as the marketing administrative coordinator,” said Colburn, who added she is very happy to be “a year-round Okemo employee now.”
Dave Meeker, communications director at Mount Snow Resort in West Dover, described the snow report as “our most widely distributed PR (public relations) tool.”
“The snow report page is the most visited page on mountsnow.com, so there is a major focus on accuracy,” said Meeker. “Duties include making sure everything is up-to-date, accurate, and consistent on every Web site we provide information to — the snow phone, the trail report, snow-reporting TVs around the resort, interactive trail map, etcetera.”
For Andy Davis, Mount Snow’s new snow reporter, a typical day at the mountain starts at 6 a.m. on weekends and holidays, and 6:30 a.m. during the midweek. He calls snowmaking and grooming departments to make sure everything went according to plan, and updates the snow report and interactive trail map on mountsnow.com accordingly.
Davis records the report on the snow phone, and then it’s on to updating numerous other Web sites, printing the trail report document, and making copies that he distributes to the area’s retail shops, guest services, and training center. He also e-mails the updated trail report to ski shops and local lodging properties, and sends out a mass e-mail to subscribers of the daily snow report.
“All of this should be done by 7:30 a.m. at the latest,” he said. “Sometimes, I’ll get a [Web]cam shot when doing the trail report distribution, but otherwise I’ll gear up and head out for a run or two and get the cam-shot then. Once I think I have a good photo, I come inside and upload it.”
Other duties include making a video. Out on the mountain, he may shoot a powder day or an event.
“Sometimes, I talk to guests and get their take on the conditions. Any number of things could be the subject: that’s the fun of it.” He also edits and produces a final video.
Around 1:30 p.m., Davis checks with mountain operations to see what the grooming and snowmaking plan is for that night, and uses that information to write the afternoon snow report as well as the next morning’s report: this way, he just needs to update the weather portion and make any changes that occurred overnight.
Other duties include writing newsletters, talking to reporters, updating social media — and keeping close track of changing conditions. “On days when there’s weather, I need to be on my toes and keep up with any lift holds, lift openings, trail closures, trail openings, snow-surface changes and anything else guests would need to know while they are here,” he said.
Davis added, “I thought the snow reporter actually went out first thing in the morning, took a couple runs and then reported on what he/she experienced. That’s not the case, aside from what I put in the afternoon snow report, which is usually a brief description of the runs I took during the day.
“I’m learning that many people who occupy managerial roles in the ski industry started in my position, and that is super encouraging. Jack Fagone, who was the snow reporter here last season, is now employed full-time in the marketing department as the marketing and merchandising manager.
“In the meantime, I really love my job, and getting up at 5:30 in the morning has never been more fun.”
Magic Mountain Ski Area in Londonderry places its snow report on the area’s Web site as well as on onthesnow.com and snowcountry.org, with the latter offering “radio reports which air in key markets for us,” said marketing director Geoff Hatheway. “We fax reports to partner ski shops and hotels/inns,” he added.
Last year, Hatheway served as snow reporter as part of his duties, but this year that role went to a new person, who also assists in marketing and customer service.
A typical day for Magic’s snow reporter starts at 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., with a goal of gauging conditions and getting early reports up on Magic’s Web site, Facebook page, and Twitter, and to online/radio distribution outlets before 7 a.m., Hatheway said. Magic’s automated phone response is updated as to conditions and which trails were groomed. Reports are then faxed to ski shops and inns.
Once the ski patrol heads up the hill, the snow reporter will get a report as to any trail closings or openings, and then update all the online distribution outlets about any changes.
“Then, it’s time to head out to get a feel for conditions, and bring camera and video for a more direct ‘picture’ which will be communicated by social media after a run or two,” Hatheway said. “This may include third-party customer interviews.
“Production of these will take place into mid-morning or afternoon, depending on any new weather happenings or events taking place that we want to communicate socially,” Hatheway noted.
“Because we want to be able to capture the day through the sights and sounds of customers as much as possible, the reporter must be engaged outside at various times. It’s why a dedicated snow reporter was hired to be out there early and often, while producing materials that effectively communicate the ski and snowboard experience to our potential customers.
“Snow reporting must be handled with knowledge and care, as accuracy and timeliness are very important,” Hatheway added, giving a clue as to why this entry-level position often leads to year-round work for those who take it seriously and do a good job.