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Last Chair- Powder to the People

Skier, meteorologist, and opensnow.com founder Joel Gratz says skiers should think short-term, be ready to roll, and forget those pretty weather maps.

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SKI › What’s your biggest frustration as a professional meteorologist?


J.G. › People have to have realistic expectations of what weather forecasting can provide. We’re very good at giving you two-, three-, four-day forecasts. And we’re good at talking about a storm in general terms five to seven days out. I worry we oversell confidence in longer-term forecasts, undermining the credibility in our very accurate shorter-term forecasts.

SKI › What’s your best weather-watching advice for skiers?

J.G. › Think in three-to-five-day terms. Five to 10 days out, you can get a feel if the weather is trending in the right direction. But you can’t figure out the details of a storm more than five days out. And the details are what get you powder days. Look at 10-day forecasts as guides. I don’t start making plans to find great snow until we’re inside of five days, and really inside of about three days. Then be ready to roll. Weather is local.

SKI › With 24/7 websites and TV coverage, people spend hours looking at weather maps. Good idea?

J.G. › Weather maps—radar, highs and lows, and so on—are beautiful. But they don’t show you where the best snow is going to be. They’re eye candy. Read short-term forecasts. SKI › You’re building a business. Do you still have time to storm chase? j.g. › I grew up skiing in the East, so I appreciate all kinds of snow. But when it comes to chasing powder, I’m looking for a minimum of 12 to 18 inches on top of a nice soft base. Then I mobilize. I consider it mandatory fieldwork.

SKI › Do you own an umbrella?

J.G. › No.