Traveler: True View


What's the first thing you do on a ski day? Make coffee? Hit the bathroom? Call in sick? Personally, my first mission has long been the same: Pick up the phone and get the snow-conditions report. Truth be told, I used to call the snow line as frequently as Charlie Sheen dialed Heidi Fleiss.

Not any more. These days, I let my computer do the work and simply click on to one of the rapidly proliferating ski-resort web cameras. After all, the typical prerecorded snow report is only updated every few hours or so; worse yet, it's often recorded by someone more committed to marketing than meteorology. Web or mountain cams, on the other hand, can be updated instantly¿and the pictures don't lie. In other words, if the camera's completely socked in, you won't hear any nonsense about "partially sunny."

However, all web cams are not created equal. At the bottom of the usability scale are those that utilize pretty (but pretty useless) "Shot of the Day" images. At the other end, there's everything from the cam at Loveland, which links to an off-site news cam showing current road and traffic conditions, to those at Boyne Mountain, where the latest streaming technology will provide truly live coverage all over the hill.For me, the wonder of web cams hit home one foggy day in Whistler Village when I checked out the Whistler cam, 4,000 feet up the mountain, and saw that it was clear as a bell up top. We knew exactly what to wear before we even stepped out the door. Look for even more resorts to get into the web-cam game this season. In the meantime, here are some ski-area websites whose cams are worth a click.

Big Mountain, Montana;
four cams; refreshed every five minutes.

Boyne Mountain, Michigan;
five cams (including one portable); live image (streaming).

Brundage Mountain, Idaho;
one cam; refreshed every 30 minutes.

Crystal Mountain, Washington;
one cam; refreshed every five minutes.

Heavenly Ski Resort, California;
two cams (including a panning "tram cam"); refreshed every 30 seconds.

Loveland Ski Area, Colorado;
one cam (with links); refreshed every 30 minutes.

Sierra-at-Tahoe, California;
two cams (including a panning summit cam); refreshed every minute.

Lake Louise, Alberta louise.htm;
one cam; refreshed every 30 minutes.

Ski Windham, New York;
one cam; refreshed every five minutes.

Solitude, Utah (click the "On Slope" button);
one cam (with pan/tilt/zoom capability); refreshed more than every second.

Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia;
three cams (including one panning cam); refreshed every 15 minutes.

Winter Park Resort, Colorado;
three cams; refreshed every 10 minutes.