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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: December 9, 2015

New England snow reporters, with only so many ways to say “corduroy,” “powder” and “stoked,” try to tell it like it is

Written by: Carey Kish

Here’s a fun story on the tough job of snow reporting at three of New England’s fine ski resorts, one each in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts…

It’s a challenge being a snow reporter staffing the desks at New England’s Bromley, Cranmore, and Jiminy Peak resorts. When winter storms pound New England, at 6:30 a.m. there are just so many ways to say, “corduroy,” “powder” and that other snow report staple, “stoked.”

Decades ago, snow reports were issued one day late by newspapers, the same day by radio, or through dedicated snow phones that rang at resorts. One eastern radio reporter, Arthur “Roxy” Rothafel, who passed away in 1994 at the age of 85, had spies in many ski towns. He was fond of asking local bartenders, lift operators, snow cat drivers, and recreational skiers what the conditions were really like. An avid skier and sportsman from the 1930’s right up until a hip injury forced him to quit skiing in the mid 1970’s, his “Ski Reports by Roxy,” started in 1964, promised to “tell it like it is.”

Resorts weren’t too fond of him. They preferred to label icy conditions as “frozen granular” or “mixed granular.” Roxy called it “ice.” Sometimes it was “boilerplate,” according to his son’s website, skimember.com.

Roxy pioneered snow reporting and were he alive today, he would likely appreciate how candid the reports have become. While resort marketers are still as upbeat as always, they realize they have a responsibility to help skiers and riders prepare for the day.

Powder shot at Bromley in Vermont. Photo courtesy Blumenfeld and Assoc PR.

Powder shot at Bromley in Vermont. Photo courtesy Blumenfeld and Assoc PR.

“If we know it’s going to rain, we’ll suggest how to dress for the experience,” said Katie Fogel, director of marketing for Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires.

Fogel bears a heavy responsibility to keep snow reports accurate. In a single two-month period from December 2014 through January 2015, 270,000 unique visitors viewed the Jiminy Peak website.

“When the weather is challenging, we try to be as honest, but as gentle as we can. Skiers generally know how to prepare once you tell them what to expect.”

Janessa Purney, marketing manager at Bromley in southern Vermont, agrees. “In terms of safety, we try to be brutally honest about the conditions. If high winds are expected to put a hold on the summit quad, it’s better we tell you before you arrive. Besides, with an online community on social media looking over our shoulders, they will quickly let us know if we’re off base.”

At Jiminy Peak, Bromley and Cranmore, 6:30 a.m. snow reports are fed to the resort’s website, SnoCountry.com, OnTheSnow.com, read into a 24-hour snow phone, and posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some snow reports are even faxed to local hotels and ski and snowboard shops, one of the few remaining uses for the humble fax machine.

The not-for-profit SnoCountry.com feeds condition updates to 4,200 media outlets, including 640 radio stations nationwide. Google pings its servers every eight seconds for the latest conditions, according to Tom Horrocks, marketing communications manager.

“Today’s reports are very transparent, very accurate, and dynamic. Often during a snowfall or other weather event, reports are updated in a matter of minutes. The consumer is getting the most up-to-date information thanks to automated reporting directly into SnoCountry.com’s data servers,” Horrock says.

Ski instructor and kids at Bromley in Vermont. Photo courtesy Blumenfeld and Assoc PR.

Ski instructor and kids at Bromley in Vermont. Photo courtesy Blumenfeld and Assoc PR.

The snow reports from Jiminy Peak, Bromley and Cranmore often include a bit of humor. After all, there are only so many ways to report the slopes have been groomed as smooth as a ballroom floor.

“Twenty-nine trails got some sweet loving from the groomers,” Purney wrote last season. On another occasion, her personality shone through when she posted, “precipitation is on the moist side today.”

One frigid morning in January, Purney said, “It’s not going to be very balmy outside … but big drifts and piles of powder will certainly keep your legs warm.”

While snow reports always try to put a positive spin on every day, they strive for accuracy. “If it’s going to be rainy, we’ll emphasize that the slopes won’t be as crowded as a typical weekend and visitors should wear their best waterproof/breathable apparel,” said Becca Deschenes, director of marketing at Cranmore Mountain in North Conway, N.H., who tries to ski each day—not hard when the slopes are just outside her office door.

“Then if I notice the conditions have changed during the day, I’ll update the snow reports accordingly.”

Cranmore supplements their daily reports with a weekly Friday video snow report, and a daily photo when benevolent clouds grace the slopes with a blanket of awesome, fluffy, fresh, powdery white stuff.

No matter how they word it, today’s New England snow reporters help plan the perfect day.

Source: Fairbank Group. Blumenfeld and Assoc. PR

Kids enjoying the day on the slopes, Bromley VT. Photo courtesy Bluemenfeld and Assoc PR.

Kids enjoying the day on the slopes, Bromley VT. Photo courtesy Bluemenfeld and Assoc PR.

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