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Friday, February 15 Sports

Ski area live cams stream the mountain to you

A long time ago -in the prehistoric, pre-internet age - when skiers wanted to get the inside word on snow conditions they would ask a bartender at the ski area.

After hearing stories from skiers day in and day out, the bartender was in a good position to know the true state of snow conditions.

Before personal computers and smart phones, people also called “snow phones” to hear a taped recording on snow conditions. Since there was no uniformed reporting method at the time, ski areas were free to present their own (usually good) assessment of conditions.

Unlike today, there was no Weather Channel, Doppler radar, GOES weather satellites or easy access to northern ski area forecasts.

From the late 1950s to Seventies, there were people like Roxy Rothafel, who provided ski condition reports, six days a week, on many northeast radio stations.

Working from his home in Pittsfield, Mass. Rothafel developed an “espionage team” of snow correspondents who would phone in condition reports from ski areas. He also recruited lift operators, ski instructors and snow patrol personnel. He also cross referenced those reports with meteorologists.

Because his reports were heard by millions, ski areas accomodated Roxy’s “reporters” by giving them a free lift ticket.

According to 1969 article in Ski Magazine, “over time, ski areas became so infuriated with Roxy’s ‘tell it like it is’ reporting that they mounted an organized campaign to disrupt his broadcasts. It was, in fact, quite easy. They simply boycotted all of Roxy’s advertisers - most notably, Schaefer Beer. Eventually they were successful.”

Newspapers also printed ski condition reports. Often, when there wasn’t enough room, the report was cut from the bottom, leaving out states like New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Today, skiers and snowboarders can learn what the weather and snow conditions are from a variety of sources by simply looking at their computer or smart phone.

Check Twitter and Facebook and you’ll find all kinds of posts about a ski area ranging from conditions to the best burger or party place in town.

There are also forums like Alpine Zone where skiers and snowboarders post comments or rants on a variety of topics about their favorite mountain.

With so many weather sites out there, it’s hard to be blindsided with unexpected weather on the mountain.

Long range forecasts from the National Climate Prediction Center are especially helpful in planning a ski trip. Its February outlook for the Northeast has cooler than normal temperatures and more precipitation. Sounds like a great setup for a strong, snowy finish to the season.

I often check Josh Fox’s Single Chair Weather Blog to find if it’s going to rain or snow in Vermont ski country.

Fox’s blog has been especially helpful this season with a winter that’s brought extreme cold, strong winds, heavy snow and “non-frozen” precipitation. His focus is how the weather will affect snow conditions; just what a skier and snowboarder needs to know.

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Another favorite is the National Weather Service Mountain Point forecasts, that details what the weather is on the mountain including precipitation, temperature, wind speed and if the peak will be covered in clouds. Its two-day forecast can be found by clicking on a interactive map of mountain peaks in New York state and Vermont.

The daily ski report on SnoCountry lists the number of open trails/terrain, lifts, type of snow surface and new snowfall or snow making.

Then, there are the resort’s own social media accounts. Many offer daily photos and videos providing their own condition reports, along with special deals and the opportunity for people to comment.

All these sources of information allow you to make the decision on when to go and what ski area to visit.

One of the newer ways to check out conditions are live cams from the ski area.

In the last five years, more live cams have been posted on ski resort web sites.

Quality has improved from the one new image a minute snapshot to hi-res, live stream.

Onthesnow has a collection of live ski cams across the U.S. and world. On Friday it was snowing at the Jahodná - dolná stanica in Slovakia.

Sure, it’s not as good as being there, but the ski resort web cams give you a general idea of what’s happening on the mountain.

Is it snowing or raining? Is the summit covered in clouds? Is it sunny with bluebird skies? Are ski lifts swaying in strong wind? What’s the trail surface look like?

The quality is so good on some cans you can see the texture of the snow.

Yes, ski resorts decide where to put the cams and there’s only a handful of them on the mountain.

But the cams are useful and sometimes, very cool. Like the cam is at the top of Killington in Vermont that offers a panoramic 360-degree view.

Using all of these sources of information comes in handy when your making a decision on which ski area to visit.

Stay on top of this information you’ll be better prepared for any kind of weather or conditions.

Take a look to see what these ski areas look like now:


Mount Snow





A super time to hit the slopes

Super Bowl Sunday is like a national holiday with making people getting together with family and friends to watch the big game.

With most people staying home that day, Sunday is a good time to go skiing and snowboarding.

Fewer people means shorter lift lines.

And there’s a deal on the day after the Super Bowl that can bring some savings on a lift ticket.

Okemo in Vermont has a special lift ticket value that depends entirely on the final score of Sunday’s game.

On Monday, Feb. 5, the price of a full-day lift ticket will be charged at $1 per point, based on the total combined points scored during Sunday’s game. If the final score of the game is Patriots 24 and Eagles 21, the price of a lift ticket on Monday will be $45.

How low could it go? A scoreless game would mean free lift tickets; however, the lowest combined score in Super Bowl history was 21 points in 1973. In case of a high-score game, Okemo is capping the Feb. 5 lift ticket price at $65. Skiers and riders can visit any ticket window to take advantage of this deal on Monday only.