Vail Mountain under reports snowfall total on biggest powder day of the season |

Vail Mountain under reports snowfall total on biggest powder day of the season

7 inches reported Sunday morning, later corrected to 11 inches

Vail Mountain reported its 48-hour snowfall total to be less than what many were expecting for its 24-hour total on Sunday morning.

The mistake was later corrected but caught the attention of powder chasing enthusiast Joel Gratz, the meteorologist who founded and has become a dependable snow tracker for the regularity with which he publishes his morning blog.

Vail's snowstake, in the early morning hours Sunday, shows 11 inches of snow. The snowskate is cleared off at 5 a.m. each morning as the day's totals are recorded. (, Special to the Daily)

Gratz, on Sunday morning, described the mistake as frustrating.

“Vail received 2 inches on Friday night, about 5 inches on Saturday, and 6 inches on Saturday night for a storm total of about 13 inches,” Gratz wrote on Sunday.

Vail had only reported 7 inches, and Gratz was expecting to see 11 inches on the resort’s official 24-hour tally on Sunday after visiting the mountain’s snowstake cam.

“I’m picking on Vail here, but these counting and data entry issues happen more often than we’d like, they are out of our control, and they are very frustrating for me, our team, and I’m sure for you,” Gratz continued.

Vail Mountain spokesperson John Plack confirmed the issue was a mistake on Sunday afternoon.

“It was an input error and has been fixed,” Plack said. “The news is better than we thought!”

Not the first time

Vail Mountain also sent out an inaccurate snow recording earlier this season, alerting certain passholders that the resort had received 13 inches of snow when only 2 inches of snow was actually recorded.

Vail was also the subject of an Associated Press story on accuracy in snow recording in 2012, which ran in Sports Illustrated.

“One day in late February, Vail reported it had received a foot of snow on its renowned slopes. It didn’t take long for early skiers to question it via Twitter and Facebook, and Vail retracted its report via Facebook — a first for ski industry observers,” wrote Steven K. Paulson in 2012. “Vail explained that a ski patrol did find a foot of fresh snow against a measuring stake, but that winds had left anywhere from that foot to 2 inches elsewhere across the expansive resort. It also posted a YouTube video showing good powder runs that day on the mountain.”

Paulson wrote that the incident “highlighted the complexity of snow reporting under the best of circumstances” and noted that “The era of social media is bringing more transparency to ski resorts’ daily snow reports.”

Biggest parking day of 2020-21

The 11 inches Vail Mountain recorded between 5 a.m. Saturday and 5 a.m Sunday represents the biggest single day total on the season so far on Vail Mountain, and when combined with the day before, it also represents the largest 48-hour total recorded this season, as well. It’s also only the second time the mountain has had a single-day snow total reach double digits in the 2020-21 season (Vail recorded 10 inches on Nov. 24).

The mistake didn’t stop powder hounds, who filled Vail’s parking structures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Ethan Arnold with the Town of Vail said Saturday was the busiest day of the season so far from a parking standpoint, with 619 cars able to park for free along South Frontage Road once the paid parking structures filled.

The second-busiest day of the season for parking was Jan. 9, when 529 cars were parked on South Frontage Road. On Sunday, Arnold counted 432 cars, and 126 were recorded on Friday.

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