Matt Zalaznick: Weather reporting slippery for Vail Valley’s newspaper
Vail, CO, Colorado
Reporting on the weather is a lose-lose situation – especially in a world-renowned ski town.
Let’s say the ski town’s newspaper doesn’t have its own meteorologist or weather balloon or even any cloud-seeding equipment. That means its reporters A.) cannot create their own weather B.) have to find something else to do with all the extra silver iodide they accumulate at town council meetings and C.) have to rely on outside “sources” for weather news.
The newspaper could use anonymous, potentially made-up sources to forecast coming storms in a way that would please both Vail Resorts and merchants: “A storm forecast to hit Vail tonight will result in a never-ending string of powder days, said a local man who claims he can speak to clouds but asked his name not be used because his boss may think he’s crazy.”
Perhaps the newspaper could even tailor its fabricated weather news to attract the coveted “destination guests,” in other words, the kind of visitors who may not ski as much as a Front Range powderhound but who stay in hotels and run up huge bills at local restaurants. How about this:
“The cloud-whisperer said the coming storm, oddly, would shut down I-70 from Idaho Springs to East Vail, but the skies over Eagle County airport would be crystal clear and perfect for landing 757s.”
So the ski-town newspaper has to rely on the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, which is housed in a bunker that’s about 100 feet underground and has no windows. Or at least, that’s how I’m told the reporters picture it.
Plus, Grand Junction is like 400 miles west of here in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where the average winter temperature is 87 degrees. It gets an average 2 millimeters of snow every seven years. What do they know about freshies and face shots?
But when the trained meteorologists there take a break from pruning cactuses to announce a storm will drop three feet of snow on Colorado’s Central Mountains overnight, the reporters have to listen.
Unfortunately, when the newspaper headline says “Tons of snow forecast for today!” and it snows only 2 inches, the reporters also have to listen to irate local skiers and snowboarders who rearranged their entire lives around the promised powder day. They yell that they took the day off work, they finally told their bosses what they think of them, they broke up with their fiancees, they put their children up for adoption, they sold all their worldly possessions …
On the other hand, if the reporters don’t write about the expected blizzard, and it does snow 5 feet overnight, the same furious riders call up to scream at the newspaper for NOT letting them know they should’ve taken the day off work, finally told their bosses what they think of them, broken up with their fiancees, abandoned their children …
In the newspaper’s defense, though, where else would a powder day at a ski resort even be news? To make the news, weather usually has to be bad news, such as, three mis-forecast feet of snow buried temporarily a group of unsuspecting Grand Junction National Weather Service meteorologists who at first mistook the fluffy white stuff for the debris from an sheep ranch they believed had exploded nearby …
Can you imagine CNN leading the day’s newscast with a powder day? With something like: “North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il took a break from threatening the Free World with nuclear obliteration Tuesday to give a shout out to all the fellas and ladies gettin’ waist deep in the Blue Sky Basin pow pow today, boyee.
“In North Korea’s other news, the defiant and isolated dictatorship dropped an 2,000-pound anthrax bomb on a South Korean preschool …”
Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2926.
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