World’s Best Ski Resorts

nathanvg

New member
The below link is one of many lists of top ski resorts in the world. The list may be a bit euro centric but generally seems reasonable. They also list the stats on each ski area and the snowfall stat caught my eye. The stat is in cm of snow per week which is a bit unusual but if you convert to annual snowfall, the metric correlates to some massive snowfall numbers for Europe. For example, Zermatt is listed as getting 2.4 times more snow than Mammoth which equates to about 830 inches per year. Accurate European snowfall numbers are hard to come by. My past first hand experience and research has led to much lower numbers. Any thoughts that support or refute these numbers?


This may be a good topic for @Tony Crocker
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
Zermatt is listed as getting 2.4 times more snow than Mammoth which equates to about 830 inches per year.
How was that preposterous number computed?

We've had discussions in the past about Alps snowfall numbers and how they're frequently measured at the base, which makes it difficult for apples-to-apples comparisons with U.S. ski areas. If I recall, Zermatt is in the mid-200s but with excellent preservation.

The Weather to Ski site is as accurate as it gets for the Alps -- here's the listing for Zermatt along with a bunch of Top 10s.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
getting 2.4 times more snow
I knew those numbers were in centimeters before I even looked at the cards. Multiply cm/week by 1.28 to get inches per month.

First card Aspen/Snowmass 32cm/week translates to 41 inches/month, about right. But there are some bad numbers in there: Vail is way understated, Catedral is laughably overstated. Amusingly, Big Sky is understated, probably half of its infamous brochure quote. Zermatt is indeed wildly overstated, strange as it's the opposite situation from Big Sky. Zermatt's only official numbers are from town and possibly one third of what it gets up high.

Of course not all weeks or months are equal. This is a more subtle error for a Eurocentric study, because snowfall averages in the Alps tend to be fairly even by month, sort of like Colorado. But the PNW and Niseko have midwinter peaks. Whistler's card looks like a peak month; Niseko's looks like a season average, but most people know to go in January which is double that average.

SnowBrains likes to make interesting lists but they do not curate numbers for reasonability in any way. And if you're going to pick a resort in New Zealand, Cardrona is a bizarre choice.
 
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nathanvg

New member
I knew those numbers were in centimeters before I even looked at the cards. Multiply cm/week by 1.28 to get inches per month.
My math was simple 76cm/week at Zermatt divided by 32cm/week at Mammoth = 2.4 more snow at Zermat. 2.4 * 350 inches/year at Mammoth = 830. Without knowing there methodlogy and definition, my math is just an approximation. Regardless, I think we all agree that the numbers in the article are inaccurate.

While there are a lot of ranked lists, are there any reliable list of annual snowfall at European resorts? Just curious.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
While there are a lot of ranked lists, are there any reliable list of annual snowfall at European resorts? Just curious.
The short answer: no. Weather to Ski addresses this in two of its rankings:

Top 10 Snowiest Resorts in Europe:
Snowfall averages can be fun to compare but should be treated with caution, especially in Europe. This is partly because most readings in the Alps are taken at resort level and are not always representative of conditions higher up (some resorts have vertical drops of over 2,000 metres/6,500 feet). On average, North American resorts have smaller vertical drops, and most readings are taken up the mountain in areas that are more representative of the ski area as a whole.

Top 10 Snowiest Resorts in North America
There is a much stronger culture for measuring snowfall in North America than there is in Europe -- nearly every North American resort publishes its snowfall figures. Measuring parameters are also more consistent in North America. So, whilst it would be fair to conclude that snowfall comparisons are more meaningful in North America than they are in Europe, figures should still be treated with caution.

In particular, it should be noted that the highest snowfalls don't always mean the best snow. For example, Mount Baker's ski area can claim to be the snowiest ski resort in North America. However, on average, most Colorado resorts would offer better snow quality, despite receiving half the snow (or less).



FYI: @Tony Crocker contributes annual summaries of North American snowfall to that website -- here's his report from last season.
 
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Weathertoski

New member
The below link is one of many lists of top ski resorts in the world. The list may be a bit euro centric but generally seems reasonable. They also list the stats on each ski area and the snowfall stat caught my eye. The stat is in cm of snow per week which is a bit unusual but if you convert to annual snowfall, the metric correlates to some massive snowfall numbers for Europe. For example, Zermatt is listed as getting 2.4 times more snow than Mammoth which equates to about 830 inches per year. Accurate European snowfall numbers are hard to come by. My past first hand experience and research has led to much lower numbers. Any thoughts that support or refute these numbers?


This may be a good topic for @Tony Crocker
Take absolutely no notice of these snowfall stats, they are absolute garbage! Zermatt's probably averages around 7-8m at 3000m, maybe not even that. I take less notice of snowfall stats than I used to - in my opinion they are fairly useless and often very misleading, in the European Alps at least. The main things you need to know about Zermatt is that things can take a while to get going early in the season as the terrain is rocky, but once you have a good base snow preservation is excellent. The resort has the highest pistes in the Alps and lots of north-facing terrain. February to April it's as safe as anywhere but in a normal year it can be early February before the ski area is 100% open.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
in my opinion they are fairly useless and often very misleading, in the European Alps at least.
They are not useless but need to be curated carefully. There is enough info to identify notably snowy microclimates like Val d'Isere, Andermatt, the Arlberg and especially the smaller areas just north of the Arlberg (Warth, Damuls). But there are still basic problems:
1) The obvious is that much data is closer to resort level due to the low tree line and thus exaggerates the difference between the Alps and North America, where many areas can measure quite high within their boundaries.
2) Data in the Alps is also sketchier, often just season totals and not month by month. Season totals can be the time frame that a ski area is open, which is not consistent and makes some comparisons invalid. Euro areas are more likely to be open and measuring snow in April vs. North America and much less likely in November.

All of this means that a format like I use on my bestsnow.net pages would not be advisable for the Alps. It would be better to use something like the Snow Score in Zrankings with perhaps extra weight to the altitude/exposure factors for snow preservation.

Zermatt's probably averages around 7-8m at 3000m, maybe not even that.
I think weathertoski told me that Zermatt snowfall is similar to Cervinia's at comparable elevation. At least Cervinia has some stats, but they are season totals only and not very many years.
The main things you need to know about Zermatt is that things can take a while to get going early in the season as the terrain is rocky
Yes, this goes back to the recent early season discussion of Alta and Snowbird, where the snowfall is only 10% different but the topography of Snowbird means it takes a lot of snow to open terrain vs. at Alta. I'd say Cervinia vs. Zermatt is a close analogy in that regard.
 
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