Snow Reports Revisited

With Lake Louise getting walloped by over 25cm of snow last night, the daily snow reports (fax, e-mail, Facebook, etc) had a lot of great news and likely made many skiers and riders happy when they checked their computers earlier this morning. I wrote an article earlier this year about how the Lake Louise Ski Area conducts its snow reports, and there’s lots involved in gathering the information and communicating it to our customers via a variety of media.

I do the reports on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so when I awoke at 4:30am this morning I was greeted with the happy task of letting people know what an epic day we were about to be faced with. I’m able to access the precipitation gauge at our Pika weather plot via the internet from my home, which is handy since the weather in Banff, and snowfall in particular, is rarely indicative of what’s happening in Lake Louise.

A precipitation gauge does not measure snow – rather, it collects falling snow and melts it, then measures the amount of resulting water. We can then use a formula to convert water into snow equivalency, and it is this number that represents the number you see on our snow reports for mid-mountain snowfall.

As I approached Lake Louise this morning however, it was clear that the valley bottom received nowhere near the amount of snow we were seeing higher on the mountain. As I walked from my car to the office, I got a little nervous as I walked through maybe – maybe – 2cm on the ground. Had I been duped by our weather station? Had I sent out reports of huge snowfall when in fact we had anything but? As it turns out, I need not have worried, as our precipitation gauge did indeed tell the real story.

Why such a big difference between the base area and our plot near Pika corner? Warm temperatures, that’s why. With the base area temps lurking within a few degrees of 0C all night, there was a distinct line higher on the mountain where the heavy snowfall suddenly started. One of our lift maintenance staff drove his snowmobile from the base of Larch chair, which also had only a few cm’s of snow, to Paradise base, and he described it like driving into a wall of snow.

If I ever had doubts about the accuracy and reliability of our weather instrumentation, I don’t now (and I apologize sincerely to the precip gauge for the lack of faith)! We have powder, and lots of it. Now I can watch our guests enjoy what is surely to be a day for the books, rather than watch them wonder what the heck we were thinking reporting as much snow as we did. Enjoy everybody!


6 Comments on “Snow Reports Revisited”

  1. sumose says:

    Thanks for all the hard work Chris! Creamy.

  2. Yak says:

    Great morning up there. Do you use the same gauge available online from Alberta Sustainable Resources Development? Also, generally speaking, what’s the formula you use for converting H20 to snow?

    • lakelouiselowdown says:

      Hi Yak,

      I’m not sure if these gauges are one and the same – I’ll have to find out. As for the formula, a good rule of thumb is to multiply mm of water by 1.5 to get equivalent amount of snow. For example, 4mm of water equals 6cm of snow. This can vary in extremely cold or warm weather, but in these parts it serves us well. One thing we noticed today about the warmer temps is that the snow settled quite quickly. In fact, an afternoon visit to our Pika plot showed 15cm of snow on the board, which means it had settled significantly since the morning.


  3. Hutchy says:

    Hey Chris,

    Interesting read.
    Just wondering, is the weather data plot at Pika accessible real-time to the public? If not, why not?


    • lakelouiselowdown says:


      Because the precipitation gauge at Pika is a part of our internal network, access from outside the company is not permitted, and that goes for any of our computer systems. The information from the plot is available through our Avalanche Control office by contacting them, though obviously this would not be real-time.


  4. […] at my favourite ski resort blog The Lake Louise Lowdown a fantastic article on how ski resorts conduct their snow reporting. I do the reports on Fridays, […]

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