Planning a trip to the slopes, and want to maximize your chances for powder skiing or snowboarding?
You need a snow forecaster.
Sure, you put all your trust in the official ski resort snow reports, who might have a vested interest in making their forecasts and snow reports look better than they really are.
Or even worse, you rely on your phone’s weather app, which is often as inaccurate as the stereotypical weatherman. (Especially when you consider that those apps only track weather at the base of a mountain, which is often night and day to the higher elevations that actually matter for your ski experience.)
If you’re a true skier or snowboarder, you need to get yourself a reliable source for snow forecasts.
Enter the world of weather websites, designed specifically for skiers.
Out of all the overwhelming options, these are my favorite tools to help with powder chasing. In the interest of being transparent, I’ve included their strengths and weaknesses, plus exactly how I use each website to plan the perfect ski trip!
- My new favorite for high-level forecasts: Meteorologist Chris Tomer
- The most detailed local forecasts: Open Snow Website and App
- For free 5-day forecasts: NOAA Weather.gov
- For season progress reports: Tony Crocker’s BestSnow.Net
- For recent snowfall totals: On The Snow
- For international skiers: J2Ski
My new favorite for high-level forecasts: Meteorologist Chris Tomer
Chris Tomer is quickly becoming my favorite snow forecaster.
He’s a meteorologist (and skier) based out of Denver, and he publishes simple, easy to read blog posts 2-3 times per week. I especially like that he tracks storms systems all across the country and cuts to the chase of what matters – estimates of each storm’s snow totals at all the major resorts in the U.S. and Canada.
Chris Tomer is also unique in being one of the only forecasters who publishes his forecasts on YouTube as well. So if you prefer video format, he’s your guy!
How I Use Chris Tomer’s Forecasts
If I’m looking for a quick powder chasing trip, Chris Tomer’s easy to follow overviews help me narrow down my options for catching a storm.
Likewise, if I’ve already booked a destination and want to follow the mountain’s progress in the days and weeks leading up to the trip, Chris Tomer’s forecasts help prepare me for what sort of conditions to expect at the resort.
The most detailed local forecasts: Open Snow Website and App
Open Snow is probably the largest team of expert powder forecasters in the country.
Their claim to is their “Daily Snow” summary forecasts. Every day during ski season, they interpret the weather models to estimate the chances for good snow. With a large team of local powder chasers, they write up reports for dozens of different regions and even specific mountains every morning.
They’ve also expanded to a full-scale app, which offers forecasts down to the hour, “powder alert” notifications, and high resolution maps to track incoming storms.
How I Use Open Snow’s App
Personally, I love Open Snow’s daily snows. They’re usually the most updated, boots-on-the-ground reports that I’ve found. Because they’re written by local forecasters, they’re often out there skiing themselves, so they can provide first-hand insight on surface conditions, crowds, etc.
The only negative is that they’ve recently moved to a subscription model and put most of the site’s best info behind a paywall, which currently runs $30-40 a year. For free users, you’ll have to hand over an email address and be limited to a short trial.
But overall, if you’re looking for the most updated, detailed, and user friendly forecasts, Open Snow is the current leader.
For free 5-day forecasts: NOAA Weather.gov
For those willing to do a little more digging on their own, the official NOAA Weather.gov website is a valuable source. While it’s not specifically catered to skiers, you can still find some relevant information if you pay attention.
How I Use Weather.gov
You can use the homepage’s search bar to find specific mountains, or otherwise google “[Mountain Name] NOAA Forecast.” Once on the page, the “Detailed Forecast” section includes 5 day forecasts with short details about sunshine, wind, chance of precipitation, and most importantly, expected snow accumulation.
- Website: https://www.weather.gov/
- Price: Free
For season progress reports: Tony Crocker’s BestSnow.Net
Tony Crocker is the man! He’s a former actuary and statistics major who, as a hobby, also performs the most detailed snow analysis of anyone in the world. And that analysis comes with the most accurate data, too.
Since the early 1990s, Crocker has been tracking down snowfall totals directly from avalanche control centers around the country, and then filling in any gaps by calling the ski resorts directly. Every single month, for 30+ years. For 84 different mountains.
Using his skills as an actuary, he then plugs all this data into handwritten computer programs and performs a professional statistical analysis on all that snow. The goal? Seeing exactly how much snow every single resort has received.
As an everyday skier and Good Samaritan, he then publishes his analysis for free on BestSnow.net.
How I Use BestSnow.net
All the data on BestSnow.net can be a little intimidating at first, but my favorite tab is the “Season Progress Report” link on the left side.
Tony updates this progress report at the beginning of every month. It includes the season snow total for all the major resorts, a comparison to each mountain’s historical snowfall, and even info on how much of the terrain is open. This allows for accurate monitoring of how the season is unfolding across North America.
Put simply? If you want to tell who has had a good snow year and who’s had a bad one, Tony Crocker’s season progress reports is the best source I’ve found.
While this isn’t future forecasting, per say, the historical information is extremely helpful when planning a trip.
- Website: BestSnow.net
- Price: Free
For recent snowfall totals: On The Snow
OnTheSnow.com is a ski resort travel website that pulls snowfall totals for all the mountains in the country. They report on future forecasts as well as base levels, lift status, and historical snowfall.
How I Use OnTheSnow.com
In my experience, On The Snow’s future forecasts aren’t as reliable as some of the other sources on this list. But On The Snow is still my favorite resource if I’m looking for updated snow accumulations.
They include a nifty “Last 8 Days” snowfall chart which shows exactly how many inches the mountain has received each day. I believe they pull this data straight from the resort’s snow reports (which as mentioned before, tend to be a little… exaggerated…) but it’s still one of the handiest and user friendly sources around.
- Website: https://www.onthesnow.com/
- Price: Free
For international skiers: J2Ski
As you can tell from my own ski resort reviews, I’m on a mission to ski North America’s best mountains. But my friends who travel to Europe and other international ski resorts say that J2Ski is a reliable source for European and Asian snow forecasts, as long as you’re prepared to convert those centimeters to inches!
- Website: https://www.j2ski.com/
- Price: Free