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October 9, 2013
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OpenSnow.com expert Joel Gratz shares weather tips with Summit County community

A rare breed of person lives for snow, arising from slumber at ungodly hours to check out the weather forecasts in hopes of finding the mountain that boasts the largest amount of fresh, fluffy powder.

In Colorado, many of these powder fiends are tuned in to meteorologist Joel Gratz’s blog OpenSnow.com.

Darryl Nolz of Summit Cove is an avid skier and follower of Gratz’s blog.

“I’m up at 6 a.m. every morning in the winter looking at snow reports, and Joel’s website is one of the first I look at,” Nolz said. “I’ve followed Joel’s forecasts for years, all the way back to his original websites.”

Nolz was one of more than 50 people who came to listen to Gratz remove some of the mysteries surrounding Colorado’s weather, and reveal tips to finding the most snow.

“I know forecasts are not perfect in any case, and the hardest forecast of all types of weather and all types of geography are precipitation in mountains,” Gratz said.

It was the lack of credible information issued by national meteorologists that led Gratz to study Colorado’s mountain weather more in depth. That, and he wanted to maximize his powder days.

Gratz started Colorado Powder Forecast in his spare time as an email list in 2007. Friends on Gratz’s first snow forecast list, which included 28 recipients, had mixed reviews.

“One person said, ‘Oh hey, this is cool,’ and one said, ‘Take me off the list, you are going to jinx us,’” Gratz said.

Nonetheless, the blog took off.

Between 2012 and 2013, Gratz reported 12 million page views at his website and blog OpenSnow.com

The Boulder-based meteorologist shared a few insights with the Summit County crowd on Wednesday morning.

He explained how an actual storm track is forecast with multiple lines along the map. Meteorologists run the same model 20, 30, 40 times, Gratz said. By tweaking the data slightly with each forecast, meteorologists can detect weather patterns.

“Forecasts are rarely perfect but they are getting better every year,” Gratz said. “Long-range forecasts stink.”

Meteorologists cannot reliably predict snow accumulations beyond about two weeks, he said. Seasonal outlooks are even worse.

Although there’s no consistent way to accurately predict long-term weather forecasts, Gratz said, there are clues meteorologists can use to get ideas about snow for the upcoming winter.

“Just don’t get upset or depressed if it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Gratz tested a few theories to look at the upcoming snow season and … “It just might be a great winter,” he said.

He talked about weather patterns that are likely to produce dendrites — the big, fluffy powder-like snowflakes avid skiers and snowboarders love.

He also explained how winds impact mountain snowpack.

“If you remember nothing else today, remember that southwest winds are terrible for snow here,” Gratz said. “Terrible, terrible, terrible. It’s almost the reason I started forecasting weather here in the first place is when I figured that out. But the models had a bias toward showing a lot of snow coming in from southwest winds.”

Land Title, a company that facilitates real estate closings for realtors, hosted the Wednesday event. Brooke Roberts said inviting Gratz to speak was a good way to switch things up from the usual topics discussed at Land Title meetings.

“I love to ski powder and a lot of my clients ski powder, too, so I try to make things interesting for my clients,” Roberts said.

To follow Gratz’s blog, just sign up at www.OpenSnow.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 10, 2013 09:45AM Published Oct 11, 2013 02:06PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.