‘Bring the stoke!’: OpenSnow’s Joel Gratz energizes locals for winter at Breckenridge speech
On Friday evening at The Winter Kickoff at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, Joel Gratz, the founder of the ski weather forecasting site OpenSnow.com, described to the crowd of hundreds of Summit County powder-hounds in attendance a rather depressing scene.
It consisted of him at his home at 4:30 a.m., watching a video of fluffy powder skiing in Japan. That’s where Gratz says the best annual powder conditions exist anywhere on the planet. As a result, these videos of powder skiing in Japan are his go-to whenever we haven’t gotten snow for weeks. It helps to make his daily desire to craft skiing and riding forecasts on OpenSnow.com less arduous.
“Get excited! Get excited!” Gratz said to the crowd of a typical scene of him during an early morning in the middle of a winter dry spell. “Make a forecast!”
Gratz said he was instructed by his wife to “bring the stoke,” in advance of his speech in Breckenridge on Thursday. Whether he was carefully detailing the step-by-step process he undertakes to provide Colorado with its favorite winter weather forecasting website, or whether he was letting his personality shine through by personifying a snowflake, Gratz certainly brought the stoke in front of a nearly-full crowd at the Riverwalk Center.
Friday evening’s Winter Kickoff event was so anticipated that the event’s organizers — Breckenridge Ski Resort, Mountain Outdoor Recreation Alliance and the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District — moved the venue from the Breckenridge Backstage Theater to accommodate all of the interest.
And though the evening’s main event consisted of the screening of the resort’s new “Above Treeline” high-alpine skiing documentary, the masses were certainly there to hear from the man they trust more than any other when it comes to chasing pow.
The assembled skiers and riders love him so much, that when he mentioned that his favorite type of snowflake is a Stellar Dendrite — a flake known for its typically large, star-shaped appearance in particularly cold weather — Gratz elicited a massive cheer from the crowd with the following line.
“Love it,” Gratz said into his earpiece microphone from the Riverwalk Center stage. “That is the stoke that I want. I want a room full of people to cheer when I say, ‘Stellar Dendrite!’”
Currently on an intermittent tour of the state, giving speeches around Colorado similar to Friday evening’s in Breckenridge, Gratz described Friday evening’s speech as one of, if not the, biggest presentation he’s ever given. He said it was the first where he had that earpiece microphone, as if he was the winter weather incarnation of Steve Jobs giving a keynote speech at which every eyeball in the room was laser-focused.
Though his current tour and his presence in front of such a large crowd may make it feel like Gratz is the equivalent of a ski weather rockstar, the founder of the OpenSnow site actually came across as rather humble. Case in point, his description of what occurred at a previous OpenSnow pre-winter speech he gave several weeks ago in Colorado Springs.
While going through a list of things skiers and riders should do in the days leading up to skiing powder, Gratz got to the topic of waking up early. But one member of the crowd in Colorado Springs found fault in Gratz’s advice.
“A guy came up to me afterwards,” Gratz said, “and he said, ‘I love that you tell people to get up early and get out there, get in line. But you’ve got to get sleep. Because it impacts performance if you don’t have a lot of sleep.’
And I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah — what do you do for a living?’
“‘Well,’” the man said in his reply, “‘I’m the military’s head sleep doctor at Fort Carson.’”
As a result, Gratz added “go to sleep early” to his items for success on a powder day. And as part of his speech, Gratz encouraged the crowd to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any recommendations, critiques or complaints with the current website.
“OpenSnow is not just some random thing,” Gratz said. “It’s for all of us. It’s for me — we want to go ski pow. If you can think of a feature we can do better, please tell me.”
At the Breckenridge speech, it was clear Gratz has bigger, bolder and better plans in mind for his website. He said in a couple of weeks a new version of the OpenSnow site will launch, complete with new features with the pow chasers in mind. For example, the new site will feature a flag that informs readers of when wind forecasts go above 40-mile-per-hour wind gusts. The point of this is to alert skiers and riders around the state when it’s likely strong winds may impact lift operations at their favorite resorts.
It was the topic of wind speeds and direction that also elicited Gratz’s personifying of a snowflake, which was a scene at the Riverwalk Center that resulted in him resembling something akin to an inflatable, flailing balloon man at a used car dealership.
“What happens to those perfect snowflakes when they are flying through the air with high wind speeds,” Gratz said while moving his arms and legs around, to the laughter of the crowd. “They break. You know, nice snowflake flying through the air, another one, they hit each other, and their arms and legs break off. That’s really sad.”
As for the topic most everyone in the crowd was most intrigued about — the forecast for this winter — Gratz received an emphatic yell in unison from the crowd when he asked them “So is it going to be better this year?”
Gratz went on to say how the storm cycle here in the High Country that lasted from October through early November represented a global cycle of a specific storm pattern that takes 30 to 60 days to go around Earth.
This year, though, Gratz said the cycle seems to be on the short side of that timespan, meaning it may return every three to four weeks. Hence, Gratz says the next storm cycle should drop more powder on an already snow-saturated Summit County before the end of the month.
As one might expect, to that notion, more rockstar-like applause erupted at the Riverwalk Center.
“We cheer for weather models in this room,” Gratz said. “That’s what we do.”
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