Meteorologist Joel Gratz of OpenSnow shares his entrepreneurial story with new business owners
Joel Gratz gets really excited about snow — maybe more than the average Summit County skier or snowboarder.
“Many nights, I have to will myself to go to bed and not just keep looking at radar and satellite and snow stakes, thinking if the morning report is going to be right,” he said Thursday, Nov. 11, during the Summit Prosperity Initiative’s Winter Startup Celebration at Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center.
Gratz was the keynote speaker for the organization’s event, which was celebrating its Summit Biz Bootcamp program. Gratz was there not only to spark inspiration for new business owners but also to drum up enthusiasm for ski season.
As the owner and founder of OpenSnow, Gratz has made a living on predicting snow forecasts for ski resorts and backcountry areas. His Boulder-based business is completely focused on predicting where the best powder is for snowboarders and skiers. Gratz, who is originally from Pennsylvania and got his start skiing at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, said watching snowfall was one of his favorite activities as a kid and still is to this day.
“My emotions swing up and down,” he said to the audience. “A friend texted me today at 2 o’clock: ‘Good thing I left early; I had to get to Denver. Vail Pass was kind of a mess.’
“(Then I think), ‘Oh, it’s snowing already. That’s great.’ And then I look outside and the snow stops for five minutes. ‘Oh no, is the storm done? What happened?’ So literally I’ve had these same emotions since I was about 5 years old in Pennsylvania and growing up. I just figured out a way to make a career out of it.”
Before moving to Colorado, Gratz earned a meteorology degree and business minor at Pennsylvania State University. Afterward, he got a masters degree in environmental studies and a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Colorado Boulder. Shortly after, he began working for a hurricane and earthquake insurance company. Around that time, his friends began asking him where the best snow was for skiing and snowboarding. Eventually, that grew into creating a blog and an email list of 37 people where he shared his insights each week.
In 2011, while in his late 20s, he decided to make a leap and start OpenSnow. According to the organization’s website, its “local forecasts are considered ‘daily reading’ for skiers across the United States and Canada and reach more than 3 million people.”
Gratz’s business is unique from other weather-predicting platforms because it’s hyper-specific. While other platforms might focus on predicting forecasts for roads and towns, his platform is focused only on where the best powder is for snowboarders and skiers.
“Our 100% focus is snow where people ski and ride, whether that’s resorts or backcountry,” Gratz said. “While we get access to about the same data that any other weather app on your phone could have access to, it’s the way we’re adjusting that data and showing that data that we try to focus just for skiers and riders where they’re skiing: not at the town, not at the base, not in Denver, not in the town of Vail or the town of Silverthorne — but for the mountains. It’s that focus that hopefully allows us to be more accurate.”
Gratz said he and his team are overhauling their membership offers. For one person, an annual membership will cost $29.99 and for four people, it’ll cost $39.99. The app has features such as five- and 10-day forecasts, timelapse cams, hourly forecasts, offline trail maps, historical snow reports and more. In the future, the platform will also offer snow forecasts for certain backcountry areas, too.
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