Snow Reporter’s Survival Guide

Here is the microphone junior. Speak only perfectly.

Words by Zander Basedepth l STE Editor at Large

The Snow Reporter Survival Guide-image
Wake up dude. Time to go to work.

You did it. You got the job!

That degree in marketing might take you somewhere. Just not this year. For now you’re counting the days until your $11 an hour job that starts at 5:30 a.m. kicks off. You’re the new Snow Reporter and it’s almost opening day.

As far as you can tell, you’ll be taking some photographs, writing witty copy and doing this historical joke called the snow phone that becomes wrong one minute after you record it. Cake.

What you have yet to realize is that guests will call you a liar no matter how much truth you tell. Your fellow staff will never quite be sure what it is you do. They see you loading a chair at opening bell to go “take pictures” . They will notice that the GM talks to you sometimes, which will make them dislike you more.

You’re the “voice” of the mountain. Yes, this regional economic force is putting their voice in your hands and paying you $11 an hour, if you’re lucky. You’ll have about a week’s training to get ready. After that’s over, you’re in a never-ending quest not to jack it up. When you do, or do so in someone’s personal opinion, they’ll be pissed and tell everyone they see. But you’ll get used to that.

Mornings go something like this..

You wake up around 4 a.m., even on your days off.

When you get to the office in the dark you try to figure out what changed overnight. Snowmaking, grooming, and lift plans are always on the move. The building is empty. Sometimes the groomers have left you a message or can be called on the radio, sometimes not. Either way you are supposed to know.

If Patrol is in a good mood (and on site) they might help you out. Either way you are bugging them. Their job (safety) is more important than yours (blah blah), which is true.

Once you’ve settled in on WTF you are going to tell the world you hit the books. You have your website, facebook, twitter, (you hope not G+ and Pinterest), on-mtn displays, grooming reports, chat rooms, ski shop reports, that one lodging property that doesn’t use computers, (for god’s sake don’t skip this it’s like every website, tv, radio on earth),, sending out the email blast, recording the snow phone, and checking in on the competitors. Every spot you wrote “tonight” yesterday afternoon better damn well say “today” this morning, otherwise you’ll get called out for mailing it in.

After you get through that cycle, you tend to have to do it all again at 7:30 because something new has come to light. It wasn’t your fault and it wasn’t intentional, but half the audience will call you a liar for it. Thank the 1980’s, when yeah, everyone was lying because there was no internet.

Then some douchebag on facebook gets mad and says the ski area is out to get him because something on the Earth changed between 6:30 and 7:30. Then the GM of the ski area sees it and comes to see you about it. How could you let this happen?


It also snows.

When it snows you have another job. Determine how much snow that is. There is much debate about this process. Here in the east, every inch is prized. People have many ski areas to choose from on any given day and you do not want to short change your mountain with a subpar report. What is the right number?

The right number, and only right number, is the one number or range that makes two groups happy at the same time. This line is razor thin. You have to judge, from your dark office or parking lot, what one number will keep your bosses off your ass, and not create social media revolt by 11 a.m. That is the only correct answer. The one that allows you to move on to other tasks.

If the ruler says 6″ but it’s going to ski like 4″. Report 6″ at your peril. If the ruler says 4″ but it’s going to ski like 6″, your boss will have your ass. Your ruler is the third integer in this equation. It’s like an advisor. You’re smarter than a stick aren’t you?

No one cares what the ruler said, even if you take a picture of it. Accuracy exists between the expectations of boss and public, with a touch of regional competitor storm results tossed in.

You’ll get good at all this by late February, a month before you get laid off. In the end, if you did your job well, you’re be better at happily polishing turds and avoiding blowback than anyone else you graduated with.

Stick that on your resume next to a job title that makes no sense.