Study Finds Resorts Inflate Snow Reports

snow fall totals

A truly shocking headline right? But a report from Dartmouth researchers finds that resorts exaggerate snowfall totals, especially on the weekend, but the trend is apparently waning with riders using new iPhone apps to self report and call BS.

In a report titled “Wintertime for Deceptive Advertising?,” Jonathan Zinman and Eric Zitzewitz of Dartmouth College state:

Casual empiricism suggests that deceptive advertising is prevalent, and several classes of
theories explore its causes and consequences. We provide some unusually sharp empirical
evidence on the extent, mechanics, and dynamics of deceptive advertising. Ski resorts self-
report 23 percent more snowfall on weekends. Resorts that plausibly reap greater benefits from
exaggerating do it more. We find little evidence that competition restrains or encourages
exaggeration. Near the end of our sample period, a new iPhone application feature makes it
easier for skiers share information on ski conditions in real time. Exaggeration falls sharply,
especially at resorts with better iPhone reception.

While the report doesn’t list specific resorts, it finds that resorts located near major population centers are the most guilty of fudging their numbers beyond National Weather Service totals.

According to a report on NPR:

Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, says that snow reports at resorts aren’t exactly done scientifically. He says a worker with a measuring stick typically checks snow levels once a day.

But in the age of Facebook and Twitter, he also says these traditional snow reports are becoming less important. Today, many skiers are getting information from their friends who live near resorts. So Berry has advice for his colleagues.

“If you try and create a reality that you perceive to be the truth, it better be consistent with the reality on the ground,” Berry says. “The consumer will remind you of that instantly if that's not the case.”