OpenSnow: An Interview with Joel Gratz On Meteorology, Powder Days, and More!

If you’re a ski­er chances are you’ve heard of OpenSnow.com. This web­site and app is redefin­ing the role tech­nol­o­gy and social media play in pre­dict­ing pow­der days, much to the ski­ing com­mu­ni­ty’s delight. We caught up with Joel Gratz, Col­orado Region Mete­o­rol­o­gist and founder of Open­Snow, to dis­cuss the web­site’s ori­gins and where it’s plan­ning to take skiers in 2018.

The Clymb: So, mete­o­rol­o­gy is real­ly cool but many of us lay-folk don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly under­stand the intri­ca­cies. How would you describe what you do for the mass­es and what got you into weath­er-pre­dict­ing in the first place?

Joel Gratz: I start­ed fore­cast­ing pow­der for skiers because I am a ski­er addict­ed to pow­der. This was a self­ish thing at first—putting my mete­o­rol­o­gy degree to work to help myself and my friends find pow­der. Then I found that oth­er folks enjoyed my fore­casts, so I expand­ed my email list, then blog, now full-on web­site and mobile app. And I found a few oth­er fore­cast­ers that were like me (skiers addict­ed to pow­der) and we teamed up to pro­vide fore­casts for Col­orado, Utah, Tahoe, etc., all in one place—OpenSnow.com.

OpenSnow.com is like The Weath­er Chan­nel, just for skiers. We pro­vide fore­casts for each ski area, pro­vide com­men­tary about those fore­casts in some­thing we call “The Dai­ly Snow”, and also pro­vide snow reports, web­cams, and every­thing we can think of to help peo­ple find the next pow­der day. Myself and the oth­er fore­cast­ers obsess over weath­er mod­els, local ter­rain, and use our knowl­edge of past weath­er events to fig­ure out which mod­els to trust and put in lay­men’s terms our thoughts about when and where the pow­der will fall.

The Clymb: Why Boul­der, Col­orado and why Open­Snow?

Joel Gratz: I grad­u­at­ed from Penn State with a degree in mete­o­rol­o­gy, then came to The Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado at Boul­der for grad­u­ate school, study­ing mete­o­rol­o­gy, pol­i­cy, and busi­ness. After I grad­u­at­ed CU, I stayed in Boul­der because there are tons of trails plus a great busi­ness and tech­nol­o­gy com­mu­ni­ty. That said, Open­Snow does­n’t have a cen­tral office—everyone works from home or wher­ev­er they hap­pen to be ski­ing that day.

The Clymb: Peo­ple might say you’re liv­ing the dream by align­ing your skills and pas­sions in one mar­ketable pro­fes­sion, but let’s be real: There’s got­ta be some­thing you don’t like about your job. Tell us what you love and what irks you about this lifestyle.

Joel Gratz: This is lit­er­al­ly my dream job. I have loved snow, weath­er, and ski­ing since age 6. That said, start­ing a busi­ness from scratch is very, very hard, even when you love what you do. I had a lot of stress around finances dur­ing the first few years, and now, thank­ful­ly, we are a prof­itable and grow­ing busi­ness, so the finan­cial stress has sub­sided. Now the stress is around time management—I work every day, fore­cast­ing and man­ag­ing the busi­ness, and also try to ski as much as I can, and I also want to enjoy time with my wife (who loves ski­ing pow­der as well) and 5‑month old son. I don’t have a day off from August to April, but the trade off is that I am in charge of the busi­ness, my lifestyle, my suc­cess, and how much I ski. It’s a good trade­off.

The Clymb: As a ski­ing enthu­si­ast, what’s your favorite resort of all time? What about favorite resort for the 2017–2018 sea­son?

Joel Gratz: I don’t have a favorite resort. My favorite mem­o­ries are ski­ing deep, light, untouched pow­der with my wife and friends, no mat­ter where that is.

The Clymb: Go-to après ski­ing bev­er­age?

Joel Gratz: If I am par­ty­ing late into the night, it’s Red Bull + Vod­ka.

The Clymb: If there’s one thing read­ers should know about Open­Snow, what would it be? What new and excit­ing things can we expect from Open­Snow in 2018?

Joel Gratz: We are work­ing to redesign our web­site and mobile apps to make it eas­i­er to plan pow­der days. Also, we have an sum­mer app called Open­Sum­mit that pro­vides hik­ing fore­casts for Col­orado’s 14,000 foot peaks, focus­ing on light­ning. We will also be adding more trails inside and out­side of Col­orado soon.