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.