Ski Resorts Caught Practicing Snow Inflation

A Dartmouth study says ski resorts routinely lied about how much new snow they had on the ground in order to attract customers.

The researchers found that resorts reported a lot more snow on weekends than weekdays. And there was a shock toward the end of the study. When an iPhone app opened comment sections to people with cellphones, the comments held the resorts accountable for the inflated figures. Suddenly, the resorts started reporting more accurate data.

National Public Radio summarized the study by Eric Zitzewitz and Jon Zinman, both associate professors of economics at Dartmouth:

"According to Zinman, resorts reported 23 percent more snow on weekends. And the resorts that had the most to gain by fluffing up their numbers did more of it.

"According to Zinman, resorts with more people living within driving distance inflated their numbers more, as did resorts that don't offer money-back guarantees."

NPR went on to quote Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association:

"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."


The U.S. ski industry tallied 57.4 million skier visits during 2008-09, according to the final Kottke End of Season Survey. .

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.

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