We've developed this list to rank the best snow webcams, or stake cams, at ski resorts in the US.
The ground rules: A stake cam is a webcam pointed at a yard stick (stake) on top of a platform that holds the snow as it accumulates; you'll get the idea, we have pictures. From this webcam, anyone can tune in to the feed and see what the current measure of snow is. A worker at the resort usually removes the snow at a designated time each day.
- Here's the criteria we used to rank the finalists:
- Design - what's it look like? Is it aesthetically pleasing?
- Accuracy - how's the placement? Does it report abnormally high or low results? Is it maintained and cleaned off every morning?
- Availability - will it show up in a Google search? Is it easy for skiers / snowboarders to find?
- Technology - Does it take advantage of time-lapse? Is the picture good? High definition?
- Night and Day - How does it look in the daytime? How does it look at night? Is it well lit? Back-lit?
#12 - Heavenly, CA
We start at number twelve. Our list originally had eleven resort stake cams but we just had to make room for Heavenly, Lake Tahoe. Though most of the list is from Colorado, this is one from outside the state. It has everything most the other cams on the list have: background of trees for good contrast, lighting for night viewing, high contrast of the measurement marks (graduations), and a good-sized logo so you know what resort you're looking at. Nothing unique about the design here. As agent Friday used to say - "Just the facts ma'am." We had to include it because of its SEO, or search engine optimization. That means its one of the first to pop up when you search for "snow stake cam" in Google Images. Now lets look at the others to see how to separate your web cam from the rest of the field.
#11 - Breckenridge, CO
Breckenridge's stake cam has a lot going for it but some of its strongest features are its functionality and design. For example, it's got elements of both form and function - the stake is simple, it has a great contrasting evergreen background, and it's incredibly functional. The stake has the name and logo clearly displayed, so you know what resort you're looking at when you tune in. It can be seen clearly in both day and night. It can handle up to two feet of snow before needing to be cleared. The background helps you tell how much is piled up even in the most intense whiteout conditions. But one of the most important features is that it's the first hit when googled, a must-have to make our list.
#10 Copper Mountain, CO
This is an interesting one. While it might not look like much at first glance, Copper was one of the first to implement stake cam technology. Recently upgraded, their cam has two pipes on a platform which we loved so much we used it for prototyping our SnowCAP™ software. The two stakes give it high marks for functionality and accuracy. You can take the average of the two so you know the results are fairly unbiased. The precise clock in the lower corner helps too.
Copper's cam looks good at night and it takes advantage of time lapse that you can play at high speed and even scroll back months into archive. All this and they have a great woody background to contrast the blue and red stakes making for super visibility. The only reason Copper's cam isn't higher on our list is because they don't have a discernible logo or identifier unless you know the two pipes are Copper.
#9 Blue Sky Basin, CO
Vail's Blue Sky Basin cam gained high marks for its functionality. It may not be the most artistic, but as a scientist I can appreciate the plethora of information. It has faces for both time and temperature, clear instructions on when the platform is cleared (first on our list like that), logo and name front & center, and a two foot stake that simply flips over to clear making it much easier for whoever has to clear it each day. We liked the wooden fence background for contrast but nothing can beat a grove of evergreens (see #7 for explanation why).
#8 Aspen Snowmass, CO
Ski season 2016/17 is a new design for the Snowmass stake. They upgraded their classic leaf logo with measurements and positioned it right in center of the action. The old, vanilla design probably wouldn't have made the list. This is important because with number five and six, we start to notice real leaps up from the standard "white-stake-on-a-platform". They also add points for the time stamp in the upper-left and keeping it nicely lit at night. Combine that with the simple, yet effective time-lapse interface, and you have the number eight spot on our list. Things preventing a higher place on the list were the background and lack of controls for manual time jogging.
#7 Beaver Creek, CO
Unlike Copper's cam, Beaver Creek doesn't have digital readings but does have analog time and temp readings in the back (even if they are a little hard to read). The board also has clear instructions and a logo. Along with all this they have a great forest background. Throughout this list I've mentioned wooded or forested background as a big pro. Here's why: Trees in the back aren't just to give the user a woodland lodge feel. They're a smart choice for a design feature too. If you aren't sure what type of snow is coming down, wet / heavy or dry / light, you can look at the trees. By seeing how the branches sag (see #11 Breck) the visitor can tell what "type" of snow is coming down even if it is subconsciously. Additionally, the trees also provide great contrast against the typical white stake.
#6 Keystone, CO
Keystone's an interesting one. It might not look all that dissimilar from other webcams but what locked its spot on our list is its SEO. Much like Heavenly in Lake Tahoe, Keystone's cam was one of the first to appear after repeat searches in Google. Whether searching Google Images, Google, or Bing (all of which we performed), Keystone kept coming up. At the end of the day, that's gotta be one of the most important criteria after installing the stake and connecting the webcam. If potential visitors can't find the cam, they won't visit frequently. If they don't come back often, they don't care when snow falls. If they don't care when snow falls, your resort isn't on their mind and they have other options.
Additionally we liked the dual unit thermometer. This sneaky gauge expands the resort's scope by providing familiarity to oversees destination visitors. There are more ways to measure temperature than Fahrenheit. Well played Keystone.
#5 Steamboat, CO
With Steamboat, we take an important step into designing of the stakes. These last few spots are almost like mountain works of art as well as an important marketing device to inform visitors of new snow. You can see Steamboat's stake cam isn't just a simple white stick in the ground with marks on it. It's a high quality, raised logo wooden post with analog thermometer attached. Its got a great wooded background and is perfectly framed by the webcam shot. We also liked its well-elevated position off the ground ensuring no drifting of snow.
#4 Snowbird, UT
Snowbird is one of two non-Coloradan (Utah) resorts to make the list. Remember, one of the criterion for the list is "searchability". If someone can't search your stake cam easily, why have one?
Snowbird earned high marks for strong branding continuity in their design. The whole cam is simply a graduated (measure-marked) logo. Pretty brilliant when you think about it - every time a frequent stake-cam checker sees the logo, they immediately imagine snow engulfing it, creating the anticipation that a good logo should. The Snowbird cam would've ranked higher but because of the fins of the logo the snow tended to drift inaccurately on the graduations. Not a huge issue since the cam is far enough away the user can extrapolate accurate snowfall without much of a problem. Nit-picky I know, but these are the best of the best when we're talking about snowfall marketing technologies.
#3 Winter Park, CO
Winter Park. Great cam! Lets start with the night time view. It's lit up plus it has that great deep red glow to ensure you can see the numbers and logo in even the heaviest snowfall. And really, what's more important data for a stake cam the numbers?
Next lets look at the design. A cool modern industrial look with some snowflakes for garnish. Even if you had never seen a snow stake before, you'd know what this image was designed to do. Top that off with an inviting, woodsy backdrop and you have one of the highest ranked feeds on our list. The only reason we didn't put it higher was because the top two are so great. Maybe we'll shuffle the top three around next year. It was really that close!
#2 - Telluride,CO
Where to begin? Deceptively simple at first glance, Telluride's cam looks like something made by a race of gnomes in World of Warcraft with its steampunk-style conveyor belt for removing snow accumulation and its crossed pickaxes up top. The axes of course are Telluride's logo and are bright red to contrast against the back whether snowing or not. Next you throw in the graduation of the rustic tin roof material framed in modern black with straight clean edges and you have an expert design. To top it all off it's nestled in the forest backdrop like a birdhouse. We really love this snow stake as is evidenced by its place on our list. If the red pickaxes and numbers were back-lit like Winter Park's this would probably get our nod for the top spot. That's where our number one really shines - nighttime.
#1 - Loveland,CO
If you're sitting down to design a stake cam for your resort, take a page out of Loveland's book. As mentioned earlier, have you ever tuned in to to their stake cam feed at night?! If "The Grid" from Tron had skiing, this would be their webcam. To score high on our list you need a great design; everything else will fall into place. As with many things in life, timing is also important. To get the skiers / snowboarders to take a snow day, your cam feed better look great in the dark. It goes without saying (so I will), that when snow falls, it's rarely sunny. ■
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