It's that time of year again! We at stakecam.com have ranked the top twelve ski / snowboard resort snow stake webcams of the 2017/18 season. From the artsy to the technical, snow stake cams are a great way for resorts to both advertise and inform the public of mountain conditions.
We have some newcomers this year which means we had to bump some from last year. Whether we just weren't aware of what was out there last year since it was our premier season, or there were just that many renovations/new builds, the list is much different than last season.
The ground rules (same as last year): A stake cam is a webcam pointed at a yard stick (stake) atop 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 resort member usually removes the snow at a designated time each day, typically early morning.
Here's the criteria we use to rank the finalists (in no particular order):
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? Is it sheltered from wind and drifting?
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 - Beaver Creek, CO (▼5 spots)
We begin the list with Beaver Creek. Down five spots from our 2016/17 list, they are the only Vail Resorts representative to make our it this year. Last year the Vail Resorts family had a strong showing in our list claiming four of the 12 spots but with all the new cams and designs we could only place one this year. There are pros and cons of being owned by a large parent company. Pro: You get the funding to build and maintain a high-functioning cam system. Con: They all look quite similar to one another - Breck starts to look like Blue Sky, starts to look like, Keystone, and so on.
That said, this cam beat out tons of others because of its analog gauges, classic design, accuracy, clear branding, backdrop, backlit night functionality, and... OMG the cookies! A common theme to our list is creative ways to incorporate marketing throughout. It's not always JUST about the skiing.
#11 Bogus Basin, ID (NEW!)
This is the first year we've had any resorts from Idaho - and not one, but THREE made it! The first of our Idahoan stakes is Bogus Basin. We became aware of it late last season and began watching for performance which was solid. It got cleared regularly, is visible at night, and has an all-important timestamp on the live feed.
They have a box structure to protect the stake from drifting, clear branding which isn't situated too low in the box (after all people are only looking at the stake when there's snow in it...unless you're testing artificial intelligence that reads these things), and even has a URL directing visitors where to go for more information.
Some perhaps unintentional features we like about this stake are the colors and background. Too many stake cams are colored all white making the contrast between the snow and box hard to see at times. While Bogus Basin may have just been incorporating their branding, as a happy coincidence it plays really well off the piling up of powder.
We also like the background. It may feel a little cluttered with the bright orange safety netting haphazardly strewn about in the back but we felt it gave a feel that this cam is right out on the slope giving a true representation of what you'd be skiing / boarding in verses off behind the lodge in perfect conditions.
The final winning feature: trees. For those of you who didn't see last year's list - conifers are the perfect natural stake cam. They provide contrast to new fallen snow, motion to gauge wind, branches to gauge depth, and are usually naturally protected from drifting by other trees.
#10 Tamarack, ID (NEW!)
This is the first year Tamarack has rolled out this beautiful stake so we don't have much to go on for performance which is why we were forced to put it lower on our list than we would have liked.
Dropping all the performance metrics, it made our list purely on design. They honey-tinted wood grain compliments the box structure well while providing subtle contrast to the white powder it'll be measuring. Box structures typically perform more accurately than the more traditional open designs, all things equal, because they protect the stake from drifting. With an open design you'd typically want your stake placed in a protected clearing which is why you usually see trees behind non-boxed stakes.
Another highlight is the branding throughout this stake. It's featured on nearly every visible surface without overdoing it like a Nascar®. Well done Tamarack. The hashtag was also a nice touch to promote selfies and social interaction. Finally the elevation and silhouette of Idaho along with the strategically placed logo gives the viewers a map to the resorts location.
If this stake cam system is visible at night, gets cleared regularly, and incorporates a timestamp in a reliable feed, look for this snow stake cam to place MUCH higher on our list next year.
#9 Aspen Snowmass, CO (▼ 1 Spot)
Ski season 2016/17 was a new design for the Snowmass stake. They upgraded their classic leaf logo with measurements and positioned it right in center of the action. Maybe a little too close - last year we saw toy snakes and paratroopers littering the platform and stake.
All joking aside, enough can't be said about showing the skiers / boarders behind the stake in the snow (see Brundage's cam). After all, one of the most powerful marketing draws of a stake cam is to generate FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), a well documented sales tactic. If I can SEE the visitors having a blast on the slope I want to be there in the powder too.
We also love that the stake is black! We couldn't believe it's the only one we saw like that so far! I mean, snow is ALWAYS white, what better color to contrast the two? Nice work Snowmass!
#8 Brundage, ID (NEW!)
The highest ranking Idahoan stake cam system is Brundage. The reason for such a high rank on the list can be largely summed up to one thing - the background. We touched on it a little bit with Aspen's (#7) stake. As a marketing tool, stake cams should accurately portray a snapshot of the current conditions. After watching Brundage's cam all last season, it always has visitors as a backdrop making you wish you were one.
We love that is has a snowbox structure to protect the stake from drifting, clear branding, and that super important timestamp metadata in the corner. It resembles a bathtub filling with bubbles when Brundage is getting dumped on. Bravo!
#7 Snowbird, UT (▼3 Spots)
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 graded (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 as an unfortunate side effect of the fins of the logo, the snow tended to drift inaccurately on the gradations. 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.
#6 Winter Park, CO (▼3 Spots)
Winter Park may be down three spots from last year but it still has a strong showing on our list.
With the clearly visible logo and color contrast to the modern air brushed metal finish, the design on this system is top-notch.
Trees in the background and an industrial tray for the snow to pile up on make Winter Park's system the first of our more abstract entries which begin to lean more towards art than the conventional gauge to measure snow.
Along with metadata, hi-def, and scrollable timeline, this system is more than just a beautiful design.
#5 Arapahoe Basin, CO (NEW!)
For our #5 spot we're bucking some of our rules. What A-basin's cam system lacks in information it makes up for in the simplicity of its design.
Up till now every position has been reliant upon metadata or timestamps. A-basin's has none of that. It is simply the resort logo. There aren't even any gradations, which begs the viewer to research more. It's also a nod to those of us who did do the research to find how tall it is - 18" at its tallest by the way. No gradations begs the question: "Why does it matter anyway?" All we care about is skiing / boarding powder, who cares exactly how much of it there is?
We love the rustic wooden design with different staining and sharp edges for snow to pile up on. The location also pushed up into the top five because of the evergreen backdrop along with proximity to actual skiers that can be seen shooshing by.
#4 Powder Mountain, UT (NEW!)
FULL DISCLOSURE: PowMow is a customer of ours using our artificial intelligence, SnowCAP, to notify skiers/boarders. They were weighted the same as each of the others and in the end the pros and cons landed them in our number four spot.
PowMow just replaced their new stake last year. We were unaware until our 2016/17 list had already come out otherwise they likely would've bumped someone last year. Since they use our SnowCAP system, we have obviously been following them closely for the last year and their performance is solid. In fact, they're one of the few resorts that keep their feed going all year long so you can even tune in during the summer months.
One of our favorite features is how it looks at night. If you saw last year's list, you'd know we're suckers for light-up stakes. Welp, this is one of those - futuristic looking LED with a cool blue glow.
#3 - Telluride, CO (▼1 Spot)
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 gradation 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 this would probably get our nod for the top spot. Telluride did upgrade this season to a night vision cam instead of traditional flood lights which is both more economical and green. That's where our number two really shines - nighttime.
#2 - Loveland,CO (▼1 Spot)
If you're sitting down to design a stake cam for your resort, take a page out of Loveland's book. Have you ever tuned in to to their stake cam feed at night?! It looks like something you'd see in the 1980's movie Tron.
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 that when snow falls, it's rarely sunny.
Loveland's cam looks beautiful in both day and night. If the list were for best nighttime stake cam, Loveland would repeat for our top spot. But this year, thanks to renovations on some stake cam trailblazers, Loveland has been de-throned...
#1 Copper Mountain, CO (▲9 Spots)
Atop our list is an old cam with a brand new facelift. In our 2016/17 list, Copper came in at tenth. This year, they jumped an unprecedented nine spots to lock in #1 on our list. Here's why:
Last year the stakecam was pretty simple. We love that they were one of the first to start pointing a webcam at a stake; that scores them high on innovation and street cred. But they also have two stakes which nobody does. They clear each at different times (one twice a day and one once). This way the viewer can tell how much accumulation fell overnight and how much fell in the last 24hrs with a glance - brilliant technical design. With the old design they just needed to make it more obvious what was happening with some labels and modernize the aesthetics a bit.
This year's updates don't disappoint! They have everything labeled clearly so the viewer knows WHY it has two stakes, it has a clearly branded logo so social media shares don't need a "link back" to know where it came from, add in the analog gauges and you've got a stake that walks the talk! They are also some of the tallest at over two feet so they're prepared for the big storms. Take into account the rustic look with the coniferous backdrop and the HD feed and our choice was clear. Congratulations Copper! ■
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