Back again! We at stakecam.com have ranked the top twelve ski / snowboard resort snow stake webcams of the 2018/19 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.
Resorts are getting better and better at upgrading their tech. This year we were truly impressed with a new addition to the list, as well as upgrades from familiar resorts.
The ground rules (same as past years): 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, but that’s changing as resorts adapt to new ways of reporting accumulation.
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 Snowbird, UT (▼5 Spots)
We’re starting our list out with perhaps the most innovative marketing department in the biz - Snowbird. Who can forget last year’s “Too Advanced - One Star” ad campaign.
Since stake cams are basically real-time micro ad-campaigns, we’d be remiss if Snowbird wasn’t in our top twelve.
They 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. We’d like to see the logo encased in a box design to improve accuracy for a higher rank. Also, a real-time timestamp or some metadata in the corner of the feed would help ensure you’re seeing a live feed.
Representing the first Gem State entry on our list, we have a true gem - Bogus Basin. The first of our Idahoan stakes is solid for performance. 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, like us, 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 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 placed somewhere behind the lodge in perfect conditions.
The final winning feature: trees. For those of you who didn't see the 2016/17 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.
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, we can’t say enough about showing the skiers / boarders behind the stake in the snow, see Sun Valley or A-basin’s cam on a weekend. 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 jet black. We couldn't believe how rare dark stakes are! I mean, new powder is ALWAYS white, what better color to contrast the two? Nice work Snowmass!
For our #9 spot we're bucking some of the rules. What A-basin's cam system lacks in information it makes up for in simplicity of 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 shushing by.
#8 Sun Valley, ID (New!)
The only newcomer to our list this year is Sun Valley. We’ve been watching them for some time and they added some new hardware that bumped them into contention this year.
Their location was never in question, in fact right behind the stake can be seen an official meteorological-caliber snow gauge so we know the stake is well-placed because it looks to be close to where they take their actual reported snow totals.
To go along with their accuracy, they placed a logo and thermometer on the stake for branding and added metadata. Add a bright nighttime flood light, a background of skiers and moving chair lift to monitor mountain traffic, as well as good contrast from a dark stake, and our only new addition to the list was an easy choice.
Climbing one spot after a redesign is Brundage. Though the redesign no longer incorporates the skiers / boarders as much in the background, there are some definite improvements from the upgrade.
Firstly, they stayed with a box design but changed the background to a nice dark faux wood finish which contrast’s powder well. We like it for selfish reasons - it helps our AI discern changes in accumulation making it more accurate.
Secondly, the snowbox structure itself protects the stake from drifting, it still has a clear branding, metadata in the upper corner, and they added a subtle yet informative state outline with a snowflake depicting their location. Completing the metaphor, as the box fills with snow it covers the state and snowflake. Deep…pun intended.
PowMow is the first of our resorts with a self-lit, glowing stake. Since they use our SnowCAP system, we have obviously been following them closely for a while 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. This is one of them - a futuristic looking LED with a cool blue glow. Despite all that, PowMow dropped two full spots because the competition was so fierce this year.
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 five spot.
#5 Winter Park, CO (▲ 1 Spot)
With the clearly visible logo and location added to the modern air brushed metal finish, the design on this system is top-notch.
Trees in the background, bright red gradations, and a tray for the snow to pile up on make Winter Park's system both accurate and easy to read.
Along with metadata, hi-def, and scrollable timeline controls, this system is more than just a beautiful design. One thing we particularly like is that they clear the stake of snow in the afternoon each day and it’s clearly stated below the cam in the description. Winter Park is helping usher in a new way to report snow totals now that we live in a real-time, digital world which is not dependant on the radio for reporting new powder.
With their live uplink to YouTube® for watching, streaming, or sharing to your social network, the jump up a spot from last year made Winter Park’s new cam an easy choice.
Where to begin? Deceptively simple at first glance, Telluride's cam looks like something made by gnomes from Azeroth 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.
Throw in the gradation of the rustic tin roof material framed in modern black with straight clean edges and you have an expert design. Its even got a fun name - Prospect Pow Cam.
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. It does have a bright flood light on at night so the colors really pop no matter when you tune in to check snowfall. To place in the top five on our list, your cam must look good at night.
This is the second year Tamarack has made our list. It’s jump in the list impressed us so much we added it to our family of supported resorts with free alerting. Last year was the first roll out of this new stake and since we vote on our list before the upcoming season, we didn’t have many performance metrics to consider. All we had was a picture of it out in a field of green grass. With a year under its belt, that has all changed.
This stake made our list last year purely on design. The honey-tinted wood grain compliments the box structure well while providing good contrast to powder. From a scientific standpoint, box structures typically perform more accurately than the more traditional open designs 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. Overall, this is a good idea anyway to increase precision and accuracy. Seriously, there have actually been meteorological papers published on this concept!
Another highlight is the branding throughout this stake. It's featured on nearly every visible surface without overdoing it like 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 resort’s location.
This cam is visible at night, gets cleared regularly, incorporates a reliable feed, but doesn’t have a timestamp which is perhaps is the only thing keeping it from ranking higher on this year’s list.
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, it’d be a toss up between the top two spots. But this year, thanks to renovations on some stake cam trail blazers, Loveland was just edged out from claiming it’s top spot back from...
#1 Copper Mountain, CO (Unch)
Atop our list is an old cam with a brand, brand new facelift. In last year’s list Copper was number one with a new design. This year, they redesigned it AGAIN. Here's how:
First, the obvious change - Copper moved away from the dual posted stake cam (which we liked) and replaced it with a single, self-lit stake. 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. For this year’s upgrades, Copper kept the metadata and took a page out of Loveland’s book by creating the new glowing stake, making it easy to see in the darkest blizzard. On top of that, they added a night vision cam for when the entire stake gets encased in fresh pow.
Like Winter Park (#6), they clear the stake from powder in the afternoon as opposed to early A.M. We like it better because the average Joe can see how much snow fell overnight. Most of us don’t get up at 5 a.m. to check powder conditions.
One distinguishing characteristic, we loved about Copper’s cam at night is the effect that fat flakes of powder have on the night vision - they make it look like an old-timey black and white movie. I’m not sure if this was the the intent or just a happy coincidence but it looks fantastic! Congratulations Copper… again! ■
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