Snow forecasting as a way of life: 15 minutes with Pete ‘the Frog’ Taylor

Pete Taylor, better know across the snow industry as ‘the Frog’ has been forecasting snow falls in Australia since 1997, and New Zealand since 2010.  As founder and chief forecaster at one of Australia’s most popular snow-related websites, Snowatch, Peter certainly has his hands full.  From humble beginnings as an amateur forecaster on a well known Australian ski forum, Peter is now widely regarded as one of ‘the most reliable (and honest) long-range snow forecasters in Oz’, despite having no formal meteorological training.

The Frog’s God-like status has the Aussie and NZ skiing and boarding public hanging for his daily updates, whether it be through his website, YouTube channel, or his now frequent radio appearances.  With a small family, a full time job and a website to run, we caught up with Peter in what must have been a rare moment of downtime, and began by asking him how he fits it all in……

Snowriders WA: Your job must be pretty grueling during the winter months. Describe a typical day in the life of the Frog?

The Frog: It’s not very exciting really. From May to the first week of October I get up about 5am Monday to Saturday to look at the charts and type up the forecasts for the next 14 days in Australia and then the long range outlook. I also do forecasts for the NZ resorts around Queenstown and Wanaka. This usually takes an hour or so, then it’s just the normal daily grind of getting kids ready for school, heading off to work (yes I have a real job too), then back home about 6pm. Saturday mornings I also do a radio report on ABC666 Canberra which is a bit of fun. At night I go over any Snowatch emails, social media etc. to keep in the loop….then I do it all again the next day.

Snowriders WA: You’ve been forecasting snow events for nearly 20 years. A lot has changed in that time. What’s been the single biggest change you’ve observed in forecasting tools, and how has it affected you?

The Frog: When I first started the internet was fairly new and there weren’t that many maps/sources available to the general public. As time has gone on there are more weather bureaus here and overseas, better super computers built for weather data, more charts and data freely available and as such forecast are a lot more fine tuned than what they used to be.

Snowriders WA: As one of Australia’s most trusted forecasters, there’s often a lot riding on your predictions i.e. Decisions about whether or not to make the 5-8 hr journey, or whether to stay at home.  Do you ever feel the pressure, and have you ever received hate mail?

The Frog: There is always a bit of pressure as I know that many invest a lot of money into snow trips. The reason I first started Snowatch was because I was being inundated with emails from people wanting advice in regards to making bookings for trips. I always tell them that nothing’s certain with the weather and they seem to appreciate my honest feedback. As for hate mail I don’t get any thankfully. There is a lot of negative comments on social media from a certain few, but I made a point a few years ago not to go on those sites anymore.

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Image: Downtown Thredbo during a snow storm.

Snowriders WA: At SRWA, we care very deeply about climate change. You’re in a unique position to observe changing weather patterns. Have you noticed any changes in your time as a forecaster? 

The Frog: The weather is always changing and I’m always learning more about it. The weather patterns we see are pretty much the same as we have always had. I think that maybe having so much snowmaking tends to cover up what would probably be a fair bit less snow than we used to get.

Snowriders WA: Most skiiers and boarders I know like to have a crack at interpreting a weather map. We’re all amateur forecasters in our own minds. What is it that’s sets you apart from all the amateurs, and indeed the professionals?

The Frog: With so many resources available these days anyone can have a look at the charts and get an idea of what’s going to happen short term. I think the difference with myself is that from when I started I always looked to the 3-4 week ahead mark and try to pinpoint strong systems and when they would arrive in the mountains. I think this is where the difference is and why most people look at Snowatch.

Snowriders WA: Most of us that have been around the skiing industry for a while can tell you when it’s going to snow. The trick is in working out how much. You’re clearly very good at this. Do you have a formula, or at the end of the day, does it often just come down to your gut feeling?

The Frog: This is probably the hardest thing to do. Each resort is in a different area and at different elevations. I check quite a few bureau sources for charts and data and also use gut feeling quite often. Sometimes I totally disagree with the charts and make my own calls. You just have to back yourself.

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Snowriders WA: Do certain resorts do better out of particular weather systems?  For example, does Buller do better under one system, while Perisher and Thredbo, do better under other types of systems?

The Frog: They certainly do. Buller seems to do well out of strong S-SW systems which also reach Falls and Hotham. Perisher and Thredbo do well from a cool NW airflow. They also can do well from the SE at times, as can Baw Baw.

Buller

Image: When its on at Buller, its REALLY on! “Buller does well out of south to southwesterly weather systems” The Frog.

Snowriders WA: Describe your dream weather system in terms of snowfall potential for Aussie resorts.

The Frog: My dream systems would be the ones we got late June 2014. We had a series of cold fronts smash the resorts. The low kept spinning and bringing more and more moisture as well as very cold air up from the SW and drop it from the NW. I asked the BOM to send me the high res images for these systems (see below). These systems were tagged Snowmageddon 1 and 2 and brought over 100 cm of snow in the space of 13 days (source: Spencer’s Creek data).

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Image: Snowmageddon system 2

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Image: Snowmageddon system 1

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