Frederic Gonzalo’s Blog

Our insidious depency to weather forecasts

This past week-end, we had planned for a while to bring the kids, along with other friends, to this great waterpark less than half-hour drive outside of Quebec City, called Village Vacances Valcartier. We were combining my eldest son’s 7th birthday with a going-away celebration of sorts for our boarding guest, Kenshi, so we had very little options than this past Sunday to go there.

Checking weather forecast on Saturday evening was similar to watching a horror flick: Weather Channel was calling for 90% chances of rain pretty much all day, with severe thunder shower alerts, and a rather cool day with a maximum of 22C (or 72F). Nevertheless, when we woke up on Sunday morning, we kept our spirits high, and held on to our plans.

Against all odds

By then, the forecast had changed very little, going down to 70% chances of rain in the morning, but still calling for 80% chances of thundershowers in the afternoon and evening, and a maximum still at 22C. So, knowing it costs close to 170$ alone to get in for a family of 2 adults and 4 boys as we were, would you have gone?

He who knows does not predict. He who predicts does not know.

– Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

The boys, acting as pirates at Village Vacances Valcartier

Funny thing is, we did go. And it was a phenomenal day at the park, riding the waves, sliding down on tubes, spraying buckets full of water and chowing down fast food and sugar pastries.

The weather? It peaked at 28C (or 82F), but never rained even though we did see some nasty clouds in the horizon. So guess what was the other side-benefit of this weather forecast mishap? You guessed it, the place was near empty! I mean, here we were, a hot day, on a week-end, mid-August… and there were no line-ups whatsoever, anywhere!

Weather, the marketing-killer

While it was fun to experience this as a paying customer, the marketer in me could not help thinking how this was a brutal reflection of what we experience in the ski industry during winter time. You know, when it’s Friday, and they’re calling for a freezing cold day, ice rain or some other doom scenario for the Saturday, so nobody in their right mind will think of heading out. Right?

But in many cases, not to say in most cases, it ends up that ice rain was actually a dump of fresh snow, or that freezing cold really wasn’t that bad, more like an average February day in Quebec. So a chosen few, wise enough not to listen to weather forecasts, end up reaping the rewards of their audacity, have the mountain to themselves, and enjoy!

But ski industry management gets the short-end of the stick, just like in the summertime water parks pay the price of these misleading weather forecasts upon which unfortunately too many people have come to depend. And this dependency holds a real cost to seasonal businesses, with lost revenue that just can’t be compensated.

Impacts in our daily lives

Yet again today, my 7 year-old was supposed to visit an apple orchard with other kids from day camp, on their weekly field trip. This was to happen rain or shine, the flyer said last week when we were advised of the outing. Lo and behold, they ended up not going because… the weather forecast called for showers on and off!

Thing is, it ended up being cloudy all day, but not a drop of rain to be seen. Bad call from the day camp supervisor? Probably, but you can’t hold it against him or her, surely the decision was well-intended. But therein lies the true issue: we make decisions based on what is predicted to happen, not on what is really happening.

60% chances of sun!

How does one interpret a “40% chance of rain” to call off an outdoor event? If it rains for 10 minutes that day, the 40% chances of rain just materialized, but you can hardly call off an event just for that, right? Isn’t a 40% chance of rain also a 60% chances of absolute beautiful weather?

Well, in any case, here’s to my two weeks vacations that just started on that note. It WILL be loads of fun, rain or shine, hot or cool. Happiness, after all, is not dependent of weather forecasts!