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How Long Does it Take You to KNOW a Resort?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

...to the point where you feel you’ve skied or ridden everything that mountain has to offer. 


A continuous point of conversation on this site, especially with the newbie crowd, is the idea of “resort bagging”. In places like SLC, Tahoe or Summit County, where the ski areas are right next to each other, there’s a rush to quickly visit all of the resorts. I’m not sure folks realize how much terrain some of these mountains cover, and that you’re only seeing a small % of that resort on a given vacation.


There’s so many advantages to going through a resort with a fine tooth comb. You’ll know where the snow loads up on big days. You’ve got a way to beat the crowds. You’ll find some great runs that may have hidden entrances from dense brush or deadfall.  Maybe you’ll even find a powder stash or two a couple days after the storm.


You hear plenty of skiers and riders talk about spending tons of time at places like Heavenly, Vail, Squaw and Big Sky and constantly finding something new. Even smaller resorts like Crested Butte and Taos are known to ski much bigger than their meager acreage, with hundreds of micro lines within their boundaries.  


So I’ve got to ask, how much time for you does it take to completely understand a mountain?

post #2 of 12

It depends on so many things, whether you ever have anyone to show you around or are doing it all on your own, whether you actively spend your time investigating or letting it happen more organically, etc.  I've got about 60 days at the place I ski at the most over the last few years (when I moved into the area), and I'd say I know most of the mountain at this point, but definitely wouldn't say I have it completely figured out.  I still find new little hidden spots when I go out.  And this isn't even a big resort by western standards.

post #3 of 12

Some years ago, my wife and I made a commitment to ski at Squaw Valley.  Our thought process resonates with the OP.  Even before the merger with Alpine Meadows, we reasoned that Squaw was big and challenging enough that we would not get bored.  Of all the resorts in Tahoe, Squaw was the only one we felt comfortable with for the long haul.


We're well over 100 days each so far and I think we made the right choice.  We're constantly finding new challenges.  Aside from the lack of snow starting off last season, we're not bored.  The place seems to get bigger the more one looks.  Since we're familiar with it, though, we have a much easier time getting around and are generally better able to take advantage of what Squaw has to offer.


We're starting our kids off on the same path through the excellent kids programs that larger resorts are able to offer.  We're probably spoiling them for smaller mountains, however.


I'm sure Squaw's not unique; it's just my personal example.  There are a number of large world-class resorts that fit the profile.


How long?  Ten years?  Maybe a lifetime.

post #4 of 12

Interesting topic.  I'm definitely guilty of resort bagging, one&done type visits.  But hopefully I'll get back again someday to those that really impress me.  However, I'm also the type that can and have (in the distant past) skied 25 straight days at 1000' vertical mid-Atlantic ski area and not felt bored.


Obviously, the total skiable acreage will drive the "how long to know" question and whether the ski area is restricted to cut trails (frequently the case in my region) or has open bowls, glade skiing, and 3k or 4k vertical.  If there's lots of available off-piste terrain it can offer countless possible lines to ski.  Of course, for some folks a 5 acre, 400' vert terrain park is good for a whole season.smile.gif


To answer your question with a single personal example:  I've only skied Arapahoe Basin a couple of days, but got a nice taste of the place.  It has about 1700' lift-served vertical and 900 total acres, moderate by Western/Rockies standards.  Yet I left there feeling I could ski it the rest of my life and not get bored.  It has bowls, trees, hike-to steeps, chutes, cornices, bumps, groomers and typically plenty of snow.  More than enough stuff than I could ever handle.  All I'd need there is to turn back the clock about 30 years for a new set of lungs and legs.

post #5 of 12

10 years to learn every nook and cranny of Mt Baker and it's a small area with big terrain.  Even then there were places inbounds I was too scared to go. We have been skiing Fernie and Castle for 6 years and have some knowledge but I expect I will run out of legs before I run out of new things to discover. Fernie is 3550 vertical and 2500+ acres and Castle is 2833 vertical and 3500+ acres.

post #6 of 12

I've got nine winters in at Whitefish, an eyelash short of 600 days, and there are still places I've not gone, and I'm sure others I don't even know exist.  

post #7 of 12

It took me about 3 years to learn beaver mt really well. But in truth its not a static thing. As the sport progresses, as I progress as a skier, as the moutnain is further developed, there are new things to learn. So it never ends in many senses. 

post #8 of 12

I have been skiing Whistler and a lot of other fair size areas for a long time - do i know every nook and granny? of course not, but I know where I want to go. I find at most hills you can usually get a good idea of the areas best suited to your taste fairly quickly.  A few days is enough almost anywhere. But if your looking to find every sweet spot on a hill it will take much longer as some of them hide in areas you wouldn't think are worth bothering skiing. 

post #9 of 12

Lord love the 'Area Baggers, they buy  a lot of lifts for the locals.  


Skied Alyeska 500+ days, and was eternally finding new spots and lines.  In those days there was only 1 chair.  

Have about 100 days at Crystal Mt.  Skiing it pretty hard, there are days will ski 1 lift almost exclusively, don't claim to know all of the terrain on any of the lifts (well maybe the magic carpet).  One of the really special things about getting older is that almost every day it is like a new mountain.


Love to ski new mountains, but if not skiing with a local it can take several days just to find the flow of the place.  

post #10 of 12

The answer can be very subjective, based on the level of skiing and for their desire to really get to know a place rope-to-rope and find all the hidden stashes.


For a medium/large resort, it probably takes a whole season to get to really know the place.  It isn't necessarily based on the number of visits, but really getting to know how to "read" the mountain and conditions.  That usually takes skiing the mountain under a variety of conditions, at different times during the season, and remembering the good/bad/ugly of your experiences.  Observing other skiers and skiing with different people also can really help to get to know a place.


Specifically, to understand:

- Snow conditions on different aspects (direction, sun angles, which areas get sun-baked, which areas corn-up best)

- Weather effects on different areas of the mountain (wind loading, areas that generally receive more snow)

- Skier patterns / flow

- Lift lines (what lifts are crowded/uncrowded at different times of the day)

- Grooming patterns (e.,g when do they periodically groom that black bomber run, about once every two weeks)

- Well know "secret stashes"

- Your own "secret stashes"

- Observing other skiers and where they go/don't go

- Skiing with different groups of friends who know different lines/aspects, or just ski the mountain differently that you normally do

- Understanding good early/late season area

- Secret cut-offs (to avoid traverses, cut to other lifts, shorten hikes)

- Understanding when/if patrol will open certain terrain (e.g, opens typically around 11am after a storm, or never opens for a few days)

- Understanding which lifts are likely to be on wind hold

- Knowing days to avoid the resort all together (weather, crowds, conditions)

- Knowing which other nearby resort to ski instead of said resort based on condition)


That being said, I've been skiing some places for over 20 years.   I know the in's & outs of Vail, however I still always learn a thing or two when I ski with different people.

Snow can also have a big impact.  There a few lines and stashes at Vail, Breck, or A-Basin that have only been skiable about 1-2 seasons out of the past 20.

It was interesting to see how the dynamics of Vail changed when they opened Blue Sky Basin about 10 years ago.  Same thing at Breck with Peak 7, the Gondi, and Imperial coming on-line over the past decade.   Also, there are some places at each resort that used to be a "popular" stash years ago, now that rarely get skied.


I've done the one & done resort hopping - I enjoy exploring a new area but you can also be very inefficient in your skiing or miss out on the good stuff without research.  I had a lousy experience at the Canyons just for that reason.

post #11 of 12
Originally Posted by COBillsFan View Post

So I’ve got to ask, how much time for you does it take to completely understand a mountain?

My eight-year-old daughter and I figured out tuxedo Ridge in around 15 minutes.
post #12 of 12

I thought i knew my home resort inside and out after working there for a number of years.   It is now 20 years later and i now realize how poorly i knew it back then.  

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