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Sun Valley is Steeper than Vail

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

On a recent trip to Sun Valley, several intermediate skiers (who typically ski Colorado) struggled with the terrain.  Even the green runs seemed steeper than Colorado blues.  I wondered if this was just in my head so I pulled up some topo maps to do a more scientific comparison. 

 

The data shows that SV is much steeper.  See the images below, the first two from SV and the second from Vail.  Both maps have red shading on slopes steeper than 22 degrees (22 is the point at which many Colorado runs change from blue to black) 

 

As you can quickly see, there are a lot more runs steeper than 22 at SV.  Even the green runs College and Seattle Ridge have sections that are greater than 22.  At Vail sections past 22 degrees are black (looks at the black part of Avanti and the black runs above Mid Vail.  Blue runs at Vail rarely have even a hint of red.

 

Seattle ridge at SV:

 

 

River Run area at SV (including College run)

 

 

Avanti and Mid Vail areas at Vail:

 

 

Vail URL:

http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=39.61534,-106.37312&z=15&b=t&a=sc_s22-60cFF0000&cl={%22cfglayers%22%3A[{%22name%22%3A%22%22%2C%22alias%22%3A%22sc_s22-60cFF0000%22%2C%22id%22%3A0}]}

 

SV URL:

http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=43.66892,-114.38764&z=15&b=t&a=sc_s22-60cFF0000&cl={%22cfglayers%22%3A[{%22name%22%3A%22%22%2C%22alias%22%3A%22sc_s22-60cFF0000%22%2C%22id%22%3A0}]}

post #2 of 21
Okay. And?
post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Okay. And?

 

And they have a 27" base with less than 1/3 the snow fall that Vail's had this season. Steep dirt, woo hoo.

post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 

I’m not trying to make any statement about which of the two ski areas is better.  Just for the record, I like skiing at both.

 

What I found interesting is the method described above to evaluate the steepness of ski areas.  Ski areas have always used a disclaimer that their green/blue/black ratings are applicable only to their ski area.  With the above method, we have a simple ways use data (as opposed to opinion) to evaluate if a green run at one area is like a blue at a different area, etc.

 

In most cases, there is little variance between a blue at one place and a blue at another.  The results from Sun Valley and Vail show a large difference in ratings that is likely a fairly rare occurrence.  Other ski areas near Vail seem to have similar steepness for runs of the same color

 

I find such information very helpful when I visit a new ski area, especially if part of my group can only ski certain run types.  I just wanted to share in case others found it helpful.

post #5 of 21

How did you put the maps together?  I'd be interested in checking it out for some of the resorts I frequent.

post #6 of 21

There's a website that does something similar: http://www.3dskimaps.com/ But it doesn't include Sun Valley.

 

I'd be very interested in seeing more color-coded topo maps for ski areas.  I've long since given up on Green-Blue-Black telling me anything about how one resort compares to another.

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

I’ve seen those 3d ski maps before.  They’re cool but I found it really hard to tell if one run brighter yellow because it was steeper or brighter because the background on the satellite photo is brighter.  Issues like that made the map only generally helpful.

 

The cool thing about http://caltopo.com/ is that you can define the map however you like.  Want a color gradient like 3d map, it does it.  Want to only highlight slopes above 30 but less than 35 degrees, it does that too.  Lots of options. 

 

To set up the maps above, I added a layer (on right) of type “DEM shading.”  I set the shading with “s22-90 FFF0000”  There are instructions and examples on how to set up other shading on the right.  Hit save and you’re done.

 

Below is another example: where is the expert terrain at Vail?  See red below (Expert defined as 35+ degrees)

post #8 of 21
Quote:

In most cases, there is little variance between a blue at one place and a blue at another.  The results from Sun Valley and Vail show a large difference in ratings that is likely a fairly rare occurrence.  Other ski areas near Vail seem to have similar steepness for runs of the same color

 

I find such information very helpful when I visit a new ski area, especially if part of my group can only ski certain run types.  I just wanted to share in case others found it helpful. 

It's not a rare occurrence at all.   Look at what's blue or green at Jackson, Snowbird or Whistler.  The places near Vail have similar topography in many cases. Then you have places like Keystone or Northstar (not to mention a whole lot of places back East) where black runs have the same pitch as Vail's blues.  Big Emma, green at Snowbird, would be black at well over half the areas east of the Rockies.

 

Vail is quite mainstream in trail definitions for North America as a a whole IMHO.   It just doesn't have much at 35+ degrees. 

 

I think trail ratings on maps are laughable in many cases.  No marketing director wants his resort to be much different than 20/50/30 in green/blue/black distribution.  When they put that "relative to other trails at this ski area" caveat in the small print, they mean it. When I review a resort, I do my own terrain ratings on an absolute 5 grouping scale that was used on Jackson's trail map in the 1980's.  Jackson and Snowbird are over 50% black (or a tougher yellow category) by my definition.  My definition of black is "never or rarely groomed, inaccessible to intermediates unless they are extremely masochistic."

 

If the info is on the trial map, the best way to look at it is to compare the length to vertical ratios of the chairs.   4-to-1 is mainstream intermediate.  A lot of lifts at 5-to-1 or more means an overall gentle mountain.  3-to-1 isn't super steep if the runs are consistently pitched, but since they usually aren't, a 3-to-1 ratio usually means there some steep sections, especially if the lift has a lot of vertical.  2-to-1 means average slope angle is 30 degrees, and is rare for chairlifts.  Marte at Las Lenas is 2-to-1 for 2,700 vertical!

post #9 of 21
I took the family to Sun Valley for New Years and it was too difficult for them to truly enjoy. I loved it otherwise.

Sent from my GT-P5210 using Tapatalk
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

It's not a rare occurrence at all.   Look at what's blue or green at Jackson, Snowbird or Whistler.  The places near Vail have similar topography in many cases. Then you have places like Keystone or Northstar (not to mention a whole lot of places back East) where black runs have the same pitch as Vail's blues.  Big Emma, green at Snowbird, would be black at well over half the areas east of the Rockies.



 



Vail is quite mainstream in trail definitions for North America as a a whole IMHO.   It just doesn't have much at 35+ degrees. 



 



I think trail ratings on maps are laughable in many cases.  No marketing director wants his resort to be much different than 20/50/30 in green/blue/black distribution.  When they put that "relative to other trails at this ski area" caveat in the small print, they mean it. When I review a resort, I do my own terrain ratings on an absolute 5 grouping scale that was used on Jackson's trail map in the 1980's.  Jackson and Snowbird are over 50% black (or a tougher yellow category) by my definition.  My definition of black is "never or rarely groomed, inaccessible to intermediates unless they are extremely masochistic."



 



If the info is on the trial map, the best way to look at it is to compare the length to vertical ratios of the chairs.   4-to-1 is mainstream intermediate.  A lot of lifts at 5-to-1 or more means an overall gentle mountain.  3-to-1 isn't super steep if the runs are consistently pitched, but since they usually aren't, a 3-to-1 ratio usually means there some steep sections, especially if the lift has a lot of vertical.  2-to-1 means average slope angle is 30 degrees, and is rare for chairlifts.  Marte at Las Lenas is 2-to-1 for 2,700 vertical!


How would your rate Mammoth compared to the norm?
post #11 of 21

Then, there's the upper end of black.

 

Even when blues have a well-respected range. Blacks are just anything steeper! How much steeper??? 

 

Many of the smaller mountain in midwest and east may have a good percentage of black. Except they're "just black". While place like Jackson have blacks that ranges from the "usual" black all the way to cliffs!!!

 

Back to the OP, Sun Valley actually have a "reputation" to have lots of steep runs. Add the "sun" part which often makes the runs fast and hard, the steepness becomes more difficult. It can be quite a rude awakening for upper intermediates from other region who had never seen anything beyond the "regular" black steepness!

post #12 of 21

Sun Valley has a high average steepness, but it does not have a lot of real steep runs, such as Jackson and Snowbird do.

 

This is particularly noticeable for green runs. Several of the green runs on Seattle Ridge approximate the 1 in 3 vertical to length ratio mentioned above, as does the blue Warm Springs run which is about this slope all the way down for 3140 vertical.

post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

It's not a rare occurrence at all.   Look at what's blue or green at Jackson, Snowbird or Whistler.  The places near Vail have similar topography in many cases. Then you have places like Keystone or Northstar (not to mention a whole lot of places back East) where black runs have the same pitch as Vail's blues.  Big Emma, green at Snowbird, would be black at well over half the areas east of the Rockies.

 

Vail is quite mainstream in trail definitions for North America as a a whole IMHO.   It just doesn't have much at 35+ degrees. 

Based on my first hand experience and topo maps of the areas you mention, I generally agree.  However, Sun Valley seems to have a larger difference looking at these topo maps than the other areas mentioned.  For example most of Jackson's single blues are under 22 degrees. (casper, après voous and amphitheater for the most part)  Likewise, almost all of Northstar’s blacks exceed 22 degrees but almost none of them exceed 27 degrees.

 

The boundary between blue and black will vary at every area a little but seems to rarely be more than a few degrees. (with several noted exceptions)  Differences are greater when you compare west to Midwest or east but these often get overstated.  Surprisingly enough there are a lot of Midwest areas with runs steeper than 22 degrees.  The East is even more similar to the west.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Miles View Post
 

Sun Valley has a high average steepness, but it does not have a lot of real steep runs, such as Jackson and Snowbird do.

100% agree

post #14 of 21

Arguing about whether Sun Valley is steeper than Vail--isn't that like arguing about whether a Forester or a RAV4 is faster?

post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post
 

Arguing about whether Sun Valley is steeper than Vail--isn't that like arguing about whether a Forester or a RAV4 is faster?

 

Oooh burn!

post #16 of 21
Slope plus how long you sustain that slope are what matter. Even in the Midwest we have slopes in the thirties and fourties but they tend to be very short drops. I'd like to see a more uniform run difficulty rating similar to golf. I know my trip to Big Sky was an eye opener for me. The sustained steepness of the some of the blue runs made it feel like I was skiing black runs back home.
post #17 of 21

So what...almost everywhere is steeper than Vail on Average....Vail is one of the flattest mountains I've ever seen on average...still some fun terrain to be found because it's so huge

post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post

Arguing about whether Sun Valley is steeper than Vail--isn't that like arguing about whether a Forester or a RAV4 is faster?

Except the Forester has a turbo option.

/thread
post #19 of 21

It is the fact that Warm Springs for example goes on for days at the same steepness. It is very deceiving. It is really not steep, it is just that the pitch goes on consistently from top to bottom. Reminds me of The summit Chair at Mt. Bachelor.

 

You just have to learn speed control. 

 

Warm springs prompted me to really get redirection down to a gnat's ass!

post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by voghan View Post

Slope plus how long you sustain that slope are what matter. Even in the Midwest we have slopes in the thirties and fourties but they tend to be very short drops. I'd like to see a more uniform run difficulty rating similar to golf. I know my trip to Big Sky was an eye opener for me. The sustained steepness of the some of the blue runs made it feel like I was skiing black runs back home.
My understanding was that the run's average grade is a major consideration in rating a run, but that the width of a run or length of a steep section can bump the rating up or down. So a narrow chute and wide hill with the same slope would get different ratings. Is that the case, or is it really just about slope?
post #21 of 21
Since every rating is specific to the resort, you can't assume anything about what causes a trail to be rated a certain way. For instance, there's a run here that was rated green when I first moved here. The slope is nothing much, BUT, it is narrow, trees crowd in on one side with a steep drop down, and on the other side is a high wall of trees and rocks. The slope is deceptive, slowly increasing, with a continuing curve the whole distance producing limited sight lines. What is required to ski it is the ability to do hundreds of short turns at increasing speed. There were enough accidents, some multi-skier, that it is now rated black. Nothing has changed about the trail except the rating.
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