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How do you decide what runs to ski?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone, I wanted to find out about people's decision process in terms of picking runs/trails at an unfamiliar resort. Do you just look at a trail map and decide to go somewhere? Do you ask people? Do you look online somewhere prior to your trip? Do you just see an area while you're on the lift and decide to ski over there?


If you could tell me your level of skiing, and a little bit about how you make your decision that would be greatly appreciated!!


Thanks everyone and think snow!

post #2 of 22

It depends on how large the resort is and whether or not I'm meeting up with anyone there that knows the place better.


If I am skiing solo and it is a brand new place I've never been I will pick two or three runs from the trail map that look cool and ski those first.  If the resort is not too large I will work my way across the mountain from right to left or left to right after that.  If it is huge I will just randomly ski around after trying the first couple on the trail mat that caught my interest.


If I'm skiing with a local I just follow them..

post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

Let's pretend that you are not meeting up with someone that knows the resort, this is a solo operation or you are with your family or friends that are all brand new at this resort.

post #4 of 22

I usually look at the map to find a section of the mountain with a cluster of runs that appear to be in the sweet spot for my ability level.  

post #5 of 22
If it's a small hill, I hit up the blues first then the blacks. Blues get skied off first
If it's a big hill I find what part of hill interests me on tail map. Do the same blues then blacks. When I move to different lift area I do the opposite blacks then blues. Whole idea is to ski the best conditions ASAP. Generally we ski one of the first chairs.
post #6 of 22

I do this quite often as I have a ski area count of 191 and  try to add a few new places each season.


My usual practice is to "survey ski" the whole mountain, meaning ride every key lift, ski a run or two on each one.  Then concentrate on what you saw that looked best.  This was the way it worked at Eagle Point, Powderhorn and Sunlight late December last season. 


You want to see everything even if you can't ski everything.  Then you can make an intelligent decision whether it's worth coming back some other time.  Part of that decision is the context of the conditions on the day you were there.  Are the conditions you skied or unusually good or bad?  If so, you should try to visualize what a "normal" day would be like.


Forget about the plan if it's stormy or a powder day.  Last year at Lookout (dumped snow all day) most of the day was spent on repeat laps through 2 gladed areas that had the best powder and were not being tracked out much.  Even if it's not powder, part of the mountain may be more interesting or in much better shape than the rest. In that scenario, I'll limit the "survey" on a lesser sector to one run and spend the most time where it's better.


Large areas it's well worth doing advance research, particularly for vast ski complexes in Europe.  I had an e-mail correspondence with a knowledgeable source before the Zermatt trip last year.  We were with Liz' ski club but 90% of the time we were skiing independently based upon recommendations.  We got around more and skied far more powder than the rest of the group on that trip.

Edited by Tony Crocker - 9/29/14 at 8:41pm
post #7 of 22

Do the same thing that you'd do at a place you know.  Check the weather and snow conditions and adjust your plans accordingly.  If it's sunny, go to the slopes that will have morning sun and follow the sun around the hill or switch to the other side of the valley around midday so you get the best light.  If it's cloudy and snowy, stay on slopes and trails that have trees. Plan to work your way around the area so you get to see/ski pretty much everything.  If you're skiing with a group, someone has to be the leader and make the decision as to where to ski keeping in mind the abilities and interests of the group.  Take note of places to stop for breaks, bathrooms, coffee, lunch.  Stop at trail junctions so the group stays together.  Make sure everyone has a trail map.  Have a midday rendezvous spot/time (noted on the trail map) in case the group gets split up and you can't contact each other by phone. 

If you find a part of the area that everyone likes, stay there for a while and do a few laps off that particular lift or group of lifts. 

For regular sized resorts, a lot of this does not apply.  The conditions don't vary that much from top to bottom most days and the exposure to the sun isn't that critical either because most places only face one direction.  These suggestions would come into play in the larger resorts in the U.S. West and Canada, and most places in the Alps.  It's a good idea to ask questions at all areas.  Local knowledge is gladly shared. 

post #8 of 22

Having learned a lot from EpicSki Unofficial Guides, I look to see if there is one for a potential destination.  I also look to see if there is an EpicSki Ambassador.  @ messaging usually works well to get their attention.  A thread with useful info in the title beyond the location usually will get replies.  Helps to include the trip dates and the ability level, or if it's a mixed ability group.


For a big mountain, if there is a free mountain tour in the morning, I'll take advantage of that after a warm up run or two.  Assuming I'm going to ski the place for more than one day or intend to return during a future trip.  Even though such tours are on groomers, the hosts always stop to point out where advanced skiers can have fun later on.  At Big Sky, the tour was two hours.  Since the group I was in were people who normally ski blacks and trees at bigger ski areas, we covered a lot of territory with high speed cruising.  Very helpful to learn early on how to best deal with the tram and how to get to/from Moonlight Basin on groomers.


For a small place (<200 acres), I like to ride every lift.  Sometimes the best views of the place are from the beginner lift.  Usually start on a lift that is for blue/black terrain.


Originally Posted by m4doyle View Post

Let's pretend that you are not meeting up with someone that knows the resort, this is a solo operation or you are with your family or friends that are all brand new at this resort.

post #9 of 22
Originally Posted by river-z View Post

I usually look at the map to find a section of the mountain with a cluster of runs that appear to be in the sweet spot for my ability level.  

Ditto. I also like to do runs that take me by as much of the mountain as possible to understand the scope of the place. Not every area has the ability to do this without being "committed", however, so it helps to calibrate their trail ratings a bit first.

I'm working on a "Lay of the Land" page for visitors to Whitefish in my Local's Guide. Due to new trails going in, I can't quite finish until they publish some new maps as I suspect that the new trails are going to be terrific vantage points and don't want to work on stuff I'll toss. I know one of last year's trails was great that way, but I suspect that the new Ridge Run will be way better to get a sense of the resort offerings.

Here, at least, picking intermediate ridge line trails can take you by most everything with little risk to life and limb.
post #10 of 22
Usually I do some pretrip homework about trails I want to ski at a new ski area and seek them I when I get there. If just me or a group with compatible advanced skills then I will usually do one or two obvious intermediate runs to warm up, then move on to advanced terrain of interest. I have learned that if there is some signature terrain feature I want to ski, then I should do it as soon as possible because you never know about terrain closures, lift shut-downs, weather issues, or skier fatigue/injury. For example, the first time I ever skied Mt. Bachelor the summit chair was running. We went straight for the summit and our first downhill runs were from there before scouting out other parts of the mtn. I didn't want to miss the summit experience or the amazing photo ops up there.

A couple years ago I made my first visit to Taos in many years. I knew before the trip I wanted to consider doing some of the hike-to terrain, but I had never skied it before and I wasn't sure I was up to it ability-wise. I didn't do it until the second day of that trip before consulting with a veteran ski patroller first about accessible/easier lines up there. I'm an obnoxious older guy who doesn’t mind looking like a dork, so I don't hesitate to ask people for info. I latched onto a guy to make sure we took the most direct two chairs to the Bachelor summit. First time I was at MRG I asked a friendly parent what was the "easiest way down" from the single chair. Eventually we skied some of the harder stuff like Paradise.

Probably the least method I use of the options you mentioned is just seeing something and heading that way. The better terrain of famous places is well known and I'd seek that stuff before just wandering around to anything that catches my eye. Not that I'm opposed to impromptu choices. I think that adds playfulness and fun discoveries, but just maybe wait on that until I see the famous/good stuff first.

Sometimes in poor conditions I will check trail reports at the base lodge and choose trails that have just been groomed or received fresh snowmaking. If it's a spring-like day and the snow is soft I may gyrate towards mogul runs to try them while they are forgiving. If it's a poor visibility day I might be more interested in glades.

Obviously, if I'm with beginners or intermediates my trail selection will go towards that type of terrain, usually identified by looking at a trail map on the first couple chair lift rides. I'd add that the best deal at a really large and challenging ski area is to have a local show you around. Avoids a lot of wasted time and you get to see some of the best stuff in a short period.
post #11 of 22

All of the above and ask a liftie or patrol what is skiing good that day.  If they are nice, they will tell you where the goods are.

post #12 of 22

Trail map?


I just hop off the chair and head down the first run I come to.


(Bump. Ooof!. Bump. Bang. Trip. Splat.)


Ok, lets do something with fewer/smaller/no bumps next time.

post #13 of 22
At an unfamiliar resort I take a look at a trail map beforehand to vaguely pick an area that looks interesting (as much as one can tell from an illustrated map) then after that I basically just start pointing downhill the rest of the day. I figure that as long as I don't cross any ropes I'm going to find a lift sooner or later.

One of the things I enjoy about skiing solo at a new resort is not having to go by any plan, and not having to stop to discuss with my group what to do. I like the freedom of just going all day without having to think too much about it.
post #14 of 22

I like to follow the sun. In the winter when flat light is an issue I will ski the northern and eastern faces earlier in the day.  In the Spring, I will use a website that tracks the sun for me http://gaisma.com and correlate with Google Maps. I realize how much of a Gaper that makes me, but I often ski alone in the Spring and I love to turn the mountain into a science lab when alone. Snowbird is an ideal mountain for this hi-tech socially retarded game. The three connected cirques (MB, GV, PG) let you titrate your exposure for the best quality snow.

If I can find powder then all this goes out the window.

post #15 of 22
Originally Posted by m4doyle View Post

Let's pretend that you are not meeting up with someone that knows the resort, this is a solo operation or you are with your family or friends that are all brand new at this resort.

This isn't for a school project, is it? ;-)

If so, props for getting answers.

If I am someplace new, I look for an online guide to give me an idea of what to keep an eye out for. At the mountain, I'll ask people I share a chair with where to ski, and if they seem like cool people, ask to tag along for a run. Otherwise I will do a couple laps of intermediate runs that allow me to eyeball the terrain, and get a idea of how different aspects are skiing. Also helpful to verify the relative difficulty of the trail ratings.

If I am wanting to ski something truly nasty, I'll probably lap the lift until I find somebody knowledgeable willing to lead me in.

I consider myself a pretty solid skier with my own special blend of flaws.
post #16 of 22

I'd break a day like this down into three components. One, what I've planned ahead of time through research. Two, what I see visually, perhaps aided by a map, on the day (interesting-looking lines, factors based on sun, or presence/lack of crowds, etc.). Three is local intel, based on talking to people and, preferably, meeting up/skiing with locals. I don't stress about skiing the whole mountain if I'm someplace for just a day or so. If I find what I'm looking for I may just hit that again and again and leave it at that.  

post #17 of 22
Originally Posted by m4doyle View Post

Hey everyone, I wanted to find out about people's decision process in terms of picking runs/trails at an unfamiliar resort...  ...If you could tell me your level of skiing....


Ok this is one of my gripes with Epicski.  To the OP, m4doyle: there's nothing wrong with your question, except that you didn't say *why* you were asking.  Do you want advice?  If so, you should have given *your* skiing ability.  Because if you ask for advice the good people here will take the trouble to help you.  Or do you want a survey of how other people make skiing decisions?  It looks like that to me.  Or do you want both?  Any of those answers is ok; I like surveys, and I like giving and getting advice.  But please be clear about your purpose, otherwise it unfairly burdens other forum members. 


Epic is overrun with surveys, it's an obsession.  That's ok!  It's just another way to make us think about skiing, which is fun and energizing.  Surveys aren't immoral or unfriendly, but *please* be clear about what you want.  My navel is interesting as hell, but others may disagree.


Originally Posted by core2 View Post

All of the above and ask a liftie or patrol what is skiing good that day.  If they are nice, they will tell you where the goods are.


core2 is giving advice here, see?  The same as I would have done.  But if the OP weren't a confident skier, he should do the same as core2 said, but would tell the local his ability.  You're never alone for long at a ski area.  If you're friendly, people will help you.


So we can summarise the many posts giving advice as 1) research and 2) ask.


The rest is a fun survey...let's call it that.

post #18 of 22

Since I live in Chicago, most of my trips are to areas I'm relatively unfamiliar with and I take most of my trips alone.  I do a little research beforehand, look at a trail map and usually try to find a few longer intermediate runs across different parts of the area to warm-up and, as Tony aptly phrased, "survey ski" to get an understanding/feel of the mountain.  I also ask others during lift rides and on several occasions have been fortunate enough to find some very nice locals that have asked if I wanted to join them.  Skiing with someone that has knowledge of the area is great as they lead throughout the mountain with far greater efficiency than I could on my own.  As corny as it sounds, its a pleasant experience getting to know someone for the first time while engaging in a shared interest - I was actually recommended for my current job by someone I met skiing for the first time at WP/MJ.        

post #19 of 22
Temp, wind, sun exposure (or not)... Generally ski by aspect or aesthetic.
post #20 of 22

Generally my lift ticket buying process is a little drawn out at other areas. I have to bring them a letter from my mountain, they have to make a copy of it or file it, make a copy of my PSIA card, then they can issue me a ticket. I usually have to go to the ski school desk for this as well. So while I'm hanging out there waiting for the bureaucracy to get finished, I'll ask the desk people or maybe a stray instructor that looks sufficiently grizzled what's good. That usually gets me enough info to start with, and I go from there. Without a doubt, the most valuable source of info at any resort are the people who put skis on snow the most often.

post #21 of 22

All the above and then some.


If at a large area or multiple days I will often take the free mountain tour.  THese are available at almost all big resorts and are geared for intermediate and above skiers.  They won't take you on anything hard but will show you where the goods are and you get a chance to learn the lay of the land while picking the brain of a local skier.


My girlfriend andI joined the Ski Club of Great Briton last year when we went to Chamonix for a week.  They have guides located at many major ski resorts both in Europe and on this side of the pond.  It also gave us a fun group of english speaking people to ski and apres ski with.

post #22 of 22

I look at the trail map to identufy runs of interest.  Then, I observe where most people go and do my best to avoid the specific runs that attract crowds.  People have a tendency to just follow others and as a result, some runs get crowded, whereas better runs get very little traffic.  I opt for the latter.

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