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Am I colour blind...

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
A friend of mine, who edits a local ski magazine, asked me to write an articlefor possible inclusion in a future magazine. Any topic, apart from ski instruction and tour operators, which had recently been covered.
I've just sent him this, but I thought I'd share it here...

Am I colour-blind?
I’ve skied in different places over the last few years, France, Austria, Canada, USA, and even within individual countries every resort seems to have it’s own opinion of what is a green, a blue, a red (blue/black in North America), black, single diamonds, double diamonds etc.
Let’s start off with a couple of blues: Ridge Runner on Blackcomb mountain and the blue run down from Solaise in Val d’Isere. Ridge Runner is almost flat. It is a cat track going around the mountain. It is narrow in places, and sometimes gets a bit skied out. Now, over to Val d’Isere. This is not for beginners. I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to blues. My memories of it, from the days when all I skied were blues, would include words such as: “steep”, “icy”, “bottleneck”, and full of people like me struggling to get down it.
Now let’s go a bit further up the scale: double black diamonds. Again, I’ll chose one on Blackcomb: Couloir Extreme, and compare it to the South or West Headwall on Vasquez Cirque, Winter Park. Here’s how I see it: Couloir Extreme is steep. Very steep. You wouldn’t get me going down it, it’s too much for me. But I have made it down the West Headwall. OK, it wasn’t exactly the most stylish of descents, but I did make it down in one piece. They are different runs, and I think they should be graded in a way that makes it easier to know what is in my ability range, and what is beyond it (equally, what is going to be a bit too flat)
Somewhere inbetween these two, we have blacks. I remember a friend who took his first ski trip to Andorra. He told me later that after 3 days of skiing, the instructor was taking the class down blacks. A few weeks after that he was skiing with me in France, where I ended up leading him down blues.
And then we have the problem of snow coverage. My first trip to the slopes was to Saalbach, during the trip there wasn’t much snow to be had. The blues were so bare in places that they became very narrow and tricky (certainly for a beginner). One short red I tackled wasn’t wide enough to turn, so it was a case of going straight down, or taking your skis off and walking down the mud & grass.
What I would like to see is a global standard for grading slopes. Maybe it should consist of angle and width (a 2m wide slope at 20 degrees is more difficult than a 5m wide one at 30), and then perhaps a rating at the resort based on conditions, so a blue (10m, 20deg) with little snow, feels like a (5m, 30deg)
But, after all that, if you give me the choice between a tracked out red or an untracked blue, I know which one I’d choose.

post #2 of 18
I don't. Which one would you choose?
Fox, I'd be curious to read your description of the trail you'd take first thing in the morning, first day of your trip...
and your description of the trail you'd find yourself challenged, but not frightened by, at a point in your trip when you were feeling most adventuresome, your connection to your skis at its peak.

[ October 07, 2002, 08:29 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #3 of 18
Ah Fox, you've just reminded me the horrors of trying to get a second week skier friend down that icy crowded piste "M" on Solaise. That was after she had hardly no problems on the red part of the Face.
About 30 meters in width and a large drop on one side...
You have an excellent point, but it kind of ignores the need for resorts (and I'm thinking of Val here)to lie about the grading of runs, especially back to the village, in order to make them more attractive to certain types of clientele.
The other blue back to the resort from the Bellevarde side called Santos is even worse. But you can imagine people staying away if they thought they would have to chairlift down at the end of the day because all the runs are red or black.


[ October 07, 2002, 11:17 AM: Message edited by: MarkP ]
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
First run, first day, my choice would be a wide open, easy cruising blue. Just to get my body used to being on snow again, and a chance to make some wide turns, maybe a bit of straight lining (but nothing too fast) and maybe a couple of short turns. By the middle of a trip, I'm normally spending most of my time on blue/blacks (reds), and unless my legs are completely shot through, even at the end of a long day's skiing, I'll try to finish with something a bit more challenging, and hopefully less tracked.

I recall one time in Val, when I did my first black run: from the midstation at La Daille down Stade (the bottom of the men's world cup run). The run was closed at the time, but I clambered over a fence to get onto it. Apart from one section of it where there was a gaping hole almost the width of the piste, I made it down. Yes, I traversed from one side to the other, and it took me ages to get down, but I made it to the bottom in one piece (and they had the finish banner up at the time, because there had been races there the previous week), but I found Stade an easier run than Piste "M".

post #5 of 18
Heh heh. I hope you finished in a tuck then held your arms aloft after you crossed the finish line.
I know i did...
post #6 of 18
Interesting one, Fox - the grading discrepancies can be frustrating (and dangerous at times I would imagine). However, I'm not sure you can be that scientific about grading. Changing conditions can have such a massive impact on difficulty. I've skied runs that change from blues to reds because of bumps or ice within a day or two.

I agree with Mark that the main reason for the worst discrepancies is resorts wanting a decent spread of grades from easy to difficult, such as a need for blues/greens back to the village. And Val is definitely the worst offender I can think of. Of the three ways back from that side that I can remember I would say that the Santos is the most difficult, but mainly because it gets so crowded. For those of you who haven't skied it, imagine a gully, not steep, reasonably wide, usually full of bumps with a beginner standing on the top of every bump. Horrible, horrible, horrible. But it's fun when quiet - it's difficult for any precise grading system to reflect that.

It would be nice if resorts could be a little more honest, but I don't think it's likely. I guess people just have to be a bit careful when they're unfamiliar with a resort.
post #7 of 18
The bottom of the Thredbo trail map carries this message

" The trail signs used at THREDBO are the standard trail marking system used internationally. The symbols and colours indicate the relative difficulty of each trail. bear in mind that this is relative difficulty only, and applies to the area in which the sign is found.

For example, a blue "more difficult" or balck "most difficult" trail near Ramshead chairlift may well be steeper than trails with the same markings at other parts of Thredbo or in other resorts. "
post #8 of 18
If you look around carefully, at the back of your lift ticket or on the trail maps or on the numerous cautions posted near the ticket office, etc., you will find at most resorts some statement to the effect that trail gradings are relative to the resort you are visiting and subject to changes in weather and conditions.
post #9 of 18
But the problem at Val is _much_ worse than that. There are some blues - particularly in the Le Fornet sector - that really are easy and quite suitable for near beginners. They are easier than the green (Verte) back to the village and an order of magnitude easier than the blues (Diebold, Santons, M - I've never tried the L). If I'd started there I'd feel entitled to believe I could go down other blues in the same resort and I would get a very nasty shock.

Our worst day last year was in February, it was snowing hard, no visibility, first time down Santons with a second week skier. Very very crowded as the weather was so unpleasant higher up. Took well over an hour. And just for a bonus, there's a long walk across the village back to the lifts.

Personally I'm quite happy getting lifts back to the resort at the end of the day. There's usually a cue for the bubbles down to La Daille - and unusually they're quite happy for you to get the Solaise Express down.
post #10 of 18
Hey Frances, you must try piste hel(L)its an absolute blast, actually easier than the M section. (its much wider and quiet)
As to the walk out from Santos, I've always straightlined the last bit and with a bit of judicious skating you should be able get back to the village.
Dont forget to go 'meep meep' roadrunner style as you pass the walking boarders...
post #11 of 18
Interesting that WTFH found the Coulior Extreme to be a very steep. I was a bit let down by that run. I had heard it was like Hangman's at Mammoth, only longer. Instead it was more like Dropout 3, a run I don't think really deserves it's double black designation. Although, I did climb skier's left a bit for my second lap, and found a rather scary line through a few rocky steeps.

Europe in general seems to overrate thier terrain. I have skied a number of places in the Apls (Cham, Verbier, Zermatt, Saas Fee, Val D'Isere Etc...), and none of thier black terain was that challenging. Even Argentiere seemed to grade on the high side. The whole thing was about the same as chair 3 (@ Mammoth). Without a guide to take one off piste, there really was not an much challenge. Of course, the guide changes everything. But in CA there are serious steeps in bounds, lift served, marked and patrolled. The whole piste/off piste thing is really odd in Europe. Here off piste just means that it is not groomed. It still can be a regular run. I guess you just have to hire a guide to find steep skiing in Europe. Here in CA, you just go to Sqauw, Alpine, Sugar Bowl, Alpine, Etc... and buy a lift ticket. I guess we are spoiled.
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
I haven't skied Couloir Extreme yet, but for me, and my ability, it looks tough. I agree about different resorts rating runs differently, as you were saying, some blacks in europe would be blue/blacks in some US resorts, equally some blues I've skied in the US would be greens in some European resorts, and that's the point I was trying to make in the original post, if runs were given ratings based on data (I've suggested steepness & width, with a variable for conditions) then I believe we would have a truer reflection on difficulty, which, I think, would make skiing more enjoyable for those of us who don't want to go down the steepest/most difficult runs by mistake.

post #13 of 18
Mark - I would have loved to go down the 'L' as we were staying right next to the bottom of it unfortunately it was closed all the time we were there.

Verbier seems to have another problem with its grading. Other than the mogul run from Mont Fort (a black in anyone's language), the other blacks all seemed to be beautifully groomed and easier than some French reds. The runs that ought to be black have been changed to 'itineraries' - so they can pretend they are off-piste and not patrol them any more. This seems a bit harsh as it means there's no official on-piste route down to Tortin & the rest of the 4 valleys. When your insurance says 'off-piste only with a qualified guide or instructor' that's a bit of a pain...
post #14 of 18
helispin- I skied all over CA and found the steep runs to be
short and fun especially with a lot of snow. Most steep runs
in a ski area boundry are pretty short especially in North
America. I don't know where you skied in Europe specifically
but you must have misssed something. I have fiends over there so
they know where to ski. I've skied a number of 4000 vertical foot chutes just off the ski area boundry, that's more vert than any ski area in CA. I love Tahoe skiing, but it is the consistent snow that attracts me, plus the lake. When I want to scare myself I go to Europe for steep exposed skiing with hugh vertical.
post #15 of 18
I have suggested this before, but here it goes again:

The large resorts around the world have lighted map/signs at the bottom and/or the top denoting which trail are open, which are groomed, etc. on a particular day. These are controlled from inside according to reports by the ski partol.

My suggestion was to grade slopes from #1 to #100. If this grading were adopted nationally or internationally, a very fine grading could be applied. Were the conditons to change on a particular run, those lighted signs which now warn about grooming could change the rating of slopes, say from 50 to 65 because of icy conditions.

If I knew that my skiing ability could only handle 55, I would stay away from that slope and not ski it until it reverted to below 55 again.

Those signs cost less than one snowmaking machine and could be afforded even by smaller ski areas.

The rough grading of green to black could still be used, but a green run which through melt-off had very narrow places that could only be negotiated via short swings could go from a 10 to a 60 and skiers who used it last week would know to stay off of it.

But it'll never happen... ....Ott
post #16 of 18
Pyramid - Yea, there are tons of sick things in Europe, but non of them seem to be in bounds, on the map kinds of things. Their black runs are usually quite basic, especially compared to stuff in CA. The Tortin in Verbier is now an "off piste tour". Give me a break, it would just be a plain old black diamond here in Mammoth. Of course, all the real challenges in CA are not on the trail maps, but they are at least inbounds, patrolled etc.. In europe you leave the piste, and it is a whole different story. Of course this often has to do with those pesky crevasses. Here you can ski between the lines all day, in Europe, you better have a guide. Don't get me wrong, I love Europe, but unless have a guide, even les Grands Montets is not very steep. Compare say Point de vue at Grands Montets to say Cornice (a rather easy black on Mammoths top). The Blacks in Europe are just not very steep, you have to go off piste, and you better have a guide. At Squaw, you can scare yourself sh*tless all day and never leave patrolled in bounds skiing.
post #17 of 18
Originally posted by helispin:
Europe in general seems to overrate thier terrain. I have skied a number of places in the Apls (Cham, Verbier, Zermatt, Saas Fee, Val D'Isere Etc...), and none of thier black terain was that challenging. Even Argentiere seemed to grade on the high side. The whole thing was about the same as chair 3 (@ Mammoth). Without a guide to take one off piste, there really was not an much challenge. Of course, the guide changes everything.
The ski club of Great Britain has reps in over 40 ski resorts across America/Canada and Europe. The Reps are there to show the members around - membership is around $60 US per year.

Here in Austria more people are killed on the snow than by crime - off-piste is considered risky and in general the Austrians don't like to be too far from the ski-bars [img]smile.gif[/img] . Going off-piste can be risky, no patrollers and no big insurance claims. Better to go with somebody who has local knowledge.



[ October 09, 2002, 01:30 PM: Message edited by: DangerousBrian ]
post #18 of 18
European skiing doesn't make as specific boundry lines as in-bounds like American resorts with ropes up all over signifing this is my leased resort land and that is not. If you can ski down somewhere and get back to the lift then that is legitimate skiing, forget about labels of off-piste or in-bounds, such distinction are for visitors to the mountains. Helispin, glad to see you are so proud of CA mtns, I enjoy them when possible, just don't like the hugh crowds. Mammoths my second favorite mtn in the U.S., had some large powder days there in the early 80's. Remember a run can only be so steep for snow to stick on it, too steep and the snow slides off. CA has snow that sticks to the steeper runs quite well, they just seem short to me. Helispin keep up the good work (160+) check out CO some time.
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