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How steep is 'steeps' ?

post #1 of 93
Thread Starter 
Ok, this is not exactly an instruction qn per se, so this may be the wrong forum.

How steep does a slope have to be before its considered a black diamond? Double black? I know trail ratings are relative to the resort and vary greatly - I just want to get a general idea.

In an earlier thread someone said a slope is steep enough if when standing upright you can touch the hill with an outstretched arm. For me that's around 50 degrees. Is that an accurate yardtick?

Also, I'm curious - how steep does it have to get before you have to make kick turns? I guess that's more a factor of trail width and not having space to finish out the turn, but isn't it required for most couloirs (which are by definition steep chutes) ? I ask because in the thread on 'carving in steep/icy terrain' no one mentioned kick turns, but in most ski videos I see the experts making them.

What's the steepest slope skii'd ? 70? 80 <gasp> ?!!
post #2 of 93

you might be surprised that slopes as "non-steep" as 25-degrees can be marked black. 30-degrees? Guaranteed black.
(50-degrees, by the way, IS WAY-steep for even the best skiers. Kinda looks like gazing into an elevator shaft.)

that's MY take.

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[This message has been edited by ryan (edited January 10, 2001).]</FONT>
post #3 of 93
Thread Starter 

I AM surprised ! Guess pictures are deceptive, because when I look at skiing photos (ones with a side view where you can see the slope angle, like, the angle is around 50. I used to think 30 is most blues and 40 is single diamond black
post #4 of 93

Yes, me too. Same initial perception. But pics can be deceiving. Not to dis the skills of the Chugach riders - they're phenomenal, to say the least - but straight-on shots REALLY "pump up the volume," so to speak. Still, THOSE steeps ARE HUGELY STEEP, none the less.

(for some reason, couldn't connect to your link. thanks though.)

by the way, i'm not saying 25-degrees is something overly formidable BUT it WILL get marked BLACK at a lot of resorts.
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[This message has been edited by ryan (edited January 10, 2001).]</FONT>
post #5 of 93
If you are really interested:

Lets say you have rather long arms and therefore the length measured from your armpit to the bottom of your feet (b) equals twice the length of your extended arm (a). Therefore b=2*a for this exercise, although most people will have b=2.3*a if you add boots, bindings, lifters and skis.

b |

Now you are on a steep slope and when you extend your arm you can reach the slope. Let's call the distance from the point where your skis touch the slope to your arm "c". We can calculate the angle between your body and the slope (A) knowing that c*c=a*a + b*b (sorry but that is the best way to show a, b, c squared) and that b=c*cos(A). The angle created at your armpit is 90 degrees, of course.

For simplicity we assume that a=1, b=2.3 and therefore c=2.51 (it does not matter if it is feet or meters actually). Since our formula says that b=c*cos(A), it follows that A=23.6 degrees (approximately). This means that the slope you are standing on has an incline of 66.4 degrees. So in general when you can reach the slope without bending or angulating you are on a 65-70 degree slope. Most double black diamonds don't even come close. However, if you ever find yourself on such a slope, hop turns are probably the only way down (unless you have the guts to straigth-line it ).

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[This message has been edited by TomB (edited January 11, 2001).]</FONT>
post #6 of 93
In the Fall 98 Snoworld (the magazine you get at the Warren Miller movies) there was an article about the 10 steepest in-bound runs in North America, and about how steep is steep.

In it the author said that

1. 35 deg is the average steepness of a black diamond run.

2. Very few in-bound runs exceed 40 deg. There are a few famous couloirs (Corbett's at JH, Great Scott at Snowbird, The Extreme at Whistler, etc) that average 40, but are "reputed to be much steper only because the entrance sections are so stimulating, with a cornice drop-in, sheer wall, or short section of steeper turns to negotiate."

3. The difficulty/percieved steepness of runs vary greatly with snow condition, width of run, things you fall off (or run into) if you fall, etc.. (I guess these things are obvious)

The ten steepest runs the author lists are:
1. Blow Hole at Blackcomb
2. North Chute at Snowbird
3. Alta Zero at Jackson Hole
4. Light Towers at Squaw Valley
5. Kachina Ridge at Taos
6. Big Couloir at Big Sky
7. The Edge at Crestted Butte
8. Trainer Ridge at Aspen Mountain
9. Ovation at Killington, and
10. Pinball at Crystal Mountain
post #7 of 93
Sorry, TomB, but your math is fuzzy!
When a skier is standing on a steep slope, unless the snow is fairly deep, he will have to angulate somewhat to keep the skis from sideslipping. This makes the height measurement quite a bit shorter. And the steeper the slope the more angulation is required. If the snow is deep, he can stand straight up, but again the height measurement needs to be reduced, by the depth of the snow. Thus a skier on a 45 degree slope may very well be able to touch the snow.
post #8 of 93
A steep run is any run that makes you say, Oh My God! I have to ski that?

The Best skier in the world is the One with the biggest smile. Utah49
post #9 of 93
Taking in consideration snow quality and having the skier angulate (or bend the knees or bend at the waist) is what makes things fuzzy, actually. The math is deadly accurate. Unfortunately my diagram is not obvious.

But I understand your point about touching the slope on a 45 degree pitch. It can be done, of course.
post #10 of 93
Utah49.. I really like your definition of steep. When it comes down to it, it's all relative. I was skiing with my fiancee (she is an intermediate), and she kept saying how some of the stuff she was doing was 'steep'... while for me it was quite flat.

For me steep is when I went to Tuckerman's Ravine last year and after I got to where I was going to ski from I thought exactly what you said... 'I gotta ski that?!'
post #11 of 93
I think the more enjoyable side is when you get to the bottom and turn around, look up and say I skied that?
post #12 of 93
Your right on with that post.but ya got to say that with a big smile on your face.
There is nothing more satisfying then looking up at run that was way beyond anything you have ever skied before and saying Yeah i skied it.

The Best skier in the world is the One with the biggest smile. Utah49
post #13 of 93
Thread Starter 
Its even more satisfying when you can finally ski a run that's been challenging you with some control, without falling.
On my first ski trip this year, I took a lesson at Sierra@Tahoe to improve my turns. At the end, the instructor told me I should be able to handle most blues; he suggested a series of runs but told me to stay away from one run because it was too steep for me. Sure enough, I tried that later on and kept falling. I then got to work, trying to control my speed, maintain my focus and learn from watching better skiers. On my last run of the day, I skied what I thought was a flawless run (by my standards). At the bottom I met the instructor, and we both had big grins . That was one of the most satisfying moments I've had. Earlier, I'd just have looked at that slope and given up!<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Defcon (edited January 11, 2001).]</FONT>
post #14 of 93
I do agree that steepness is all relative to your ability level. As for my steepest run. I was exploring the backcountry of Alpintal not really knowing where I was going. Soon I found myself on top of a nasty face where I had to roll my sholder just so it was not hitting the snow, while I looked down at a tight forest. Needless to say I did not return to that spot.
post #15 of 93
Difficulty level is relative to the area. A Black diamond at Killington is generally far harder than a Black diamond at a 400ft vertical ski area in the boonies.
post #16 of 93
Hey GF, what would say the difficulty of Camelback's blacks would be? I would say marjie's with bumps offers a pretty challenging run(for me). They say the hump is steepest, do you know exactly how steep?

I heard Cliffhanger is not that steep? Correct me if I'm wrong! -shea
post #17 of 93

Phil, Lisa, and I were there yesterday. I'd say the Blacks at Camelback have some features that are steep enough, but they are short-lived. The difference is a matter of intensity. At Killington or Mt Snow, the steepness is more constant for longer periods; high intensity for a thousand feet on some runs.

Nonetheless, I took a nice fall on Marjerie yesterday in the steepest part of the bumps. For the area, the ratings seemed appropriate. But I don't think you can compare the intensity of the runs at Camel to ones on a larger mountain. We'd be trying to compare apples and oranges.

post #18 of 93
Defcon, I don't know if you, or anyone else in this thread, has ever stood on a slope steep enough to touch the grade with your outstretched hand, believe me, it's frightening.

Not only shouldn't you angulate lest your edges will slide out from under you, but your uphill ski will be a foot higher than your downhill one, you cannot reach with your pole even a foot below you without your hand beeing knee high and getting you off balance, and you dare not make a harsh move or you'll slide all the way down.

Powder doesn't stick well on those grades, it is mostly wind packed, and if there is any loose snow on it, it becomes even more treacherous because the weight of the skier will surely make the loose snow slide and not afford the edges a bite.

So you say, don't stand on it, ski it...that's better, but be prepared for your knees to meet your chin as you finish each turn, unless you have telephone posts for thighs. And you better finish the turns and get the skis cross wise. Quickly.

If you really want to see how steep this is, stand near a wall in a skiing stance so your outstretched hand just touches the wall and lean a broom or other long enough object from the inside of your far foot to where your hand touches the wall, then step back and imagine a thousand foot drop, your body being perpendicular to the slope as you move through the fall line, and you will see what I mean.

As in the estimation of speed, skiers vastly overestimate the steepness of the slopes they ski.

post #19 of 93
GF, I know what you mean even though I haven't been to vermont. They are short-lived, as are most blacks around here. I am suppose to be going to Jay Peak this year so maybe I will get a taste of real skiing

I looked at camelback's trail map and Cliffhanger goes from top to bottom. Is it steep the whole way down? I might be heading to Camelback on monday(no school), so I will finally be there when all the trails are open!!!
post #20 of 93

If you have the time, go up to Windham, the runs are much longer and you'll enjoy the terrain. It's off Exit 21 on the NYS Throughway.

post #21 of 93
I am going to have to agree with the idea that when you say "oh my God!" at the top or the bottom, it's steep. Also, the point about conditions is dead on! Bumps, ice, and fog can psyche you out before you even get on the chairlift. I agree with ryan on the technical measurement, though. I looked up a topographical map of my home mountain (, and the steepest run ranges between approximately 35 degrees and 42 degrees. It is rated as a double black (it is a glade). Most of the black runs are between 25-40 degrees, and seem to be rated higher if they have trees, are narrow, or are exposed. The blues were anywhere from 15-30 degrees. If you're concerned about a particular mountain, just go look it up on a topo map and then ski it. In the end, I guess it is the size of your cahones that decide if it is "steep".
post #22 of 93
Thanks for The addy for the topo maps It's pretty Cool.

The Best skier in the world is the One with the biggest smile. Utah49
post #23 of 93
I'm with Utah49 and dchan as far a 'steep' is defined. This weekend we went up to Mt Hood Meadows and I try to keep my wife in her 'comfort zone' which is not very steep. Meadows is much steeper then she felt comfortable on but with some encouragment she did fine. Then after the run, she would look back up and say 'I skied that!' and it felt good to be there. A good day.
post #24 of 93
What interesting about making as you say "kick turns" (I'm not sure what's meant by this...I typically use hop turns on very steep stuff) is that your definition of narrow changes in relation to the pitch.

In my mind, the steepest run in the east is the very top of lake placid (which is often not open). I was told that it was the start of the olympic downhill. The first couple of turns look easy, are in a fairly wide open trail, but, after the first turn, you realize that you;d better turn quickly or it's over the side.

Two years ago I got this run after a big snow storm and it was absolutely joy. I think I skied this one run for half the day. Hop turns made it manageable but I really worked on short, powerful turns.
post #25 of 93
FrugalSkier, kick turns are static turns. When you are stopped at the edge of a trail facing the woods and it is not possible or feasable to make any kind of turn to get turned around facing the slope, you make a kick turn.

It is done by turning your body downhill, plant both poles on the uphill side of the uphill ski, bring your downhill ski back and then rapidly kick it up forward, and while the the tail of the ski digs in near the tip of the uphill ski, swivel it around until it is parallel on the snow, only facing the opposite direction and bring your uphill ski around trying not to get tangled in your poles.

Now you are standing facing the slope and you can ski off.

I did this a couple of weeks ago on a black run in Santa Fe. I had stopped at the edge of the slope taking in the view of the valley when a group of skier stopped just below me, they were waiting for some skier that fell above. Since there was not enough room to make a turn into the slope, I made a kick turn and was about to shove off when they yelled at me: "What was that you just did? Show it to us".

So I explained and showed it to them but stopped a little further down watching them falling all over and is a maneuver that should be practiced on the flat before trying it on a slope, though when one knows how, it is easier done on a slope.

post #26 of 93
Steep is when loose snow passes you on the way down.

This would be a back diamond or maybe a double.

You know the feeling. It's very cool when the snow you dislodge with your turn starts slipping down the hill along side of you. Very exhilarating.
post #27 of 93
Steepest I ever skied was the end of the snowfields above Paradise at Mt. Rainier. On each turn, my inside hand and inside knee dragged on the snow, and my inside foot was at about my outside knee. The snowfield ends there in a really steep but short (75' vert.) face, and the snow was soft corn, so it was pretty fun and good for the ego.

Other than that, I've been on The Brink and Talon Turn at the Birds of Prey DH course, on pure ice, with a roll of fence on my shoulder. I think that's over 45 degrees, and it's gnarly enough that the racers yelp as they come over it. That's when the 2 degree base and 3 degree side bevel come in handy! hee hee.
post #28 of 93
Steepness is in the eye of the beholder directly related to that persons personaly skiing ability, and fear management.

Frankly, making a bad turn and saying in the process, "Oh sh-t !" that meant it was a bad turn or a turn poorly executed, therefore, some of us got to calling them "O.S." turns.

Same could apply to the steepness of a slope. If you look down it and say to yourself and/or others, "Oh sh-t!" then that's steep for you.

Tensing up and having fear is the measurement, and this happens regardless of slope angle. Everyone has a fear threshold. It is how you manage it that counts, skill is one thing, mental attitude counts for a lot.

Kristen Ulmer, now there is someone with a trememdous amount of PMA !!! That women either has no fear, or has extrordinary management skills in dealing with it.
post #29 of 93
What's PMA?
post #30 of 93
Pretty Mild Acrophobia
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