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How steep is 'steeps' ? - Page 2

post #31 of 93
I've heard that sensation referred to as the "pucker point."
post #32 of 93
We perceive steepness as rise over run. This is important because angles, as we perceive them, are not linear. IE say we are on a slope that drops 1’ over 2’ horz. (26.6 degrees) lets move to a slope we perceive to be twice as steep, a 2’ drop over 2’ horz, (45 degrees). Note the angle has not doubled but we perceive the slope as twice as steep. The steeper you get the more pronounced this becomes. We may not notice a 5 degree change in slope from 20 to 25 degrees, you will notice the difference between 40 and 45 degrees and the change from 45 to 50 degrees will scare you. Alta, an area with pretty good steeps, has precious few places over 40 degrees. Few people ever get on anything over 45 degrees for more than a turn or 2 (especially in CO and Utah, you guys with coastal snowpacks do better at holding snow on the really steep stuff). Get an inclinometer and surprise yourself, it may be steep, but the angle will less than your guess.

Plus, like others have said, steepness is in the eye of the beholder. I still remember how steep the bunny hill seemed the first time I stood on a snowboard - 100 times steeper than if I was on skis.
post #33 of 93
Steep is when you leap.
post #34 of 93
How steep is steep? Well, I believe there are two answers:

First the real steepness. This would be the fall over a given horizontal distance (respectful distance of course - not the fall on the face of a mogul for instance). I found some survey maps of my favourite black slope at Falls and was surprised to see it as only around 25degrees. HOwever, wehn liokking at a few others I found much the same. IN fact I recall some postings on another site that indicated that most blacks are just about that and that the mostl extreme on piste marked run in North America was someting like 50degrees. Now before everyone starts flaming me, I expect now with the different emphasis on extreme skiing there will be some that exceed this and there will also be some fools who somehow get down them in the most negative fashion to the benefit of their ego.

I have a 24 degree fire excape at work that I like to use to give me some perspective of what I do in skiing. NO matter how man yclaim 60 and 70 degree slopes, 24 is still too damned steep for comfort for most anything except skiing.

The other slope rating is what people honestly or otherwise think they are skiing.

Anyway, that's my two bobs worth. I sugest that everyone occasionally have a look *down* a 20 or 30 degree slope in everyday expereince (say, a mountain road ) and appreciate that even a paltry 25degrees is steep. (Of course, looking up is never very intimidating.) In fact where I live I can't find a road anywhere that goes to 25 degrees and I doubt that many others can either.
post #35 of 93
Shea-Bird, I would be very surprised if anything at Camelback even approached 30 degrees steepness. Cliffhanger is a great run, but is a poor representative of the double black rating.

If you want to experience a slope within easy driving distance that provides a quick snapshot of standard Eastern Double Diamond steepness, I would suggest you check out White Lightning at Montage (the only steep at the resort, however).

Others nearby that would also provide a nice challenge:

Wheelchair @ Windham
K-27 @ Hunter

and in Vt:..

Star or Goat @ Stowe (36 - 38 degrees, feels like 70!!)
post #36 of 93

My definition of steep was when I was second in line on a traverse behind a guy (spell that g-u-i-d-e) when the traverse collapsed benneath my feet. A little hard to describe but I was suspended by my tips and tails, my left shoulder turned in sideways to brush past the slope and I could clearly see the ground between my feet and about 30 feet below me. Of course, this was a traverse, not the slope we were skiing.

Obviously rating of a slope is a combination of factors. I've skied sections of steep that measured 60-65 degrees when they were holding snow that I would not care to be on if they were icy moguls. And ratings can be dangerously misleading. Take a tourist off of Riva's Ridge in Vail (black diamond) and drop them in Jackson. Better follow them down with a body bag if they think the rating systems are remotely similar...
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[This message has been edited by PowderJunkie (edited January 22, 2001).]</FONT>
post #37 of 93
PJ, I know the feeling, if I take a rapid breath the slab will break loose and the village below will be buried...traversin below a cornice can have the effect of surfing through a breaker.

My guess is that very few in this forum have skied 60-65 slopes even for a short distance. That is free fall and you hope that your edges wont bite too hard after a turn lest you don't have the strength to hold up under it.

It is like jumping out of a second story window in a house and a good slip with gradual slowdown is what saves your knees knocking the breath out of your lungs. I have skied extensively in the US and Europe and have never encountered such steeps in inbound terrain. Even the chutes at Squaw or the headwall at Tuckermans Ravine isn't steep enough to touch the slope with outstreched arm while standing in it.

post #38 of 93

Although I skied many of the western US areas and lived in Switzerland for three years both of the experiences I described were heliskiing in British Columbia (Monashees). My semi-annual trip is only two weeks away. The anticipation builds...
post #39 of 93
>>> both of the experiences I described were heliskiing in British Columbia (Monashees)<<<

Ahhh soooo ... .....Ott
post #40 of 93
Its relative to each resort - a double black out East might only be a single black or double blue at some resorts out West. Always judge it *relative* to the rest of the terrain at that area.

As to the main question "how steep is steeps"? Well, hardcore purists will say - "you'll never find true steeps IN-BOUNDS anywhere. TRUE steeps mean "if you fall, you WILL die". That may or may not be true - however, definately, even the truly steep shots on-piste in North America tend to be pretty short in length.

"Quod me nutrit me destruit" - What nourishes me also destroys me.
post #41 of 93
"never find true steeps IN-BOUNDS anywhere" leads to the need to differentiate between verticals and skiable terrain. There are certainly cliff areas in several of the western US areas that have been jumped in years past to reach the stash down below.

Although it has been several years since I made it to Jackson images of several spots come to mind. The drop into Corbet's is the most common. Just around the corner is the drop into S&S (Simms and Sands if I remember correctly). Although the couloir looks to be great skiing I could never screwup the courage to take the drop into it (I remember it as being 65-70 feet with an immediate turn to avoid the rock wall...any of you Jackson skiers have a better figure?). I just stumbled across a nice picture of bith S&S and Corbet's at

As for rating systems, the difference between Colorado standards and, at least what I remember from the 70s-80s, Wyoming standards got a lot of tourists into trouble at Jackson. In the past Jacskon had green, blue, black, orange triangle. The most difficult skiable runs were marked black. There was no single, double, triple diamond. When you came to the orange triangle sign you new it was time to traverse out, climb back up or you had researched the drop ahead carefully and had a plan for how to survive.

Sorry, I got off on memory lane here. Gotta get some snow in the NorthWest so I can make some turns. Also gotta get back to Jackson soon.
post #42 of 93
Just curious,

How would you Western Cats rate/rank the following western Inbound resort slopes in terms of steepness?:


Anything inbound in Utah (no couloir's please) that would be considered significantly steeper?
post #43 of 93
Haven't been to devils crotch but have been on Alf's high rustler. about the steepest I'd been on until I skied some of the chutes at ninety nine ninety in the canyons. I'll have to ski Alf's again to compare when I go up there in Feb.
Any where that when you turn and change directions the hill keeps sending lots of snowballs down the hill past your buddies that are below you, is steep in my book.
post #44 of 93
Pallavicini at A-Basin.

Alf's High Rustler. I always thought some of the other West Rustler chutes were a little steeper. At least the same degree of steep and much narrower.

Avalanche Bowl at Loveland. Memorys of skiing A-Bowl when I was 14 or 15 probably make it seem steeper than it is.

I would have to agree with dchan. When the sluffs and snowballs can be life threatening to those below you, you know it's steep.
post #45 of 93
I hadn't posted this before because the picture is pretty bad. I'm obviously posing for the picture, but it's because my friend with the camera didn't want to ski this, so I had to wait for him to ski around and get the camera out. I was bored from waiting by the time the picture was taken. This is in Secret Chute, right in the middle of Blackcomb, near one of the chair lifts (don't remember which, but it might be Glacier chair). It's not only in bounds, but named on the trail map. What I find interesting, is that according to the list of steepest in-bounds trails in N. America, blowhole is listed first. This chute, and a few others at W/B are steeper than Blow hole. You'll notice in this pic, that my right pole tip is in the snow, and my butt is only about 2" off the snow. This is a really fun chute because you can pick different lines around the different rocks each time you ski it. It was also sort of weird not being able to see anything below the top of my boots because of the sluff running by. You know the ground is there, but not sure exactly where.

post #46 of 93

Grrrrrreat freakin' shot! I love stuff like this. (The pic, I mean; I don't know that I'm quite ready for that terrain and "choosing lines around rocks."
post #47 of 93
You only get stuff like this when the snow is pretty thick and wet! Hangman's Hollow at Mammoth is like this, at least at the top, Ryan. John, are you wearing eyeglasses in this shot?
post #48 of 93
Yeah, Miles. That's not my eyes bugging out! They're the same glasses as in this pic:

post #49 of 93
Let me see if I've understood what a kick turn is
I use to perform a variation on the theme(let's call it variation 2) eg,
I turn my body facing UPHILL stick both poles into the snow,put the downhill ski tip near the uphill ski end, then let fall the dowmhill ski back near the uphill ski tip, at this point the two feet are "looking" at each other while whit variation 1 (the one you described)the feet are "looking" away from each other. Then I slightly raise the uphill ski and using what is my downhil leg as a pivot turn 180 degrees the rest of the body
2 is more dangerous than 1 as, facing the hill, in an unfortunate event of losing balance you'd fall without being able to use your arms to protect your head also, the torsion exerted on the leg actin as pivot is somehow stronger (so don't try this on steep terrain). Am I correct?

Think what You say
Say what You think
but most important
once You've said it, DO it.
post #50 of 93
Nobody, yes, this is a variation, but it can't really be called a kick turn because the "kick" isn't there. It is a step over.

But it works just as well as a 180 degrees static direction change.

I don't think it is taught as part of any lesson in ski schools, but I could be wrong.

Nobody, you are somebody, for some reason I feel uncomfortable addressing you as Nobody.

post #51 of 93
Well yes I've been informally taught both "variations" at school (ski school, I mean)
many, many years ago, when they were
teaching how to slide down a hill sideways too...I think it was called "derapage"
I am sorry, my name is Matteo.
Nobody is just a stupid joke I took from the Odyssey, when Poliphemus addresses
Ulysses : "What's your name?"
At which Ulysses replies : "Nobody"
I'll register again, under my name.

Think what You say
Say what You think
but most important
once You've said it, DO it.
post #52 of 93
>>>At which Ulysses replies : "Nobody" I'll register again, under my name. <<<

That's nice Matteo. What nationality is that and would your name be Matthew over here?

post #53 of 93
Actually I meant glasses that 4-eyed, myopic, can't-see-a-damn-thing-without-them people like me wear!
post #54 of 93
From the correlation of signature files I would guess NOBODY is also known at Matteo and it an Italian living in Lombardy...

(See the guns in vail thread)
post #55 of 93

I couldn't get to "" by clicking on it, so I went back one level to .../mittagstal. The "warning1.jpg" image is there as well as some other great shots of a chute. Is that you in the solo picture looking up the chute? What an awesome run! The very last shot, looking down the chute is pretty wild too. Is that the bottom of the same chute? Very cool!

post #56 of 93
Hi Matteo,

Yes, my full name is Ottmar, but most folks here have trouble pronouncing it, with a shrp "t" and a rolling "r", so at first I was called Omar, Oatman, Ottar, etc. When, finnaly, I was tired of being called Oatmeal, it got changed to Ott, which was easier for my readers, I was a photojournalist for 35 years and had a credit line under each picture in the paper (with the resulting phone calls and letters praising and condemning me).

Your pictures give a real feeling of the danger one faces when skiing a chute but they look well snow covered and if one ignores the rocks on both sides, only a little frightening. I bet you enjoyed skiing it.

post #57 of 93
Steep is NIGHTMARE at Baldy.
post #58 of 93
Hello Guys,

Belatedly just caught this thread for the first time today. Noticed there has been much specualtion about how steep various slopes are. And controversy of estimating such and such a slope is XX degrees and such. Well I have been measuring ski slope gradients for years so will share some information although the post will by necessity be a bit lengthy.

First let me state that individual estimates, ski resorts, ski writers, ski magazines, and others have been getting much of this wrong for years. harpo was correct in his assessment. Mostly because individuals want to use impressive figures when skiing difficult terrain the numbers go up. I've seen articles about say the "...ten steepest ski slopes..." etc which were published in major ski books of their day which apparently simply used figures given to them by some local authority. The list was useless. On the opther hand there has been some fairly accurate information like the 1975 "Mammoth" mountain guide book by Hiatt and Wright.

Two ways slope gradient measurement may be done without resorting to surveying equipment are:

Go to a hardware store and buy one of those cheap circular angle measuring fluid levels. They are used for measuring the angle of say boards for wood construction projects. With that can approximately estimate the angle of specific locations on a slope. Given the obvious simplicity, I won't go into the mechanical details on how to use such with modest accuracy and rather leave it to the user's ingenuity. The problem with this is one would need to make lots of measurements along a slope.

Slopes can be numerated in either degrees or percent grade. The latter is more useful although writers often mistakenly mix the two interchangeably which makes the result twice reality. Briefly percent grade is vertical height divided by horizontal distance in percent. A 45 degree slope is 100 percent grade.

The second method uses a topographic map essentially by measuring the distance between elevation lines and applying basic trigonometry.

Many years ago when planning a trip to ski Snowbird, I wanted some idea of the topography of the slopes, so I wouldn't end up in some overly scary spot. I mail ordered a topographic map from the USGS and a trail map from the resort. From that I was able to size up all the gradients, exposures, and ways to move around the mountain. A couple days after a foot plus of powder I was confronted by locals deep within Black Forest wondering how some totally new dude could be poaching their private spots.

Today one does not necessarily need to buy say a 7.5 degree USGS topographic map as that information is available on the www internet at either:

Basically you can get a topo map for anywhere in the USA. Also one can get ski resort trail maps at either

or by going to say Yahoo and doing a search on the resort name. All resort web sites have trail maps.

Besides a topographic map and trail map one will also need an ordinary magnifying loupe, 6x or 8x would be fine, a ruler with one hundredths of an inch graticule divisions, and any scientific calculator (MS Window one will do) to do the trig conversion. The General brand 12 inch steel ruler can be found in many stationary stores.

In my example below I will use as an example one of the steepest long bump slopes in any US resort, West Face at Squaw Valley. When one measures such a slope they ought to make the measurement betwen the section of slope which is steep as many runs have lower gradient approaches and runouts. Also one needs to be able to figure out where on the topo, the actual run is. It may take some detective work but for me that is not usually much of a problem but others will no doubt be lost. Two individuals may get slightly different results because they measure a line on the same run in slightly different lines. I pencil a line on the map before I start.

For most 7.5 minute USGS topographic maps:
1 vertical line = 40 feet
1 dark vertical line every 5 lines = 200 feet
1 map mile at 40 degree latitude is about 2.63 inches
Each map has a scale, measure it.
40 feet horizontal distance on a map =
(2.63 * 40) / 5280 = 0.01992 inches
200 feet horizontal distance on a map =
(2.63 * 200) / 5280 = 0.09962 inches

Thus if the spacing between a set of dark lines (200 feet
vertical) are 0.099 inches on the map, then the slope is
100% grade or 45 degrees.

West Face at Squaw Valley

7600________.17_______ 59
7400________.14________71________35 degrees
1080'________.905"______55%_______30.7 degrees

Now for those who have skied West Face and are disappointed with what may appear to be wimpy numbers, let me share a few others per the summary line.

Heavenly's Gunbarrel:
8200' to 6680', vert 1520' 1.62" 46.7% 25 degrees
steepest 200 feet = 55%

Liftline at Stowe:
3640' to 1560, vert 2080' 5.105" 35.0% 19.3 degrees
steepest 200 feet = 52%

Exibition at Sun Valley:
7440' to 6400', vert 1040 49.1% 26.1 degrees
steepest 200 feet = 55%

Al's Run at Taos
11040' to 9440', vert 1600' 3.77" 52.7% 27.8 degrees
steepest 200 feet = 67.1%

Now for an example of a really steep well skied bump run, the top 450 feet of Climax at Mammoth Mtn is about 93% grade or over 40 degrees. And that brings up a minor issue. Runs which start at ridge lines may be steeper for short sections at the top from snow loading cornices. In Mammoth's case, the long Cornice has many nearly vertical drops for short distances. -dave
post #59 of 93
What SSSdave said is very cool to a map nut like me, being so technical, he must be a bigger map nut. I'm glad to see Climax is high on the list of steep runs, it certainly had me gripped a few times when I was a kid. I fell once on it and slid down almost halfway face first on my stomach, busting my Dad's borrowed sunglasses. It was hard to get flipped around to stop, very scary! My respect for Climax extends to a few people who have skied it well, including Phillipe Mollard (see thread-unsung ski masters, give them credit-in general ski discussion), and perry thompson, perry tossed a prototype hexcel ski out of the gondola high span approaching Climax and then skied climax on 1 ski to retrieve it. Also Werner Braun, one of the first to ski a line in the cliffs above climax to the east. The exposure factor makes everything seem steeper, stand at the top of climax when the wind is howling and look down between your tips! My knees are shaking while I type.

SSSdave, How does Climax stack up against the movie lines at Squaw?
post #60 of 93

Almost all in resort super steeps over 40 degrees do not have much vertical for good might die. Accordingly it is difficult to make an accurate measurement from just one or two elevation lines on a topo map. To measure something like the Pallisades at Squaw one would be better off to use that inclinometer I suggested. There are some other Squaw steeps with more vertical but they are more in line with 80% grade. Additionally many super steeps are at ridgelines thus cornice which the map doesn't take into account. You are welcome to make the measurements yourself. Not And yeah hah hah I probably am a bigger map nut. -dave
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