Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of It?

Topics of a general nature regarding snowsports, which don't easily fit into one of our other Liftlines categories. This is also the place to post Letters to the Editor.

Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby SoCal Rider » Thu Apr 19, 2007 10:02 am

This one for me is a no brainer, especially when you know my option of Bridger and Big Sky. Great places, but totally unbalanced areas. Remove Lone Peak and the Ridge at BB and these places wouldn't even be close to crack my top #5 in the East.


Unless Lone Peak and the Ridge are marginal much of the season, is that even relevant? (Take away the best part of Jay Peak, and it's just another run of the mill Eastern ski hill. I'm talking hypothetically.)
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re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of It?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Apr 19, 2007 11:12 am

Yes, 5 categories, but if Ottawa local = 1, areas from the 5th category would definitely be worth something like 100. I was thinking something like 1, 10, 50, 100 as a point structure.
This is an obvious attempt to simplify, but not the right way IMHO. I'd be inclined to use acreage as the starting point, then make adjustments. Main adjustment needed is something for steepness. Lift ratios (length-to-vertical) are the easiest source of info to make an adjustment. Subjective fine tuning may still be needed. admin, ChrisC and I among us on FTO could probably cover a wide range of areas for final review.

The comments about Big Sky/Bridger illustrate the difficulty of rating areas. I agree that both mountains are flawed for advanced intermediate skiers who can't handle the extreme runs and are thus relegated to terrain below their level. I'm not sure why this bothers Patrick so much at his ability level though. Lift ratio adjustments should take into account both the flat lower mountain and steep upper parts at Big Sky, with perhaps an adjustment for some of Lone Peak's acreage being unskiable cliffs. At Bridger and some other areas acreage that is controlled but not lift served should count for something, but much less than what is lift served.
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re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of It?

Postby SoCal Rider » Thu Apr 19, 2007 12:56 pm

Never having been to those areas, I should have asked Patrick to expand on his Bridger/Big Sky comment before mouthing off.
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re: Where to Ski Part Deux

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:12 pm

As I mentioned, you have to exercise judgment in deciding whether a quantitative analysis will work.

Even the supposedly simple question of "Is ski area A better than ski area B?" only works at the grouping level. Consider Patrick's strong comments about Lake Louise vs. Big Sky, which might not be shared by everyone. I suspect most people would be inclined to put those areas in the same grouping as they are similar in scale, snow conditions, topography. Then you get into the "apples and oranges" decisions. Is a smaller area with more steeps (A-Basin) worth more than a bigger intermediate area (Keystone)? Is a smaller area with better snow (Wolf Creek) worth more than a bigger area with less snow (Durango)? Note in all of these examples I've chosen cases where other factors are similar.

Even the subject of snow conditions can actually be divided into 3 key categories IMHO:
1) How easy is it to get everything covered?
2) How frequent are powder days (Riverc0il's defintion of 6 inches or more is not bad for this)?
3) How well does the snow preserve?
Using Jay Peak as an example, it's average for #1, well above average even compared to western areas (Jay averages 5 powder days/month Dec.-Mar. for the 6 seasons I have data) for #2, and terrible by western standards for #3. So the powder centric skier is going to rate Jay higher than many others would.

Next question is "where to live" purely based upon skiing. Now you get into the distance argument. I remain personally convinced that when the weekend area is as superior as Mammoth, that overrides the more marginal day area considerations. People here adapt to this situation to drive down the cost: buy a place cheap during the recession, develop connections to rent cheap privately, join a ski club to cut down driving cost, etc. Yet I know many of you are still going to weight the day areas more than I do.

Add the non-skiing factors into the judgment, and at that point I think quantification becomes a futile exercise.
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re: Where to Ski and Live: Do Aesthetics Matter?

Postby riverc0il » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:12 pm

On the location tip, being a former 2-3 hour each way (4-6 RT) driver at least and often times twice per week, I can truly appreciate a one hour drive (to a ski area that used to be 4 each way :o ). Everyone has different drive time tolerances, but I rank very highly on the location tip that drive times within an hour are exceptionally good. No need to live in town or on the hill, anything within an hour is pure gold, so long as you are not lengthening your work commute (mine is 15 minutes each way).
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Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby Patrick » Sat Apr 21, 2007 7:09 am

SoCal Rider wrote:Never having been to those areas, I should have asked Patrick to expand on his Bridger/Big Sky comment before mouthing off.


It's okay, I didn't take your points personnally and are totally valid points.

I'm not as familiar with what is close to Bozeman other than BB and BS/MB. Targhee and Jackson are a few hours away.

My feeling is that the option from Bozeman are pretty limited, also I find that BB and BS are flawed in some way. It's hard to explain why, the fact that it has two extremes probably. It's either extremely flat or extremely steep.

The comments about Big Sky/Bridger illustrate the difficulty of rating areas. I agree that both mountains are flawed for advanced intermediate skiers who can't handle the extreme runs and are thus relegated to terrain below their level. I'm not sure why this bothers Patrick so much at his ability level though.


What bother me here is the extreme stuff is served by the Lone Peak tram (15 people), you shutdown that Tram or you add long lineups (windhold, terrible coverage on top) and the rest of the mountain, well. :roll: The terrain off the Challenger lift is fun, but it's pretty limited when you compared on the size of the area.

Bridger is the same way, the liftserved part without the hike to the ridge is steep at the top (not for long) and then flat. There is no in between. Big Sky is great and I would love to return, however I think that living in Bozeman is pretty limiting in option wise if the year is bad. Again, I don't know the Montana geography well enough, but I would prefer to have a choice of areas and terrain in case of bad years. These two areas only have two choice, very steep or very flat. I'm generalized here, but that the overall impression I got.
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re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of It?

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:40 pm

I'm still a bit puzzled on Patrick's focus on Big Sky's stratification. He skied Big Sky in a big year with excellent conditions. I hate to think what he'd say if he had admin's adverse luck in early March 2001. Stratified areas are an issue if one's own ability is in the gap. I'd guess Morgane's ability is squarely in Big Sky's gap, so that might have something to do with it. I'd be interested in Hamdog's input since he lived there a while.

I would prefer to have a choice of areas and terrain in case of bad years.
This is another one of the pitfalls of the East, as the "real mountains" are in a relatively compact area geographically, and share the same low altitude/snow preservation flaws. I haven't seen too many cases of poor conditions in Vermont when it was decent anywhere else in the Northeast. Out here we have many different climate zones. If it's bad in the Sierra, it might be good in Utah or the Northwest. If you're driving for a week's vacation, you can (I know Riverc0il would!) make these choices. Even within Colorado, many times it's much better in one part of the state than another.
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Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby Marc_C » Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:05 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I'm still a bit puzzled on Patrick's focus on Big Sky's stratification. He skied Big Sky in a big year with excellent conditions. I hate to think what he'd say if he had admin's adverse luck in early March 2001. Stratified areas are an issue if one's own ability is in the gap.

I visited Big Sky for a week back when I was a solid advanced intermediate. I had no problem finding terrain that was interesting nor did I have difficulty finding terrain that provided a distinct challenge without going up the tram. There was nothing off the tram that I could handle at the time. It was one of my best vacations/ski weeks. Never was I bored. If there's a terrain ability "gap" at Big Sky, then it's because folks are unwilling to explore.

Even within Colorado, many times it's much better in one part of the state than another.

That can happen in Utah as well.
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Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby Patrick » Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:10 am

Tony Crocker wrote:I'm still a bit puzzled on Patrick's focus on Big Sky's stratification. He skied Big Sky in a big year with excellent conditions. I hate to think what he'd say if he had admin's adverse luck in early March 2001. Stratified areas are an issue if one's own ability is in the gap. I'd guess Morgane's ability is squarely in Big Sky's gap, so that might have something to do with it. I'd be interested in Hamdog's input since he lived there a while.


It has nothing to do with Morgane's ability. I'm just putting Big Sky's negatives forward, this being said Big Sky is definitely an incredible place to ski. As for the conditions we had, I remember that it was a good year, however when I looked at an area, I try not let conditions (good or bad) influence my impression of the skiable terrain. I skied Mont Alta (Quebec) this Winter, regardless of the lack of snow, I think I could get a good impression of what the "mountain" has to offer.

About Hamdog's opinion, I believe that he wasn't too impressed by Bridger.

This discussion got sidetrack somewhat by my opinion on BS. This initially got started with a discussion about a choice between Calgary versus Bozeman as a place to live and why I would choose Calgary over Bozeman. Regardless how great Big Sky is, it's flaws and lack of other great skiing option close by (sorry, not an expert in Montana geography) leads me to choose Calgary.

Tony Crocker wrote:
I would prefer to have a choice of areas and terrain in case of bad years.
This is another one of the pitfalls of the East, as the "real mountains" are in a relatively compact area geographically, and share the same low altitude/snow preservation flaws.


I'm not talking about the Northeast, but the East. Having lived here all my life and skied most of it, I can tell you there can be a huge difference by driving a few hours. Snow accumulation and preservation are totally different whether you are in the Appalachian or North of the St.Lawrence river (or further East toward Quebec City). Diiferences also exist between the Adirondack, the Greens and the Whites.

Tony Crocker wrote:I haven't seen too many cases of poor conditions in Vermont when it was decent anywhere else in the Northeast.


I've seen Vermont and the Townships with crapping condtions while Tremblant, Ste-Anne and LeMassif had amazing ones. Generally in the early or late season. This year has been an exception as the start of the season was so much warmer than normal that it was crappy pretty much everywhere, however some more than others. The late season snow helps all regions.
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re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of It?

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 24, 2007 11:19 am

I try not let conditions (good or bad) influence my impression of the skiable terrain.
Very important IMHO. I could only envision what good conditions at Jackson Hole would be like for 20 years before actually experiencing them in January 2006. When you see the amount of exposed rock on Lone Peak in a big year like 2006, it does make you wary of what a lean year might be like. I'm in complete agreement with Patrick about Calgary vs. Bozeman, but mainly due to the larger number of choices for skiing within reasonable driving distance.

I've seen Vermont and the Townships with crapping conditions while Tremblant, Ste-Anne and LeMassif had amazing ones. Generally in the early or late season.
I would agree that in the colder temperatures the areas farther north in Quebec you might be able to blow more snow early, and have slower meltdowns in the spring. This does not fit my definition of "amazing conditions." Unless you have Baldy/Sugarloaf volatility, areas that average well under 200 inches natural snow are going to have decent powder days once in a blue moon. Le Massif is the only Quebec area meanigfully above that benchmark, and frankly, most of the Le Massif powder tales I hear date back to the low density bus shuttle days. I suspect this is a big part of admin's Vermont vs. Quebec comments. If you can get some daily records, you would probably find that Riverc0il's 6 inch new snow benchmark is a rare event anywhere in Quebec vs. the 5 days/month at Jay Peak.

The biggest advantage I see in Quebec ski areas is that there are so many of them. When the rare widespread dump does hit, it seems pretty easy to find someplace with low density (Alta, Massif du Sud, etc.) where the powder will last all day.
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Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby Patrick » Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:22 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:When you see the amount of exposed rock on Lone Peak in a big year like 2006, it does make you wary of what a lean year might be like.


That's exactly what I based it on. I did more core damage to my skis at Big Sky in two days than during 99% of my ski days in a single year. At it was a good year, I can just imagine an average or bad year (Okay, I'm cheating, the damage was mainly along the ridge above Big Couloir and NSF, but still). However it was worth the sacrifice as the terrain off Lone Peak is outstanding.

Tony Crocker wrote:I'm in complete agreement with Patrick about Calgary vs. Bozeman, but mainly due to the larger number of choices for skiing within reasonable driving distance.


That is why Calgary is way ahead off Bozeman in my book. There could be an argument about a comparison between Big Sky versus Lake Louise, however there are a series of other great areas near Calgary that are superior to Bozeman's #2 (Bridger Bowl) in my opinion.

Tony Crocker wrote:I would agree that in the colder temperatures the areas farther north in Quebec you might be able to blow more snow early, and have slower meltdowns in the spring. This does not fit my definition of "amazing conditions."


Okay, we don't have the same notion of amazing. Amazing compared to the crappy conditions elsewhere. Amazing doesn't have to be powder.

Tony Crocker wrote: areas that average well under 200 inches natural snow are going to have decent powder days once in a blue moon. Le Massif is the only Quebec area meanigfully above that benchmark, and frankly, most of the Le Massif powder tales I hear date back to the low density bus shuttle days.
I suspect this is a big part of admin's Vermont vs. Quebec comments. If you can get some daily records, you would probably find that Riverc0il's 6 inch new snow benchmark is a rare event anywhere in Quebec vs. the 5 days/month at Jay Peak.


I've seen many powder reports this year from that part of Quebec. I don't know about Admin's specific Quebec comments, however I know that my favorite places are south of the border with a few exception. This doesn't necessarily have to do with powder, but more on the mountain, terrain and challenge categories.

As for Jay Peak, not many areas in the East comes close to the amount of snow they receive, not only in Quebec, but also the rest of the East.

Here is the list of Quebec ski areas that are part of the Quebec ski association (Mt.Miller in the Gaspe isn't part of this group) and year end precipitation.

http://www.maneige.com/en/conditions2_p ... ations.asp

Quebec's top natural snow destinations in 2006-07

Val d'Irène - 357" (Appalachians)
Le Valinouet - 240" (Saguenay)
Massif du Sud - 240" (Appalachians)
Le Massif - 223" (Charlevoix)
Mont Comi - 211" (Appalachians)
Mont Ste-Anne - 206" (Quebec City, almost Charlevoix)
Sutton - 194" (Appalachians)

and look at

Tremblant - 118" (Laurentians)(where you can have some amazing conditions sometimes, but not necessarily of the natural kind).
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Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:00 pm

Patrick wrote: Sutton - 194"


So Sutton got exactly half of what Jay Peak -- a few miles away -- is reporting?

:?
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re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of It?

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:22 pm

I would invite Lucky Luke or some other local to opine on the long term relationship between Sutton's snowfall and Jay Peak's. I think there is a substantial elevation difference, but there's still a dramatic difference in reported snow. Jay's daily tracker has not been updated into April yet, but I'm guessing the Jay "average" total for 2006-07 is around 370 inches now.

I would be inclined to call BS on that 357" at Val d'Irene, until I noticed it was on the edge of the Chic-Chocs. But it's 900 vertical and a long way from anywhere, not too relevant in a "where to live" discussion.

As I've said before, most of my impression of specific eastern areas comes from what I read here. Outside the Northern Vermont snowbelt, there are some areas where I get the impression that it takes a near-miracle to produce decent conditions (Tremblant, Loon, Cannon) and others that are more often promising (Burke, Gore, Wildcat). And I'm sure there are lots in the low intermediate Stoneham/Okemo class that do a nice job of snowmaking and grooming. But I've seen that here at Big Bear, and those areas now comprise a small part of my skiing, as is likely true for most people on FTO.

Since we've now observed on 3DSkiMaps that Mt. Baldy is more exciting terrain-wise than anything lift served in the East, I will admit freely that it probably takes a powder day for an eastern area to fit my definition of "amazing conditions."
I think only those who still live in the East attempt to compare average Eastern ski conditions favorably with average ski conditions in the West.
This was the original quote which kicked off this thread. Riverc0il makes the best case for the East because he has most successfully changed his personal definition of "average."
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Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby riverc0il » Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:04 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:As I've said before, most of my impression of specific eastern areas comes from what I read here. Outside the Northern Vermont snowbelt, there are some areas where I get the impression that it takes a near-miracle to produce decent conditions (Tremblant, Loon, Cannon) and others that are more often promising (Burke, Gore, Wildcat).

You are putting a bit too much emphasis on the differences between those ski areas. I have skied Cannon plenty of times in excellent conditions so the "near miracle" is not quite accurate. Wildcat and Burke get more snow than Cannon which gets more snow than Loon, but that is really splitting hairs. They are all in the NH snow belt area and are similar in seasonal snowfall. The biggest issue with these areas is not seasonal snowfall but rather building up a sufficient base in a timely fashion. Many of my bleak Cannon reports from the past were due to poor base building and low snow fall well into January and occasionally February. As can be attested by my recent earned turns trip report to Cannon, once the area is completely covered the conditions are hardly bleak. That single run at Cannon on Saturday was far better than any run I took at Sugarbush on Sunday. Total snow conditions only tells half the story, the real variable with the mountains not blessed with big snow fall totals is base depth whereas with the Northern Greens it is a question of when not if base depths will stack up to acceptable levels.
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Re: re: Where to Live, Part Deux, or How to Make the Best of

Postby Patrick » Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:03 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:
Patrick wrote: Sutton - 194"

So Sutton got exactly half of what Jay Peak -- a few miles away -- is reporting?


Tony Crocker wrote: I think there is a substantial elevation difference, but there's still a dramatic difference in reported snow. Jay's daily tracker has not been updated into April yet, but I'm guessing the Jay "average" total for 2006-07 is around 370 inches now.


The numbers I quoted above were from Quebec Ski Association website, I just checked with Sutton's site and the 194" is part of their lower range. Numbers indicated are 194"-220".

Yep, a huge difference. Base elevation at Sutton is 1312' (400m) versus 1815' (553m) at Jay. From one of the discussion I had last year in my quest for Sutton snow data numbers, I was told that snow was measured at the base of the area.

Here are the historical numbers from there website (no range - only one number):

http://www.montsutton.com/en/useful_inf ... _info.aspx

From a discussion about snow totals on ZS, I know some people are a bit skeptical those Jay numbers, as well as the VAL D'IRENE numbers. I also know that the snow varies also a lot at Sutton. Not sure were the second spot on the mountain is placed? Summit of ski area is 2822' (860m) versus 3198' (975m) for the actual summit of Mont Sutton. Summit of Jay Peak is 3968' (1290m).

Tony Crocker wrote:I would be inclined to call BS on that 357" at Val d'Irene, until I noticed it was on the edge of the Chic-Chocs.


Here is what one of the best snow follower on ZS had to say about Val d'Irène. This is the actual quote...

Extremeskiboy from Zoneski wrote:Ca c'est la plus grosse farce au Qc cette annee. Le compte reel est a environ 250-300cm de neige de moins. Juste lors du blizzard du 18-19 janvier, j'y etais et ils ont rapporte 130cm, alors que je peux dire avec certitude que ce fut au max 70-75cm. Donc deja la il faut enlever pret de 60cm. Bon en tk j'ai regarde ca souvent, et c'est totalement faut de leur part de dire qu'ils ont recu autant de neige que Jay cette annee. 500cm est un chiffre reel, regardez Comi et rajoutez 70cm car le blizzard du 18 janvier n'est pas tombe a Comi. Vous aurez tout de meme de tres belles conditions a l'aqua neige, surtout parce que le printemps tarde plus dans de coin.


http://forums.zoneski.com/index.php?showtopic=7586

A quick translation is that this number is a joke and to get the actual number you would probably have to remove 250-300cm (90-120"). ESB has been there a few times including the storm where the ski area claimed 120cm and he said that at the numbers was probably between 70-75cm.

Tony Crocker wrote:But it's 900 vertical and a long way from anywhere, not too relevant in a "where to live" discussion.


Yes, but you were mentioning the East as a whole, I tried to give you some industry numbers about the above 200 inchers.

I've had a heated discussion on Val Irène last year when Frank and some other ZSkiers went for the first time and mentioned that they had discovered to "Lost Sierras" in term of snow and challenge (ie. some runs has steep as Tuckerman). "That it was worth the trip for a weekend from Montreal, etc etc."

It would be good to get Frank to comment on this. Lucky Luke and I has skied here back in the early 90s and LL skied the "fame" North side with it's extreme terrain. It's true that those runs are real steep, but...it's a long drive.

Tony Crocker wrote:Outside the Northern Vermont snowbelt, there are some areas where I get the impression that it takes a near-miracle to produce decent conditions (Tremblant, Loon, Cannon) and others that are more often promising (Burke, Gore, Wildcat).


Again, you need to extend your zone into Quebec along the Appalachian + the Charlevoix/Saguenay regions which also get a good dumps. And when you mentioned decent conditions, you talk only in terms of powder. Perfect grooming isn't always that bad? :wink:

Sorry, but I do like everything. Funny, I had a talk with a fellow master racer last week. As I was talking about the amazing skiing I was having in April, he said that his season was over and he was fully satisfied with his 60+ season entirely local except 2-3 days in Switzerland. The guy has been to Tucks a few times in the past and is one hell of a skier. Mind you, he told me that one of his greatest thrill is hearing those gates smash to the ground. I personally like all of it, reason why I wasn't going to miss our finals on that St.Patrick's Day storm last month.
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