Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

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: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed May 05, 2010 3:10 pm

To give this thread a temporary reprieve from Admin and Marc C hissing at Tony :lol: , there was another recent NYT article dedicated to the pathologies of quantification. It's pretty interesting and very applicable to my original post.

In my own life, about the only thing that I'm conscious of quantifying are my ski days. I do that because I like to look at my yearly lists, think about that day, look up my online trip reports, photos, and/or articles, and relive it for five minutes. Oddly, I don't do that with mountain biking, golfing, lakes I go swimming in, women I've dated, or restaurants I've dined in.

I'm curious to understand what makes skiing such a breeding ground for tracking. As a generalization, people who do less of it, like me (generally between 25-29 days per season), tend to track more than the ones who do it a lot. People who tend to ski at the same ski areas, due to season pass or second-house situations, tend to do it less than the wanderlust types, etc.

Any ideas?
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Marc_C » Wed May 05, 2010 3:59 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:I'm curious to understand what makes skiing such a breeding ground for tracking. As a generalization, people who do less of it, like me (generally between 25-29 days per season), tend to track more than the ones who do it a lot. People who tend to ski at the same ski areas, due to season pass or second-house situations, tend to do it less than the wanderlust types, etc.
Any ideas?

Not too sure about the specific relationship between skiing and the desire to track skiing statistics (and I'm not convinced that it is unique, as I've known rock climbers and cavers who keep even more detailed logs), but correlating differences in tracking based on more vs less skiing quantity or diversity is a fairly easy one to explain: humans tend to remember and recall unique events more so than more common events. My usability test participants have a much easier time recalling what they had difficulty with as compared to what parts of the interface performed easily. (The best UI is the one you don't notice and doesn't get in the way.) If those relatively unique events - eg: the 25 days you went skiing as compared to the 340 that you didn't - were pleasurable or remembered favorably, then wanting to relive them by triggering the episodic memories is a typical desire. Keeping a diary, which is conceptually what any tracking mechanism is, is an excellent way to do so.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed May 05, 2010 4:36 pm

Marc_C wrote:My usability test participants have a much easier time recalling what they had difficulty with as compared to what parts of the interface performed easily. (The best UI is the one you don't notice and doesn't get in the way.)

Makes sense, but what about the bromide that you tend to forget the bad things in life (or they don't seem as bad in retrospect) and remember more vividly the good things.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby EMSC » Wed May 05, 2010 4:50 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:Any ideas?


Without thinking too much about it, for the majority of skiers we have to be pro-active in choosing to ski and for a sub-set of skiers we define our self's as 'skiers'. Many folks are Joe the accounting guy who happens to ski a couple times a year; but some of us are Joe the Skier who happens to work in accounting. Also, I can bike out my door any day I choose, and often do (at least for about half the year anyway). To ski I have to expend effort and resources to make it happen and do so for various vagaries deep in my gray matter that seem to like the sensations it gives. If you define your self as a golfer I bet you have records of all your scores and etc... or as a MTB'er the same, etc...

I think it's more related to how you view yourself in regards to the activity.

jamesdeluxe wrote:Makes sense, but what about the bromide that you tend to forget the bad things in life (or they don't seem as bad in retrospect) and remember more vividly the good things.


You do forget many of the bad things (not the very worst of the bad usually)--- but only over relatively longer periods of time.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Staley » Wed May 05, 2010 5:18 pm

For me, some of the quantification desire comes from changing conditions. Unlike so many other activities, skiing is considerably different every day, even if you ski in the exact same place.

I suppose this is more diary-based rather than pure quantification (I don't really care about total ski days, as I know each day varies so much), but skiing simply invokes within me a desire to permanently record my experiences. I couldn't care less how many times I play tennis during the summer, but I definitely want to know how many powder days I have each winter.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Marc_C » Wed May 05, 2010 6:14 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:
Marc_C wrote:My usability test participants have a much easier time recalling what they had difficulty with as compared to what parts of the interface performed easily. (The best UI is the one you don't notice and doesn't get in the way.)

Makes sense, but what about the bromide that you tend to forget the bad things in life (or they don't seem as bad in retrospect) and remember more vividly the good things.

These retrospectives are conducted in a debrief session immediately post-test, so things are still fresh in the mind of the participant. Also, I do far more qualitative formative testing than quantitative, so anything mentioned in the debrief has usually been already captured in my notes and observations and just serves as clarification. Fortunately the majority of usability problems tend to be annoyances rather than traumatic experiences (although I have witnessed the latter on occasion). Sometimes I wonder if a background in clinical psychology might be more useful than applied cognitive psych.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri May 07, 2010 7:20 am

EMSC wrote: If you define your self as a golfer I bet you have records of all your scores and etc... or as a MTB'er the same, etc...

Per year, I mountain bike more than I ski and I golf about the same number of times. And similar to skiing, I have a "home" location where I golf and ski about 35% of the time and for the other 65%, I wander around. Yet, I don't track my visits for those sports.

I guess I now define myself as a skier because I don't hang out on chatboards for mountain biking or golf.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri May 07, 2010 11:04 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:People who tend to ski at the same ski areas, due to season pass or second-house situations, tend to do it less than the wanderlust types, etc.

I strongly suspect this is true. And for some sports, notably golf, there is a much stronger tendency to participate at the same location most of the time than there is for skiing.

Staley wrote:For me, some of the quantification desire comes from changing conditions. Unlike so many other activities, skiing is considerably different every day, even if you ski in the exact same place. I suppose this is more diary-based rather than pure quantification (I don't really care about total ski days, as I know each day varies so much), but skiing simply invokes within me a desire to permanently record my experiences. I couldn't care less how many times I play tennis during the summer, but I definitely want to know how many powder days I have each winter.

I agree, and that's why I tend to criticize day count as an inadequate measure. Due to the different styles and preferences of individuals, vertical is not necessarily a good comparison between different people, but it's a very good measure for an individual to compare different days or different seasons. Reasoning is simple: nearly anybody will ski more on a given day if he/she is skiing well and/or the conditions are great. And as Staley noted, most avid skiers would want some measure of powder days. Powder is also the most important exception to the generalization about vertical because it's the most common situation where most skiers will sacrifice quantity for better quality, thus makes sense to track it separately.

With regard to tracking in other sports, it's formally encouraged in scuba diving to maintain a dive log. I'm taking a course this week because I haven't been diving in 3 1/2 years and will be in French Polynesia in July. For more advanced diving the theory is that a divemaster might want to see some details of your prior experience before allowing you to do something especially challenging. In practice at most resorts both Richard (~400 dives) and I (only 45) have observed that they just want to see your card and ask how long ago your last dive was.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby rfarren » Fri May 07, 2010 12:53 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:
jamesdeluxe wrote:People who tend to ski at the same ski areas, due to season pass or second-house situations, tend to do it less than the wanderlust types, etc.

I strongly suspect this is true. And for some sports, notably golf, there is a much stronger tendency to participate at the same location most of the time than there is for skiing.


I think you guys are right. When I was a teenager I used to play golf almost every weekend with my father. Still to this day I enjoy golf very much, and it's by far my father's favorite activity. However, neither of us have ever kept track of the days we golfed in any given summer. Nowadays I ski far more often than I golf but I keep track of my ski days and not the golf outings. This could be due to my passion for skiing, or that in golf I keep track of my score. Perhaps, without a score I've had to come up with other ways to quantify my season.

I don't think I would keep track of my ski days if I lived close to the mountains and hit the same resort for the majority of my ski days. I assume it would become a blure of good days, bad days, and epic days.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Geoff » Mon May 10, 2010 8:46 am

rfarren wrote:I don't think I would keep track of my ski days if I lived close to the mountains and hit the same resort for the majority of my ski days. I assume it would become a blure of good days, bad days, and epic days.


I'm in that category. Some years I count days. Other years I don't. I'm more prone to count during the winters when I'm not working since it's fun to break 100.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:39 am

I am currently in Squaw Valley at http://www.issw2010.com/. This conference is held every 2 years with presentations by academics and avalanche professionals. I've met several of the snow safety people from whom I've collected snow data for nearly two decades, including Knox Williams, who got me started with 40 areas back in 1992.

I asked Knox about early season snow stability and got a mixed answer. A first big dump upon bare ground is ideal for creating a stable snowpack. However a thin snowpack not enough to open for skiing is more likely to be faceted and thus cause problems when there is a big dump on top of it. December 2007 was illustrative of both cases. In LCC the big dump fell upon a thin base left over from modest snows in October and resulted in much instability. Knox lives near Monarch, where that same storm fell upon bare ground and led to a very stable season by Colorado standards despite record snowfall for the next 3 months.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Admin » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:03 am

While you're there ask about what effect, if any, the first big storm falling on warm ground vs frozen ground has on developing a deadly facet layer.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Marc_C » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:57 am

Tony Crocker wrote:December 2007 was illustrative of both cases. In LCC the big dump fell upon a thin base left over from modest snows in October and resulted in much instability including the inbounds fatality at Snowbird.

Except Heather Gross died in December 2008.
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Re: Skiing and "Conditional Probability"

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:48 pm

I was reminded here at ISSW about the date of the Snowbird fatality and deleted that reference.

admin wrote:While you're there ask about what effect, if any, the first big storm falling on warm ground vs frozen ground has on developing a deadly facet layer.

Knox said absolutely no difference. During the course of that first dump the ground temperature will soon rise or fall to meet the temperature of the new snowpack.

During a unrelated discussion with a Mammoth patroller, he commented that the huge boulders on the upper mountain tend to anchor the first big dump even if there is thin brittle snow between them. Knox agreed with that and said that depth hoar is rarely an issue in coastal climates with big snowpacks beyond the first month of the season. I asked if both of the above stabilizing factors would usually apply in LCC also, and Knox said yes.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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