Serious Vert

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Serious Vert

Postby Marc_C » Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:26 pm

Every now and then someone will denigrate an area because it "doesn't have serious vertical". But rarely if ever do I remember anyone explaining what they mean by "serious vertical".

Sooo, what does the phrase mean to you? What do you feel constitutes "serious vert"? Which areas have it? Which don't?
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby Geoff » Mon Nov 29, 2010 5:02 pm

How about this for a metric: One lift with at least 2000 vertical feet and a sustained pitch of at least 25 degrees.
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby rsmith » Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:19 pm

To me there's a notable distinction between certain mountains and how they ski, when it comes to 'vertical'. Sustained pitches of a certain length make some mountains unique, ~2000' at 25+ degrees being a reasonable mark (regardless of if you can ski the full length on a single lift ride). Snowbird, Jackson Hole, Squaw (KT-22) and Snowbasin fit this pattern. In a single run you have a relatively large commitment and a sense of exploration you don't get otherwise. Places with steep, but short runs like Kirkwood or Solitude have interesting terrain, but you miss out on the exhausting yet fulfilling lines from the Snowbird Tram or the long, connected GS arcs you can make at Snowbasin. Then there's a whole other class of mountain such as Heavenly, the Park City resorts, and the majority of Colorado which have large actual verticals but relatively little that is sustained beyond ~1000' or so. Again, there is interesting terrain, but the runs are shorter, often requiring long run-outs or disjointed jaunts through the flats. I wouldn't denigrate a resort due to any of these factors - you just have to know what each mountain offers and then take advantage of it...
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby Geoff » Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:16 pm

rsmith wrote:To me there's a notable distinction between certain mountains and how they ski, when it comes to 'vertical'. Sustained pitches of a certain length make some mountains unique, ~2000' at 25+ degrees being a reasonable mark (regardless of if you can ski the full length on a single lift ride). Snowbird, Jackson Hole, Squaw (KT-22) and Snowbasin fit this pattern. In a single run you have a relatively large commitment and a sense of exploration you don't get otherwise. Places with steep, but short runs like Kirkwood or Solitude have interesting terrain, but you miss out on the exhausting yet fulfilling lines from the Snowbird Tram or the long, connected GS arcs you can make at Snowbasin. Then there's a whole other class of mountain such as Heavenly, the Park City resorts, and the majority of Colorado which have large actual verticals but relatively little that is sustained beyond ~1000' or so. Again, there is interesting terrain, but the runs are shorter, often requiring long run-outs or disjointed jaunts through the flats. I wouldn't denigrate a resort due to any of these factors - you just have to know what each mountain offers and then take advantage of it...


One of the reasons I picked 2,000 feet and 25 degrees was to make a point. KT-22 is only 1800 feet of vertical and doesn't qualify.
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby rsmith » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:38 pm

Geoff wrote:One of the reasons I picked 2,000 feet and 25 degrees was to make a point. KT-22 is only 1800 feet of vertical and doesn't qualify.


Then Alta would also have to be considered a mountain without 'serious vert' since Collins is also around 1800'.

My point was that, to me, mountains fit into some general categories. It's not an absolute and it's not something that can be completely objectively quantified, but sustained vertical is part of the equation. KT-22 definitely skis like Snowbird or JH, meaning there are long, sustained runs that will kick your butt. Jitterbug, High Nowhere, etc. off of Germania ridge at Alta fall in the same boat. That group of mountains skis very differently than PC, Vail, etc. Likewise, if you go to a Kirkwood or Solitude and expect the same 'serious', 'big-mountain' experience you would get at Snowbird, JH, Squaw, Alta you will be disappointed.

These generalizations serve a purpose. 'Serious' mountains attract a certain clientele, and people who would be happy at PC/Vail should generally avoid them. Maybe that's what people are implying by 'serious vert' - I'm not sure. But the types of generalizations I'm making are the only ones that make sense to me.

Finally, anyone bragging about 'serious vert' in the U.S. is ultimately laughable - there are many runs in the Alps (Chamonix being the prime example) that exceed 6000' of sustained vertical (two Snowbirds stacked on top of each other).
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby riverc0il » Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:08 pm

Vertical is irrelevant. Setting the 'serious' number at 2k is crazy out east. By this standard, places like Jay and Waterville both have serious vert, as does Sunday River (no sustained). Many mountains it takes multiple lifts to get the full vert and often includes a run out. Whatev. There are a few mountains that truly offer amazing top to bottom vert with continuous pitch. But vert is the last thing I look for in an area. I think this is a minimum entry into the ball game... I like trail pods of at least 1000 feet or so. Enough that I get winded doing a full run and need to stop for a breather when the terrain is really challenging. Anything over 1000 vert is serious enough for me.... I am far more concerned with serious terrain than serious vert.

A great example here is Sugarbush. Serious vert by both eastern and western standards at both LP and ME. Skiable top to bottom at both mountains, too. Totally continuous though both requiring two lifts. But... only half of that vertical offers up great terrain. Great trail pods.... lousy T2B.
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby Geoff » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:51 am

rsmith wrote:
Geoff wrote:One of the reasons I picked 2,000 feet and 25 degrees was to make a point. KT-22 is only 1800 feet of vertical and doesn't qualify.


Then Alta would also have to be considered a mountain without 'serious vert' since Collins is also around 1800'.


Right. <sarcasm> You're a wimp if you ski vertically challenged Alta instead of the mighty Snowbird. </sarcasm>

I'm from the east. I have no problem getting my vertical 1000 feet at a time. My point in picking a metric of 2000' and 25 degrees sustained is that it excludes some really amazing skiing. Your point about Europe is also a very good one. Somebody sneering at a 1200 vertical foot lift claiming their 2000 vertical foot lift is the only worthy place to ski looks awfully stupid when that is stacked up against a Tignes or 3 Vallees or Chamonix. It's terrain and skiing surface that matter.

I still think the best skiing surface is usually found at the smaller areas that have older lift infrastructure. When an area upgrades to high speed quads, it puts too many people up on the hill. Whistler in the 1980's used to be amazing. The peak chair was a triple but everything else was doubles. It was trivial to find untracked powder 2 days after a storm. Now, it's all gone by noon. It also changes the vibe. You end up with powder Nazis who want to get their untracked runs in and any vestage of politeness vanishes.
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby rfarren » Wed Dec 01, 2010 2:47 pm

Vert I think is somewhat subjective. I found the vert at Steamboat short because the only terrain I felt was interesting (the chutes) skied really short and had an awful flat exit. The trails weren't that exciting to me as it was never that steep. I didn't find the trees at steamboat any better than any of the other places I had been on that trip. In fact, I found the trees over-rated ( I had wished they were a bit steeper ). Meanwhile, Alta, which is somewhat vertically challenged, skis way bigger because the terrain is far more interesting to me.

Those reasons are why I call Steamboat, "not so steepboat". I also think it is quite disingenuous to claim 3000 feet.
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby EMSC » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:51 pm

rfarren wrote: I also think it is quite disingenuous to claim 3000 feet.


I understand the direction you're going here, but you can ski top to bottom of over 3,600' without stopping... (unlike say, Big Sky, where the claimed vert requires a chair ride in the middle). I'm not sure how that is disingenuous exactly. By that measure Alta should only publish it's max vert from a single lift and etc... for every resort in the country. That means that Whistler only has a 3800 vertical since that's all you can get from one lift. And on and on.

More over, I would think just re-phrasing to say you weren't fond of the lift and terrain layout is sufficient. I think it had less to do with the actual vert involved.
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby longshanks » Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:42 pm

Geoff wrote:How about this for a metric: One lift with at least 2000 vertical feet and a sustained pitch of at least 25 degrees.


That's a tough metric no matter how you slice it...
Most would agree that there's many great ski areas out there with "serious vert" that don't quite measure up to that standard...I offer Castle Mountain Alberta which claims the longest continous fall lines in Canada. Castle's Lone Star @ 37 degrees and 1700' is nothing if not serious.
And then we should not forget Devils Club, Snow Rodeo and Pitch Black at Revelstoke, running from the top of the Stoke Chair to the Day Lodge...4700' is pretty [censored] long although I'm not sure of the actual pitch or how sustained it is...but regardless, this is some serious terrain man
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby wolfer » Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:20 pm

longshanks wrote:And then we should not forget Devils Club, Snow Rodeo and Pitch Black at Revelstoke, running from the top of the Stoke Chair to the Day Lodge...4700' is pretty [censored] long although I'm not sure of the actual pitch or how sustained it is...but regardless, this is some serious terrain man

-longest 4700' I have ever skied
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby rfarren » Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:22 pm

EMSC wrote:
rfarren wrote: I also think it is quite disingenuous to claim 3000 feet.


I understand the direction you're going here, but you can ski top to bottom of over 3,600' without stopping... (unlike say, Big Sky, where the claimed vert requires a chair ride in the middle). I'm not sure how that is disingenuous exactly. By that measure Alta should only publish it's max vert from a single lift and etc... for every resort in the country. That means that Whistler only has a 3800 vertical since that's all you can get from one lift. And on and on.

More over, I would think just re-phrasing to say you weren't fond of the lift and terrain layout is sufficient. I think it had less to do with the actual vert involved.


I guess I didn't realize you could ski the summit to the very base. I thought there was that hump in the middle where you have to take the lift up to?
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby EMSC » Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:48 pm

rfarren wrote:I guess I didn't realize you could ski the summit to the very base. I thought there was that hump in the middle where you have to take the lift up to?


There's a traverse-ish road in there where you can get to a run or two of the pitch on the lower mtn (storm peak side). You don't get up the to top of the knob though which limits your options. That said, not a lot of folks ski the mtn that way...

There is also the long green run which winds you down from the bottom of pioneer ridge on that side too...
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby coldsmoke » Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:04 am

(unlike say, Big Sky, where the claimed vert requires a chair ride in the middle)


Big Sky/Moonlight has the North Summit Snowfields. Tram > Moonlight Six Shooter is 4100+ continuous. That "run" is serious. I would call it a must do in North America.
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Re: Serious Vert

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:26 am

Geoff wrote:One lift with at least 2000 vertical feet and a sustained pitch of at least 25 degrees.

As the resident numbers geek, I can comment that this is a subject not easily quantified. IMHO it is laughable to exclude from a North American "serious vertical" list KT22's West Face or High Rustler, which are 1500+ vertical at 35+ degrees. Anyone here knows those are more "serious" than 25 degrees with 2 or 3x as much vertical.

The runs that end up at the top of a list like Geoff's are the ones with consistent pitch. Longshanks' 4,700 vertical examples from Revelstoke fit that bill the best. The 3,100 of Warm Springs or Limelight at Sun Valley would probably be next. But in terms of skills and conditioning required, or consequences if you screw up, the demands of the KT22/High Rustler type runs are much higher.

EMSC wrote:Whistler only has a 3800 vertical since that's all you can get from one lift.

:? There are several ways you can ski close to 5,000 vertical from the top of one of Whistler's or Blackcomb's lifts without having to take another lift to break up the run. And in the case of Peak-to-Creek there is not much in the way of a breather for the entire run.

Geoff wrote:When an area upgrades to high speed quads, it puts too many people up on the hill. Whistler in the 1980's used to be amazing. The peak chair was a triple but everything else was doubles.

That doesn't work when you get 2 million skier visits per year. In the 1990's the Peak chair was running half hour lift lines. 99+% of skiers would vote for the high speed quad in that situation (even Collins at hallowed Alta!) as long as the terrain served by the lift (which is truly vast for the Whistler Peak) can handle it. If you want multiple day powder you need to go somewhere way off the beaten track like Castle or Whitewater.

Geoff wrote:I have no problem getting my vertical 1000 feet at a time. ...It's terrain and skiing surface that matter.

Agree 100%. In terms of terrain I'd be hard pressed to find a better 1000 vert terrain pod than Baldy's Thunder Mt. anywhere I've skied: Varied pitch groomers, sustained mogul runs and wall-to-wall tree skiing between and beyond the cut runs. Baldy's snow surface is another story; I can relate to the easterners there.

coldsmoke wrote:Big Sky/Moonlight has the North Summit Snowfields. Tram > Moonlight Six Shooter is 4100+ continuous.

Good point, that is longer than any continuous vertical on the Big Sky side. The top 2,000-2,500 is very serious (just ask Patrick's camera lens :lol: ), but Six Shooter is a typical blue cruiser.
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