For me, personally, skiing holds everything. I used to race cars, but skiing is a step beyond that. It removes the machinery and puts you one step closer to the elements. And it's a complete physical expression of freedom - Robert Redford
A few days ago we shared with you the methodology of our models to evaluate the ski mountains located within an hours driving distance of our condo in the valley. Today we share with you the first of the analysis: The Total Challenge Rating. To recap, this first piece covers how challenging we believe these mountains are, based on the math and not based our experiences of skiing mountains in the past. We have skied all of these mountains at one time or another (though some a long while ago) so this has shaped the numbers to some extent but there is no input so to speak of our opinions directly in the metrics. To recap the perspectives from the note a few days ago and what we look for in a mountain, is as follows
First, the mountain needs to be challenging or have plenty of options that are quite challenging. Second, since we have young children, it must have a good ski school and trails that beginners can use and learn on (so they can move quickly from the bunny slope onto the mountain). Our last requirement of a mountain is the apres ski but more from a lunch/dinner opportunity - does the mountain have good options and does the surrounding area have good options?
The Total Challenge Rating is broken down into five parts. First, we looked at the Vertical Decent per trail. We used MountainVertical.com's calculations of "True Vertical Distance" within these calculations because we agree with the methodology (versus the claims of each mountains vertical distance posted on each of their websites.
Welcome to article #1 on our mathematical ratings of the mountains within driving distance of of our location in Bartlett, NH. The mountains reachable within 1 hour of our place are as follows
What is the conventional definition of vertical drop? How is True-Up Vertical different? The conventional definition of "vertical drop" is more rudimentary: it is the elevation at a mountains highest point minus elevation at the lowest point but does not take into account the skiability of all the terrain in between. True-Up Vertical is similar, but also considers the all of the terrain of the mountain and will limit the measurement based on the vertical that is commonly skied. Why is knowing the True-Up Vertical more meaningful in your mountain research? Basically, True-Up Vertical is meant to be skier's perspective on mountain height, not a topographical view on mountain height. A resort's topography might occupy a 3000 ft vertical drop, but if the mountain terrain flowed in a way where you would never actually ski that full amount, then that 3000 ft measurement isn't representative of what you would experience. True-Up Vertical asks the question - what is the typical full amount of drop that you would normally ski, run after run, when you go to visit that ski resort.
Taking into account this data input, we cross this metric with the number of trails on the mountain creating a measure of "Vertical distance per trail." Obviously the more vertical distance per trail, the greater the challenge of the mountain on average. The results of this metric yield this top four names: Wildcat Mountain, Loon Mountain, Cannon Mountain and Attitash Mountain.
The next variable is a simple measure of the dispersion of a given mountain's trails: a weighted measure of the beginner trails, the intermediate trails, the advanced trails and the expert trails. Those with higher numbers were more challenging and conversely, the one's with lower numbers were less challenging. We gave more weight to double diamonds versus the green's. The top four on this measure were Sunday River, Cannon Mountain, Bretton Woods and Black Mountain. In addition to this base rating, taking it one step further, we weighted it by the total trails of a given mountain - the more trails there are, theoretically the more overall challenge one could argue. That yielded this top four: Sunday River, Bretton Woods, Cannon Mountain and Attitash Mountain.
The next variable evaluated was the skiable acres of the mountain relative to the number of trails. The lower the skiable acres per trail means the trails could be more narrow as a result on average. This means things can be a bit more challenging as a result (less space to navigate if other people or objects are on the given trails). The top 4 mountains using this measure: Wildcat Mountain, Cannon Mountain, Loon Mountain and Black Mountain.
Our last variable relates to the weather. This was a big challenging in itself but in short, we basically did a high low average of the temps and added in the average precipitation of this period as well. The thinking was this: the wider the high and lows means the wider the swings in temperature. The more the precipitation, the more the snow. Combining the swings in the weather by snow storms and you get challenging conditions! We know that it is not perfect but still useful! The top four mountains based on this measure are: Wildcat Mountain, Bretton Woods and then a 3 way tie (Attitash, Cranmore and Black Mountain).
So how does one use this indicator? Well, if you want a tough day on the slopes, on average and you are staying at our place or in the relative proximity, then this ranking can give you an idea of how tough or easy your day will be. We realize that this indicator does not take into account the level of challenge in regards to the terrain parks or how tough the tree skiing is - there is no actual data on that anywhere. From reviews of guests who have stayed with us, Bretton Woods offered great tree skiing in the past relative to Attitash and others in the area. Wildcat has some pretty tough moguls the last time we were on the mountain. Further on Wildcat, a strong wind/snow hit us while we were there hurting visibility. Lastly, some reviews from our guests said that one New Years the wind and weather at Cranmore was so extreme that it made skiing very unenjoyable - based on my weather numbers though, there is no way to measure such!
So there you have it. Rating system number one posted. Feel free to send along comments if you agree or disagree. We hope to have the next rating out in the next day or two - basically a measure, using the math, of enjoyability of a given mountain. More to come.