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Ski descent ratings?

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports
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Ski descent ratings?

Postby Dave B » Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:25 pm

I've only recently noticed the ski descent ratings on several of the route descriptions on this site.

Where do these come from? Are they determined by the "first decensionist" the way FAers get to rate rock climbs? Or is it a consensus?

I'm assuming that these are quite dependent upon conditions, but is there a comprehensive list of these ratings available somewhere? I've noticed that Lou Dawson has a select list of descents for each rating, but I'm interested in something more specific to CO.
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:28 pm

If you click on the "D Rating" for each of those route descriptions, you'll find answers.
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby Dave B » Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:35 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:If you click on the "D Rating" for each of those route descriptions, you'll have all the answers.


So, I understand the difference in the ratings. But, it seems to me that there would be some subjectivity between say a D6 and a D9 since the difference of "difficulty" can depend on a skiers skill. So, Bill, in creating the routes did you base the rating you applied off of average slope angle? Personal experience on the route?

It would seem to me that using slope angles wouldn't capture the more subjective differences that distinguish grades within a specific slope angle (like the D6-D9 range mentioned above).

It's also possible that I'm way overthinking this 8-[
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:53 pm

First off, yes, I skied every route where I've indicated a ski rating.

The "D" system does indicate slope angle throughout the scale, so I think different people should be able to come up with similar ratings for a given route, if they can estimate slope angle with some accuracy. I don't think a skiers ability level matters when coming up with a specific rating, it should depend on the attributes of the route. And, yes, it's a bit subjective; A D9 could become much more difficult if it was covered with ice, for example. There will always be variables which may make a route more (or less) difficult than even an agreed-upon difficulty rating.

You might be over-thinking it. :)

More from Lou:

Routes generally increase in difficulty on the D Scale as slope angle increases, but slope angle is only part of the picture. In other words, a route that’s a few degrees lower angled than another could actually rate higher on the scale if it had terrain features that made it tougher to descend. Thus, In the case of routes with similar slope pitches, terrain features and obstacles would ratchet a route higher or lower on the D Scale, but length of steep crux sections would play a part as well. Terrain features of concern include but are not limited to: tree skiing (open or tight), narrows, melt or avalanche runnels (if usually present), drops, cliff jumps, traverses to link sections of a route, narrows, mandatory rappels, etcetera.

Since this is a linear system of describing difficulty, some routes fall close to each other on the scale and their rating may be debatable. To help refine ratings, factors such as the total length of the route, length of the steep sections and amount of tough terrain may be considered as well. Again, as this is a linear system, public consensus will provide the final rating of routes. In other words, rating routes for the D Scale part of the D System should first be based on terrain features and slope angles, but should allow other factors to place the route in the continuum of the rating scale. In the end, just as in rock climbing difficulty ratings (5.x), eventually there will be little need to describe criteria for each rating, as numerous routes will serve as examples.
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby lordhelmut » Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:15 pm

It'd be cool to have a Mountain Project for skiing (Backcountry Coalition kind of has done this). But like Bill said, and as Lou eluded to in his page on Wildsnow, there are probably too many things that go in to rating a ski line. I agree though, about the grey area of a D6 to a D9. I always thought it'd be easier to breakdown in to 5 groups :

1 - anyone can ski it and there is no way to die
2 - moderately experienced people can ski it, should have basic knowledge of avy awareness and there still isn't much in way of danger
3 - experienced skier suggested terrain, getting in to spring snowpack skiing only lines, routes, weather and conditions should be analyzed and assessed week leading up, lines where you still have the chance to enjoy yourself
4 - not for the faint at heart, lines skied solely for the purpose of chasing a list, if you fall you will probably die, odds of sharting yourself are above 50%
5 - Suicidal Dick waiving contest, the majority of the descent isn't even skiing, its barely surviving, mainly sidestepping down 55-65 degree slopes over massive cliffs, no fun to be had on the way down and a line you vow never to ski ever again when you are done.
Last edited by lordhelmut on Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby Dave B » Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:31 pm

lordhelmut wrote:It'd be cool to have a Mountain Project for skiing (Backcountry Coalition kind of has done this).


I hadn't seen that site before, a lot of gaps in the information but it would be awesome if/when it gets filled in a bit more.

Bill, thanks for the exhaustive answer!
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby Dave B » Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:35 pm

lordhelmut wrote:1 - anyone can ski it and there is no way to die
2 - moderately experienced people can ski it, should have basic knowledge of avy awareness and there still isn't much in way of danger
3 - experienced skier only terrain, getting in to spring snowpack skiing only lines, routes, weather and conditions should be analyzed and assessed week leading up, lines where you still have the chance to enjoy yourself
4 - not for the faint at heart, lines skied solely for the purpose of chasing a list, if you fall you will probably die, odds of sharting yourself are above 50%
5 - Suicidal Dick waiving contest, the majority of the descent isn't even skiing, its barely surviving, mainly sidestepping down 55-65 degree slopes over massive cliffs, no fun to be had on the way down and a line you vow never to ski ever again when you are done.


In considering this, I like the simplicity of such a scale and think it would suffice for those confident in their skills. For the more timid skiers (i.e. this guy) more expansive range of ratings would better guide us into making wise decisions regarding when day-dreaming at work.
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby taylorzs » Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:44 pm

lordhelmut wrote:5 - Suicidal Dick waiving contest, the majority of the descent isn't even skiing, its barely surviving, mainly sidestepping down 55-65 degree slopes over massive cliffs, no fun to be had on the way down and a line you vow never to ski ever again when you are done.

"Suicidal dick waving contest"! That is great! My new favorite term for a really extreme line.
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby bergsteigen » Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:56 pm

taylorzs wrote:
lordhelmut wrote:5 - Suicidal Dick waiving contest, the majority of the descent isn't even skiing, its barely surviving, mainly sidestepping down 55-65 degree slopes over massive cliffs, no fun to be had on the way down and a line you vow never to ski ever again when you are done.

"Suicidal dick waving contest"! That is great! My new favorite term for a really extreme line.


Some of my BC partners use slightly different terminology, but same connotation. Note: Can not be used in mixed company/internet.
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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby lordhelmut » Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:03 pm

Note: Can not be used in mixed company/internet.


Come on Otina. 14ers.com is one big happy dysfunctional family. No judging allowed.

Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby bergsteigen » Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:14 pm

lordhelmut wrote:
Note: Can not be used in mixed company/internet.


Come on Otina. 14ers.com is one big happy dysfunctional family. No judging allowed.


Not judging. I personally enjoy their usage of terms for ski lines as well as their confidence (or lack their of) in skiing them! I just can't fathom typing it out for public viewing... Your verbage is much more accepted.
"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games."
- Ernest Hemingway (or was it Barnaby Conrad?)

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Re: Ski descent ratings?

Postby JTOlson26 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:28 pm

How many of the 14ers would fall under the first 3 of lordhelmut's categories?

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