Winter Park Resort’s Ski Trail Statistics

As a quick update to last month’s post, you are no doubt aware that snowfall has continued to be excellent, another 87 inches since my last snowfall post, already more than the 268.7inches for the 2003-4 season which will “drop off” the 10-year average, ensuring that the actual 10-year average will now nudge up beyond the 326 inches currently. Got it?

In keeping with this statistical theme, I’ve often wondered how much the “perception” of the degree difficulty of the trails at the Winter Park Resort plays into the decisions of the winter vacationing public (especially first-timers to the area) when they are choosing where to ski. Of course, skiing conditions, snowfall amounts and other factors determining the desirability of a ski resort comes into play, but when I was based in England and skiing in Europe twice a year, the trail map and the stats which revealed the percentages of the mountain that were designated “Easy”, “Intermediate” or “Advanced” were always scoured and a factor in our decision.

Depending where you look, the classifications of how a trail is rated are not consistent. SkiTown.com, for example, rates the trails thus:

Easiest            8%

More Difficult  36%

Most Difficult   53%

Experts Only   3%

However, compare this to OnTheSnow.com:

Beginner          10%

Intermediate    20%

Advanced        18%

Expert             52%

How about ColoradoSkiAuthority.com:

Beginner          8%

Intermediate    17%

Advanced        19%

Most Difficult   56%

And the Denver Post:

Beginner          8%

Intermediate    18%

Advanced        19%

Expert             55%

Incidentally, the Denver Post’s stats bear the closest correlation to the Winter Park Resort’s own official stats, except that Winter Park breaks down “Expert” into 2 categories for a total of 5 – Most Difficult at 52% and Expert at 3%.

These last three websites above indicate that over half the Resort is Expert and 70-75% is Advanced/Expert. The most consistent statistic is that only 8-10% of the trails are beginner.

Here’s my point. Probably 80% of the skiing population is in the beginner/intermediate category. A simple acid test of this would be to go and ski March Hare on a Saturday and then take a run down Boiler. And yet only 25% of the trails on the mountain cater to this level of ability, with only 8-10% suitable for beginners. One would think Winter Park is not a good place to learn to ski, but on the contrary, it’s a great place to learn to ski – if only you knew!

On the counter-side, three-quarters of the mountain is devoted to Advanced/Expert skiers who probably make up only 20% of the people on mountain.

I think the biggest problem here is that these trail stats are determined by acres rather than actual number of trails. I did a very quick count (and therefore there is a little margin for error, but not much) of actual trails with the 5 classifications per the Winter Park Resort and here’s what I came up with:

Beginner          24%

Intermediate    21%

Advanced        16%

Most Difficult   34%

Expert             5%

This for me is a far more accurate reflection of the range of skiing difficulty at the Resort and would also in my opinion make for a better marketing message when trying to sell the resort to the skiing population as a whole.

I’ll be sure to pass this message on to the appropriate authorities in due course.

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