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The Future of Reporting Skiable Acres

January 22, 2009

Just as the length of a wall tells us nothing about the size of a room, the one dimensional metrics that ski resorts have been throwing at us in their snow reports for years tell us nothing about how much terrain is actually open. When you want to get a feel for the size of a room, you’d probably ask for the area. When it comes to open terrain, you should be looking for skiable acres.

Let’s look at a little example. If I were to compare Killington and Vail using the trail counts that these two resorts use in their snow reports, I may be led to believe that Killington - with its 200 trails - is similar in size to Vail, with its 193. In reality, while Killington is a respectably sized eastern resort, it is only 23% of the size of Vail. Vertical rise and elevation can be just as deceptive for a whole host of other reasons, too.

Skiable acres, on the other hand, is one number that paints a pretty complete picture. By knowing the area of all the open trails combined, you get an excellent sense of how much skiing or riding there is to be done. It takes all of the abstraction and marketing out of the equation.

When I’m looking at conditions to decide between mountain A and mountain B, I have a handful of websites that I check for recent trip reports posted by other users. Because so much real information is now available in the decision making process, it really doesn’t make any sense for resorts to continue to be less than truthful about their open terrain. Mount Snow in southern Vermont seems to understand this - just this year, they began reporting skiable acres as opposed to a trail count; they deserve a pat on the back.

I for one wonder why we have to stop at skiable acres. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how many acres of tree skiing a resort has? High Alpine? Park features? Bumps? A little more information would do us all some good.