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How do pistes in US/Canada/EU compare?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I still remember skiing in JH with irbis and being called "backpack faggots!" by a chap who passed by.

To be fair, we were inbounds at the time, but we skied out of bounds that day. So maybe the backpacks had a role:)

Back to this thread, my experience (based on Snowbird, Alta, JH, Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Whistler - but not extensive time in any of them):
- double blacks in the US / Canada vary a lot between resorts. Maybe even more than blacks vary in Europe
- the hardest double blacks in the US are, in my view, harder than the hardest blacks or even itineraries in Europe (though Europe does have a few tough ones - the Tunnel in AdH when it's mogulled, Swiss Wall, etc). Mainly because they name runs that would be offpiste itineraries in Europe. That could indeed throw off a reasonably good skier from Europe who thought he /she could handle blacks.
- on the other hand, get off the pisted runs in Europe and, in some resorts at least, you can get in a lot more trouble than skiing inbounds in the US - and not just due to avy danger.

So, all in all, quite a different experience, which is great.

(I do think some of the experienced offpiste skiers on this thread forget how frightening a steep mogulled run with some trees could seem to a good Euro black run skier).
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I think it needs real care when comparing Europe and North America (I live in Calgary).

Inbounds in North America means avalanche controlled (so in that sense North America is sanitized) but just because it's got a name doesn't mean it's a piste (in the European sense).

Grading of runs is relative to a resort so just because you can ski a double black at Sunshine doesn't mean you can do the same at Kicking Horse. Skiing double blacks is very much a case of "heads up" skiing and don't expect hazards to be as well marked. There's also a bit of a competition around number of runs etc and so we have to be careful in that sense as well.

Let's take a look at Lake Louise as an example... Frontside first. Pretty much everything on here would be a piste in the European sense I think. There will be maps at intersections and most of the runs will have been groomed at some stage.



Now the backside - As you can see the majority of it is black / double black. If there's no line drawn it's a case of "Choose your own adventure". Pretty much anything on this side isn't groomed often with the exception of the blue / green (and #76 Ptarmigan). The double blacks are really just zones and they do have signs at the top but beyond each gully of whitehorn it all sort of merges a bit. Run #95 (Paradise bowl) is (I'm guessing) quite like a moguled black in europe as it's a very popular route down.



Even somewhere like Lousie there's quite a variation within double black as it's everything harder than a single black. Personally my limit is the easier double blacks (Cowboys, Paradise Cornice, Boundary bowl) and I won't go onto the harder ones (ER 's) unless it's fantastic. But that comes from local knowledge.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
@Blackblade, Nope as the US doesn't have Reds.


Yes, you're right, shouldn't post late at night !

Green = Green
Blue = Blue
Red = Single Black
Black = Mostly also single Black but some could be Double
Itinerary = Double Black
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So is it / could it be a fair appraisal that USA resorts could be deemed to be a wee bit more "sanitised" than their Canadian cousins?

And @Dave of the Marmottes, get over it................. rolling eyes

And,.....

https://www.ledauphine.com/hautes-alpes/2019/03/12/hautes-alpes-accident-la-grave-un-skieur-decede-dans-le-ravin-de-chirouze

And posted from a mate today, Mayrhofen lift access !



Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Tue 12-03-19 21:55; edited 1 time in total
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@bobcat, come to a conclusion yet? Very Happy

(And if you look at that Lake Louise map, in the Larch area, there is a run called Bobcat marked as a blue. If that's blue when I went down it then I'm Lindsey Vonn. It was the Somme on a steep slope.)
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Weathercam wrote:
So is it / could it be a fair appraisal that USA resorts could be deemed to be a wee bit more "sanitised" than their Canadian cousins?...

I really don't think that is fair, no. I suppose it depends what you mean, precisely, and where you go. Beaver Creek is fairly sanitized; Taos is not.
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& yet Beaver Creek has Grouse Mountain on which most Euro piste skiers would poo-poo their pants due to all the runs being steepish mogul fields and Royal Elk Glades where it is childishly easier to wrap yourself round a tree than ski clean and fast.
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Where did the OP go?
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Got bored with all the willy-waving.
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stuarth wrote:
Perfectly sane Madeye-Smiley - there's probably a cliff sign up there somewhere to keep you safe! wink


No, no, you're completely wrong.... there is absolutely no need for a sign cos the whole area is patrolled and avi controlled. They'll be fine.... wink
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Think @sweaman22 summed it up really well with examples.

Guess you could pick outliers on either continent. Need someone to overlay big euro resort in a similar way to make a comparison.
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Some more sanitised in bounds north American skiing terrain snowHead

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=516198275570619&id=118625865957&refsrc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F&_rdr
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Silly question! Do they still have triple blacks as when I was in whistler a few years ago they did ,or was it just a whistler marketing ploy?
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I'm still here! Not sure how much the wiser I am for asking Laughing also didn't realize it was such a controversial topic!

Seriously though, it sounds like slopes are a bit tougher in the US and Canada than the EU which is good with me because I was getting bored.
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stuarth wrote:
Guess you could pick outliers on either continent. Need someone to overlay big euro resort in a similar way to make a comparison.


And even then we see the same difference in mentality. Euro resorts are marketed/measured in kms of piste; NA resorts are measured in terms of skiable terrain.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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bobcat wrote:
I'm still here! Not sure how much the wiser I am for asking Laughing also didn't realize it was such a controversial topic!

Seriously though, it sounds like slopes are a bit tougher in the US and Canada than the EU which is good with me because I was getting bored.


Personally, having skied both, I think it varies resort to resort and trying to generalise is doomed to failure. I think that, overall, there’s a rough equivalence until you get to Double Black (US) and Itinerary (EU) where there’s such a wide range of difficulty in those categories that we could all cite this run or that run to make a point but it doesn’t really resolve the overall issue.

So, I’m not sure it’s controversial as such but just that so many resorts have runs which don’t seem to exactly fit the grading anyway. Certainly, in Europe I’ve noticed that the runs back to the resort tend to be Blue ... even when they have narrow and tricky stretches ... but perhaps I’m being cynical.

If you want challenging I’d highly recommend Jackson Hole ...
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Blackblade wrote:
.....Personally, having skied both, I think it varies resort to resort and trying to generalise is doomed to failure. ...


A bit like trying to compare La Grave with Val D'Isere, Chamonix (high altitude) with La Plagne etc etc

And @boarder2020, be interesting next season to hear your views on Chamonix vs BC, though to get to the very best initially you will need a guide, now is that another thread ?
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bobcat wrote:
I'm still here! Not sure how much the wiser I am for asking Laughing also didn't realize it was such a controversial topic!


It's not necessarily a controversial topic, more that any question of this type on the forum will involve some sensible answers, then some disagreement and pedantic semantics, then a lot of willy waving. All that is now required is "boot fitter", "lessons" and either an accusation of racism or sexism and you'll have the full snow heads experience condensed into one neat thread. (did I forget a spelling/grammar comment).
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@rogg, and seems nigh on everyone wears helmets over there Laughing Laughing Laughing
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Weathercam wrote:
@rogg, and seems nigh on everyone wears helmets over there Laughing Laughing Laughing
But do they click their poles when passing on a cat track?
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Wallski wrote:
Silly question! Do they still have triple blacks as when I was in whistler a few years ago they did ,or was it just a whistler marketing ploy?


Don't really think it is a marketing ploy as triple blacks are not marked runs and don't appear on the resort map. More a well known unofficial thing I think (eg Hawaii five-o, Bushrat, Lone pine, etc..) - some that are marked double black, eg Sapphire bowl, have entrances that fall into the (unofficial?) triple black category.
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@Orange200 - Bobcat over by Larch is indeed a bit of a weird one. Last time I skied it (January) it had a black diamond on a post at the entrance and was very much more black than blue with some pretty substantial moguls on it. I could see if it was groomed than it'd be blue but they seem to have a bit abandoned it and it was very much a black.
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rogg wrote:
bobcat wrote:
I'm still here! Not sure how much the wiser I am for asking Laughing also didn't realize it was such a controversial topic!


It's not necessarily a controversial topic, more that any question of this type on the forum will involve some sensible answers, then some disagreement and pedantic semantics, then a lot of willy waving. All that is now required is "boot fitter", "lessons" and either an accusation of racism or sexism and you'll have the full snow heads experience condensed into one neat thread. (did I forget a spelling/grammar comment).


Don't forgot the clown telling us all the snow is melting and skiing as a sport is a thing of the past...
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To me, the difference in Europe compared to the US (have skied a dozen resorts in the US) is that in Europe there are two big advantages:

1) Long lifts with long runs allow you to clock up lots of vertical fast. Yesterday morning in less than 2 hours, I logged ~4320 meters or about 14,000 vertical feet... this is in Saas Fee... going up/down Plattjen, up runs from Spielboden/Langfluh, etc. Have had the same experience in places like Grands Montets where you can take two lifts and churn out 2000 meters from the glacier to the base. Some resorts take a bit more effort but you get the idea. Take a good look at the vast number of mountains that have 4,000+ vertical feet.

2) I personally love above treeline so when you visit a mountain like Grands Montets, Le Tour, Obergurgl, Cervinia, Courmayeur, the "official" numbers don't tell the real story. You have access to tons of off piste. Yes, as someone said, that means you can get yourself in trouble so it is a double-edged sword. What may look like one run on a section of a piste map would be 5-10 or more runs on a US-based map. The example from Sunshine is perfect... that little section below Summit Platter shows 10 runs? Pylons or Point de Vue at Les Grands Montets may each be listed as one run but both are massively open spaces and both are 4,000 vertical foot runs. You just don't have that in the US.

Otherwise.... I'll take food on European mountains any day over the US. The on-mountain restaurant atmosphere and prices, save for Switzerland, are much cheaper... as are lift tickets, lessons, etc. Not to mention you can go to a place like Saas-Fee and gawk at glaciers that are right in your face. Amazing.
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ItaloSkier wrote:
To me, the difference in Europe compared to the US (have skied a dozen resorts in the US) is that in Europe there are two big advantages:

1) Long lifts with long runs allow you to clock up lots of vertical fast. Yesterday morning in less than 2 hours, I logged ~4320 meters or about 14,000 vertical feet... this is in Saas Fee... going up/down Plattjen, up runs from Spielboden/Langfluh, etc. Have had the same experience in places like Grands Montets where you can take two lifts and churn out 2000 meters from the glacier to the base. Some resorts take a bit more effort but you get the idea. Take a good look at the vast number of mountains that have 4,000+ vertical feet.

2) I personally love above treeline so when you visit a mountain like Grands Montets, Le Tour, Obergurgl, Cervinia, Courmayeur, the "official" numbers don't tell the real story. You have access to tons of off piste. Yes, as someone said, that means you can get yourself in trouble so it is a double-edged sword. What may look like one run on a section of a piste map would be 5-10 or more runs on a US-based map. The example from Sunshine is perfect... that little section below Summit Platter shows 10 runs? Pylons or Point de Vue at Les Grands Montets may each be listed as one run but both are massively open spaces and both are 4,000 vertical foot runs. You just don't have that in the US.

Otherwise.... I'll take food on European mountains any day over the US. The on-mountain restaurant atmosphere and prices, save for Switzerland, are much cheaper... as are lift tickets, lessons, etc. Not to mention you can go to a place like Saas-Fee and gawk at glaciers that are right in your face. Amazing.


Apart from the food (though can of course go to a nice restaurant when I can't go skiing), my opinion would be exactly the opposite.
Just shows that "better" is very much personal preference snowHead
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mr. mike wrote:
@rogg, we need someone to bring up snow tyres/tires to complete things.


And brexit Twisted Evil
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stuarth wrote:
ItaloSkier wrote:
To me, the difference in Europe compared to the US (have skied a dozen resorts in the US) is that in Europe there are two big advantages:

1) Long lifts with long runs allow you to clock up lots of vertical fast. Yesterday morning in less than 2 hours, I logged ~4320 meters or about 14,000 vertical feet... this is in Saas Fee... going up/down Plattjen, up runs from Spielboden/Langfluh, etc. Have had the same experience in places like Grands Montets where you can take two lifts and churn out 2000 meters from the glacier to the base. Some resorts take a bit more effort but you get the idea. Take a good look at the vast number of mountains that have 4,000+ vertical feet.

2) I personally love above treeline so when you visit a mountain like Grands Montets, Le Tour, Obergurgl, Cervinia, Courmayeur, the "official" numbers don't tell the real story. You have access to tons of off piste. Yes, as someone said, that means you can get yourself in trouble so it is a double-edged sword. What may look like one run on a section of a piste map would be 5-10 or more runs on a US-based map. The example from Sunshine is perfect... that little section below Summit Platter shows 10 runs? Pylons or Point de Vue at Les Grands Montets may each be listed as one run but both are massively open spaces and both are 4,000 vertical foot runs. You just don't have that in the US.

Otherwise.... I'll take food on European mountains any day over the US. The on-mountain restaurant atmosphere and prices, save for Switzerland, are much cheaper... as are lift tickets, lessons, etc. Not to mention you can go to a place like Saas-Fee and gawk at glaciers that are right in your face. Amazing.


Apart from the food (though can of course go to a nice restaurant when I can't go skiing), my opinion would be exactly the opposite.
Just shows that "better" is very much personal preference snowHead


I can't speak for Canada but yes, different strokes for different folks. You're not going to go somewhere in the US and find a lift like Cresta d'Arp that is designed to solely lead to off-piste skiing. Other people put it well... its awfully easy to get in trouble fast in Europe as you can go where you want since personal responsibility is a much bigger thing . That's why you tend to read stories about skiers going off-piste and skiing off 100 meter cliffs or falling into crevasses. You have access to whatever you really whatever you want but that comes with higher chances of injury and death... and cool helicopter rescues in Chamonix like the one posted earlier this ski season.

Oh... and I believe rescue is cheaper in Europe. I've only been injured twice... once in Austria (was able to get down on my own) and once in France is St. Gervais Les Bains where I had to be brought down the mountain. Ski insurance on a lift pass is cheap and covers rescue and medical fees (if you are a European citizen). If you have to pay ouf of pocket, medical costs tend to be lower. Rescue seems to be, as well. Here is what is listed at Obergurgl, for example:

SLOPE RESCUE COSTS (EXCLUSIVE OF RED CROSS
& HELICOPTER TRANSPORT)
n Marked ski area € 170
n Marked ski area if helicopter is needed € 190
n Free skiing terrain € 220
n Service ride € 40
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FoofyNoo wrote:
Having been to a number of resorts in BC, like me, most skiers used to Europe get quite a shock.
We don't realize how sanitized skiing is in Europe until we go elsewhere..


I actually think it's a bit more nuanced than this - Piste in Europe is easier at black level, but off-piste is harder. I ski annually in BC, Utah, California and France (currently living in Morzine and got back from Park City a couple of weeks back).

Double Black Diamonds in big US resorts are often big, hard bump runs, or what we would call off-piste runs here in Europe. So N.American runs are, I thin, harder at the black level.

However, as everything in bounds is patrolled, skiing is safer as most lines you pick are going to see you just fine. Try that here in Europe, and you can easily end up going off a cliff. Picking your way around resort off-piste is a harder prospect here in France.

I think that US resorts make off-piste far more accessible, which I love. But for a pists skier, hit a few double black diamonds expecting a European black run, and you will get a shock. Saw a couple of scared looking folk at the top of McConkey's and Jupiter in PCMR on my last visit, wondering how on earth a mared black line on a piste map could be a steep, deep, bumpy hell-raiser of a run!
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ItaloSkier wrote:
stuarth wrote:
ItaloSkier wrote:
To me, the difference in Europe compared to the US (have skied a dozen resorts in the US) is that in Europe there are two big advantages:

1) Long lifts with long runs allow you to clock up lots of vertical fast. Yesterday morning in less than 2 hours, I logged ~4320 meters or about 14,000 vertical feet... this is in Saas Fee... going up/down Plattjen, up runs from Spielboden/Langfluh, etc. Have had the same experience in places like Grands Montets where you can take two lifts and churn out 2000 meters from the glacier to the base. Some resorts take a bit more effort but you get the idea. Take a good look at the vast number of mountains that have 4,000+ vertical feet.

2) I personally love above treeline so when you visit a mountain like Grands Montets, Le Tour, Obergurgl, Cervinia, Courmayeur, the "official" numbers don't tell the real story. You have access to tons of off piste. Yes, as someone said, that means you can get yourself in trouble so it is a double-edged sword. What may look like one run on a section of a piste map would be 5-10 or more runs on a US-based map. The example from Sunshine is perfect... that little section below Summit Platter shows 10 runs? Pylons or Point de Vue at Les Grands Montets may each be listed as one run but both are massively open spaces and both are 4,000 vertical foot runs. You just don't have that in the US.

Otherwise.... I'll take food on European mountains any day over the US. The on-mountain restaurant atmosphere and prices, save for Switzerland, are much cheaper... as are lift tickets, lessons, etc. Not to mention you can go to a place like Saas-Fee and gawk at glaciers that are right in your face. Amazing.


Apart from the food (though can of course go to a nice restaurant when I can't go skiing), my opinion would be exactly the opposite.
Just shows that "better" is very much personal preference snowHead


I can't speak for Canada but yes, different strokes for different folks. You're not going to go somewhere in the US and find a lift like Cresta d'Arp that is designed to solely lead to off-piste skiing. Other people put it well... its awfully easy to get in trouble fast in Europe as you can go where you want since personal responsibility is a much bigger thing . That's why you tend to read stories about skiers going off-piste and skiing off 100 meter cliffs or falling into crevasses. You have access to whatever you really whatever you want but that comes with higher chances of injury and death... and cool helicopter rescues in Chamonix like the one posted earlier this ski season.


You can do that quite easily here too Sad
Quite a few people get rescued from the north shore mountains for example (and unfortunately, quite a few do not Sad )
That is literally in sight of a very large city.

So really not sure if arguing that European, north American, or anywhere else mountains are more gnarly is possible/relevant
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Quote:
Other people put it well... its awfully easy to get in trouble fast in Europe ..

Actually they were arguing precisely the opposite.

Thanks for proving my point in a way I didn't expect wink


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 13-03-19 22:12; edited 1 time in total
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Wait... I think we're maybe saying the same thing. I don't mean get in trouble with the authorities... I mean get in trouble by skiing off a cliff or falling in a crevasse, getting buried, etc. Its not like in the US where there are "out of bounds" signs all over the place. In Europe you can usually go where you want... and if you get yourself in trouble, its your problem since it is not a litigation-happy society.
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Blackblade wrote:
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
@Blackblade, Nope as the US doesn't have Reds.


Yes, you're right, shouldn't post late at night !

Green = Green
Blue = Blue
Red = Single Black
Black = Mostly also single Black but some could be Double
Itinerary = Double Black

Having skied extensively both sides of the pond, I think that's fair but incomplete; although I have never found an itinerary that matches the challenge of the toughest double blacks.

Much depends on what you find difficult, though. In North America, you are much more likely to find ungroomed snow, moguls, trees, vegetation, tight spots, natural hazards and difficulty with navigation. I have seen most of these even on blue runs. Black runs will usually have at least one of the above; double blacks will have at least two at the same point of a run, usually coinciding with extreme steepness.

In Europe, you are much more likely to encounter sustained steep pitches, groomed steeps, and ice. I've personally never found anything like Face or some of the polished St Anton blacks in North America.

I think that many European skiers would struggle badly on many North American single blacks. But I also think that someone who has skied only in North America would find some European icy steeps very intimidating.

In my view, the best thing is to ski both sides of the Atlantic as often as you can possibly manage.


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Wed 13-03-19 20:33; edited 1 time in total
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@Jonny Jones,
Quote:

I have seen most of these even on blue runs.

I can remember skiing rather quickly in Snowmass on a beautifully groomed, blue run and thinking that it would be best not to make a mistake at speed, as the likelihood of hitting a tree in the middle of the piste was alarmingly high. Shocked
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So, all skiing is (mostly) good skiing. I do like coming to Europe during US spring break because I find much smaller crowds. Mind you, I don't come during British mid-terms or when the Dutch take holidays. So, I see looong lift lines in the US and choose wisely and find I can ski up/down all day in Europe.

That said, I learned to ski in Italy as a kid... when we moved to the US, I spent 20 years skiing mostly in Colorado, some in Utah and Tahoe... and my mind always always would go back to the European skiing experience... Val Gardena, Aosta, etc. Once we started coming back, I have a hard time doing anything but... that said, I'd love to go back to Squaw or check out places like Big Sky, Mammoth, etc.
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Harry Flashman wrote:
FoofyNoo wrote:
Having been to a number of resorts in BC, like me, most skiers used to Europe get quite a shock.
We don't realize how sanitized skiing is in Europe until we go elsewhere..


However, as everything in bounds is patrolled, skiing is safer as most lines you pick are going to see you just fine.!


I think our experience is different ... I would totally agree with you if it wasn't so terrain dependent.

On most lines in BC I can only see a few meters as I am in the middle of a large quantity of trees.

There is absolutely no chance of being seen if injured..... even if the area is officially 'patrolled'.

If the terrain was more open then I would absolutely agree.

In the BC resorts I ski, it is virtually all tree skiing. If you are not in trees you are on a piste.

I think I have said before ... in these circumstances I rarely see any other skiers except those I am skiing with .... I have never seen anyone from ski patrol.

For me this adds an extra level of risk that has to be acknowledged and allowed for.
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Blackblade wrote:
PS. I also have to warm my NA friends, when they come to Europe, that it's not safe to just drop off the side of a piste and assume that there is no avalanche risk as it's 'in the resort'.


I now have limited experience skiing both Europe and North America as an average tourist style skier.
In my view the danger to those that have only skied in Europe when going to Nth America for the first time is the extensive off piste which can lull you into a false sense of security because it feels ‘safe’ due to the whole mountain being patrolled.
But the real danger in my view is the people that have only visited resorts in Canada and US. A heavy duty apres session in Austria has the potential to cause more pain than any fall on the mountain. Very Happy

I think we can say that the skiing is just different.
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What I did just notice when studying the kicking horse trail map (not been before, but son has a competition coming up there soon) , that might be a bit different, is there is a marked grizzly bear refuge! Shocked
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For inbounds skiing, do all of you use the regular trail map you get from the lift pass office or do you get a ‘proper’ map as well of the area as a whole similar to our UK OS maps?
For out of bounds presumably the only option is to use an OS equivalent map?
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@VolklAttivaS5, just the regular trail map. Or no map at all.

Quote:

extensive off piste


@sbooker, In my relatively limited experience of the west coast and BC (Whistler,, Revvy, KH, Jackson, UT) and recollection (limited), off piste but in bounds runs are gated. So there ought to be a clear sense of what sort of terrain you'll be looking at.
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