Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Going downhill fast

There are a number of winter sports predicated on the concept of 'sliding down a snow-covered hill quickly'.

The fun part of these activities (I would have said 'sports' but, hey, is tubing really a sport?) is the 'sliding downhill' component. Before you can enjoy this fun bit however, a necessary evil is a preliminary period of 'being lifted or pulled up the hill slowly' (I believe Isaac Newton was developing this as a corollary to his Laws of Motion. At least he was until he realized that, Eddie the Eagle notwithstanding, the UK has no hills or snow and consequently nobody would understand what he was talking about).

There are a number of mechanisms for accomplishing the 'preliminary slow uphill lifting'. Here is a partial list:
  • Magic-Carpet
  • Rope
  • T-Bar
  • Double
  • Quad
  • Detachable quad
  • Gondola
  • Helicopter
All these mechanisms get you from A (a low spot) to B (a higher spot). But, as anybody who has fought a T-bar while on a snowboard can attest, the above mechanisms can vary greatly in:
  • the level of active participation expected of the user (e.g. holding onto a rope or sipping a latte in a gondola)
  • their speed (all else being equal, you'd rather spend your time going downhill)
  • the stress of getting on & off (nothing is more fun than watching 4 novice boarders disembarking from a quad chair. Nothing.)
  • the degree to which the user is exposed to the weather (I posit that the top of the TGV chair at Mont Tremblant is colder per capita than the Antartic. )
  • capacity (as in # butts lifted/hour)
I'm sure a ski hill operator would also tell you that they also vary greatly in their economics, as in initial costs , ongoing maintenance, and how many years it takes to redeem the investment.

Consequently, a smart operator uses the right 'lifting mechanism' for the right combination of slope, difficulty & accessibility. You will never (OK, perhaps in Vail) see a helicopter being used to run kids up to the top of the bunny hills (which can actually be deceptively challenging for even advanced boarders), nor will you see a magic-carpet unloading at the top of a double black-diamond (as I've never actually seen the top of such a run, I admit this is conjecture).

The right lift for the right hill. A good ski resort has appropriate variety in both.

The reader is encouraged to consider the relevance of this essay to identity systems. For extra points, discuss the concept of resort federations.


Eric Norman said...

You forgot trains as an elevation method. It's done in Europe.

Federation? From what I remember, you can buy one pass in Switzerland that allows you to ski any of sundry mountains in the area. They're all run by different organizations.

Robert said...

Snowkiting is the way to go....

From wikipedia:
Snowkiting differs from other alpine sports, in that it is possible for the snowkiter to travel uphill with ease when the wind is blowing in the right direction

A snowkiting-instructor friend was in Lapland last year and met some telemark skiers that planned to make a trip to the top of one of the mountains there. Skiing up, that is. In order to make it they had to get up a 6 AM or so. My friend went out at 10 AM noted that the wind was right and sailed up the mountain in less than an hour, and was at the top just in time to see his exhausted neighbors arrive...

Of course the colorful sail when carefully chosen and decorated with appropriate sponsor announcements etc. serves to reveal the boarder's identity. to the whole area. And will allow the more informed onlookers to determine quite a bit of the personal profile. But then, if everybody would sail up an anonymous white sail seems quite effective for the privacy-aware readers of this blog.