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Editor’s Note: Deciding how to experience a day on the hill can be as simple as skiing familiar terrain or as thrilling as seeking hidden stashes of untracked powder. What you do is based on who you are, where you ski, and what you want to accomplish. I have a friend content with skiing the same green run after run. She thoroughly enjoys it. Others like to get out early, iron the corduroy and go home. There are soooo many ways to enjoy the mountain. If you have an opinion on the subject, please send an email. It may be included in an upcoming issue.

For the first exploration of the subject, I asked SeniorsSkiing contributor Pat McCloskey for his opinion. Pat is a PSIA III instructor and has worked with blind skiers for more than three decades.

Pat and Janet McCloskey taking a break from Deer Valley’s groomers.

Let’s start with smaller areas like we have here in Western Pennsylvania and Western New York. Moving from slope to slope or trail to trail regularly can be an effective way to maximize the satisfaction out of a place with short vertical drop. For these areas, I’ll use a ski with a tighter turning radius to make as many turns as I can.

Different tactics come into play for larger resorts. The first one is to get there early to beat the crowds. This is true everywhere you ski. Usually, the best grooming is available in the morning; certainly, that’s when to find the best powder. If the slopes aren’t crowded, I’ll rip some big GS turns.

Tolerating limited poor conditions may help you find excellent skiing and zero lift lines. A few weeks ago, at Deer Valley, the lifts servicing black diamonds seemed less crowded. The reason? Entry to those slopes was pretty icy, causing people to avoid a second run. The rest of the terrain was in excellent condition. That was my green light to keep skiing there.

Skiing at lunchtime is another tactic when lift lines dramatically disappear. And there are fewer skiers on Sundays when people tend to leave early for home.

On a powder day, I notice that people hunt the fresh and avoid already tracked snow. Using wider powder skis let’s you enjoy both untracked and tracked.

When skiing with my wife, I check the area’s grooming report. I see where the most recent grooming has occurred, and we head there. She thanks me for the recon.


  1. Chris Demers says:

    Interesting topic. I ski with a larger group with varied takes on how to ski the mountain, but the general trend seems to be to hit the steeper, more difficult terrain early while it is still freshly groomed, and while our legs are still fresh. The afternoon is spent just playing around on the blue groomed trails. The best way to ski any area is with great friends, then everything is enjoyable.

  2. I ski a short hill with moderate pitch and nice fall line. Serviced by a surface lift it has little traffic after the first batch of skiers have moved on to bigger things. My skis are non FIS short turn. After a couple of hours of energetic short turns my ski day is done and dusted. Things are extra good if the snow is icy or even softened up with moderate bumps. As for arrival times, there is no hurry since my sessions are shorter than most.

  3. Cansnowplow says:

    I would like to have each ski area list or designate their primary or “flagship” trails on the trail map. Those flagship trails are those trails of which have the highest skier count as they handle the most traffic in a day. These trails would be best visited earlier in the ski day, or as well, avoided nearing closing time. What I believe is that those trails wear out, become glazed, similar to a racecourse where each turn tends to rut/ice out by the end of the race, so do our ski trails become glazed/granulated. These flagship trails are typically the earliest to do so in the ski day. Of course, the steeper trails wear out with fewer treaders than on the flatter trails. Similar to the way DOT installs a rubber hose across all lanes of a road and when a tire rolls over the hose, the hose machine thus counts axles. Ski areas should conduct typical counts with an electric eye. Skiers per hour data per trail is almost as important as the stat used on lifts, with how many people it carries per hour. It would be a safety tool because it isn’t only the body’s fatigue that causes injuries in the afternoon, trail washouts are a contributing factor.

  4. Kevin Toolan says:

    I have skied for more than 50 years, covering all types of terrain in both the east and west. Now what I’m trying to achieve is skiing with my grandkids. They are 7, so most my skiing now is on novice trails. I’m sure this will continue to progress until they leave me behind on the double diamonds in a few years.

  5. Killington can be brutal, especially on weekends and holidays so I tend to avoit it and ski Pico. Cheaper, low key and much less crowded. Great trails such as Birch Glades, Sunset 71 and Giant Killer.
    There is a metod to skiing The Beast. I start off with a warmup on Cruise Control of of the Needles Eye chair and then several on Needles Eye before heading to Bear Mountain and skiing there for a while. This gets crowded by mid morning so I leave there and head over to Super Star and then during lunch ho pn the K-1 gondola and the Canyoun Chair then ending the dau on the Snowdon and Rams Head criusers. I do manage to avoid heavy lift lines in this way.

  6. A willing, knowledgeable local is a big help. A buddy and I were at Vail after a big snow storm. We were talking in the lift line about the best way to get to the back bowls. Two locals, about our late middle ages, explained their route, which was peppered with some groomed runs, which meant faster skiing to the goods. It also meant that legs lasted longer. Their advice was excellent.

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