This season will favor those living close to the mountain. Older skiers who aren’t a short walk or reasonable drive away probably will avoid the hassle and risk of commercial flights to get there. They’ll spend more time on local slopes. 

Currently, we’re in our place several miles north of New York City. The closest reasonable skiing is about 2.5 hours to the north where there are several areas with vertical drops ranging from 1,100’ to 1.600’. 

Which got me thinking: how much vertical feet is needed for a satisfying day of skiing?

I posed the question to several skiing friends around the country. Their responses offer insight into what makes us happy about the sport.

Travel Writer Roger Toll, 75, lived in Park City and Santa Fe and has been skiing for 60 years. In his 60s his daily diet ranged from 20k’ to 40k’. When he moved from Park City to New Mexico, he was lured by free skiing at Ski Santa Fe, an area with about 1,200’. Enjoyable as he found some parts of the mountain, its 1,200’ vertical entertained him for about 10 runs or 12k’; “…enough to have a great day, especially when it’s free.”

At the other end of the country, Howard Vipler finds skiing Hunter Mountain’s 1,600’ satisfying but generally calls it quits by noon. He retired from Hunter’s Ski Patrol after 40 seasons there, so he knows where to find fewer people and better conditions. Even so, for him, 1600’ has it limitations.

Back to the west, where Dick Chapman,  retired pain researcher of international renown, skis Wolf Creek in Southwestern Colorado. Dick was 58 when he started. He’s now 76.  Wolf Creek has about the same vertical as Hunter Mountain, but far more snow. Its tagline: “The Most Snow in Colorado.” Dick’s measure for a satisfying day on the hill isn’t vertical. He writes, “Fun is skiing at the edge of my ability and successfully meeting little challenges.”

Now to Colorado’s I-70 corridor and Vail, where David Orlinsky books a minimum of 10 runs and/or 15,000’ to qualify for a satisfying day on the hill. Having skied with him, I know that’s an understatement. Over the past two decades, the retired businessman has averaged one million vertical feet per season!

One state over, in Utah, Jan Brunvand and Harriet Wallace have different takes on what it means to have a satisfying day. Their names often appear with their articles.

Jan, professor emeritus of English at the University of Utah and widely recognized as popularizing the concept of the “urban legend,” doesn’t count daily vert. At 87, he requires skiing a minimum of five runs in order to log the day. Usually he’s in the 7-10 run range. I’ve taken a few runs with Jan and hope I’ll be as graceful and having as much fun when I’m 87.

I’ve also skied with Harriet, 80, whose optimistic outlook is infectious. As she explains it, “It’s not about vertical. It’s about being outdoors…dancing down the slope…blue skies and whiteouts. It’s all about friends, no app needed.”

There were several other responses which I’ll try to include in a future column. I’d like to hear what you think makes for a satisfying day on the hill. Please post a comment or drop me a line: [email protected].

Your Six Words About This Season

Hemingway may have started this form. Six words that express a thought. What six words express this season? Send your entries to [email protected], please. Planning to select some good ones. Author credits will appear with each. Reminder: six words about this season. I came up with the following. “Escaping Covid. Skiing in my mind.”

Covid Victim: Ski Patroller Beards

Before/After: Arapahoe Basin Patroller, Thomas Olsen, Credit…Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

It’s all about getting a proper fit for masks, and it’s changing the traditional face of male ski patrollers. As this recent New York Times article explains, patrollers’ beards are going, going, gone!

Big White Ski Resort, BC Pulling Anti-Maskers’ Passes

British Columbia’s third-largest ski resort is ending skiing privileges for pass holders refusing to wear masks. First offenders lose a week; second offenders, a month. “It’s pretty simple, if they don’t wear their mask, we pull their pass. Once we told them they lose their skiing privileges, the argument stopped pretty quick,” said  Michael Ballingall, senior vice president, Big White Ski Resort.

Crans Montana HotelPass

Here’s a Swiss lift ticket concept, US areas might consider: Crans Montana, the large, seniors and family-friendly Swiss ski resort has a new HotelPass allowing those lodging in participating hotels to purchase last minute lift passes at deep discounts. No advance reservations. Total flexibility of when to use. Click here for more info on the HotelPass. Participating Crans Montana hotels also have new, highly flexible cancellation policies.

Final Laps on the Covid Track

We’re taking the final laps before crossing the vaccine finish line. Do what you need to do to avoid getting infected. If you already have been or are, do whatever you can to get well. Above all: Think positive. Test negative.

One Of The Best Short Ski Films…

The Chairlift is one of the best short ski films to date. A little over 12 minutes, it’s an homage to the chairlift and it’s unique culture. A production of Salomon, which released it a few days ago. Email Blasts

You’ll start receiving occasional emails from some of our advertisers. Each will be relevant to skiing and related topics. will distribute the emails; we don’t sell our list or your email addresses to third parties. We hope you’ll find them of interest.



  1. Sometimes I just enjoy an hour’s drive and skiing at Brantling ski center just east & north of Rochester NY & home of Olympian Diane Roffe, 1992 & 94. Only 250′ of vertical, t bar & paddle lifts, 8 trails, but in the snow belt. I test myself on a couple non groomed trails or along a woods edge or on the edges of some bumps. And pre covid to go to the upstairs pub for a beer with old friends.

  2. Really enjoyed The Chairlift. Thanks for posting.

  3. Hi John, These days all I need is a morning that includes anywhere from 5-10 runs. I meet my 60 year old daughter at Shawnee Peak about an hour for me and a half hour for her.
    The 1200 feet of vertical is plenty. I have Sugalroaf’s 2800 2.5 hours away and most of NH within 2 hrs, Sunday River an hour and half. I ski until the pub opens, go in for a beer while my daughter takes a few more runs. The we have lunch and go home. Dave Irons

  4. On Vertical feet and the ski season of Covid in 6 words”

    ‘It’s the smiles not the miles.’

    Have been skiing local for many years. Depending on the year and the project ‘local’ might be a 300′ valley or a 3,000′ resort. It really doesn’t matter. Skiing is the experience and the sensations. every ‘where’ can offer different joys. Ski what you have got.

  5. 57 years skiing and still love it. Thanks for the article and posting the CHAIRLIFT. Video caught lots of memories and wishful thinking from over the past. Skiing is life after-all…

  6. My goal is always to ski my age, though this year I may miss my 70. I have never cared about vertical in the least. Quality over quantity. Our family rule is that three ski runs counts as a ‘day’. If anybody wants to argue about that, go out and ski three runs at “Breckenfridge” on a day when the high temperature is 7 degrees and the wind is howling and then come meet me inside by the fire and tell me that doesn’t count as a ski day!

  7. The local ski area (a metro area, massive 250′ of vertical, open 10:00AM to 10:00PM) is a left turn out of our driveway and 3.5 miles down the road straight into the parking lot. Yoyoing is a run and ride every 3 minutes or 5000 feet an hour. My wife and I are dayshift ski patrollers (99 years of patrolling between us) and a light day is 100 runs about 25,000 ft. (the joys of a small area and not having to sit in a patrol shack). It’s a lot cheaper than the gym and lots of fresh air.

  8. Although have to admit that some of my most memorable ski days are having been on the mountain when the weather was ridiculous.

  9. My favorite ski day involves partnering with step-son Alex and heading out to Copper Mt. We grab the motel “breakfast” to go, head to the diner and get a real breakfast. Then we explore the mountain. Lunch means grab the packaged breakfast and head off trail into a sheltered woodsy spot with a view. Picnic up to our thighs in powder. Aah! Then, it’s get up to the bowls for a bit of afternoon sun. For sure, we’ll try out an interminable mogul run that kicks our butts. That’s worth a beer, or two. Nap for me followed by dinner at a local brewpub. Beat that!

  10. Connie Grodensky says:

    Skiing local is what skiing is about this year, and I have never been happier that we moved to “our” mountain 5 years ago! We are about 45 minutes from Mt. Bachelor, and can do a 10 run day and be happy with getting on and off the mountain before the crowds come. This year, all we have to contend with is the parking reservation system….we will see how that works! Mid-week skiers rule!

  11. I’m 74 and been skiing for more than 50 years. I’ve skied all over the US, but for the last 10 years skied predominantly at Okemo in Vermont. 2200 feet with a nice mix of trails. I ski with my grandsons (6&10) now , but I tell them no moguls. Even though they keep pushing me to them. 4 hours a day with them is plenty. Followed by lunch, nice glass of wine and a nap. My perfect day. Kevin Toolan

  12. My wife and I live 30 miles from Bogus Basin which is 16 miles north of Boise Idaho. At 67 I still track and log my vert, not for bragging purposes but to keep myself honest. I’m not getting any younger so when anything starts to hurt I know when to call it a day or push myself a bit farther. I started at age 4 in Connecticut, skiing our long driveway and the local golf course. Our high school ski team practised on a local farmer’s hill and of course we hiked up. I can’t recall when I first rode a chair lift but it was probably at Mad River Glen in Vermont. The closer hills (and I do mean hills) sported rope tows, J-bars and T-bars. The rope tows were brutal on a tyke. I remember being in tears after “riding” up behind a large man who held the rope so high that my skis barely touched the ground. Or when I was the only one on the tow I’d be bent over with my knuckles dragging in the groove the rope cut into the ice. I must admit I have no nostalgic feelings for the fixed-grip doubles. If I want to slow down, I just pull over and take in the view 100 miles east to the Pioneer mountains near Sun Valley. If I want company there are always friends on the hill to share the day with. What a glorious sport!

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