Does size matter?
For most winter sports enthusiasts, the size of a ski area is an important criterion when choosing a destination for their holidays. The size of a ski area is mainly determined by the total length of runs offered and it is undisputed: the longer the better. The size of the ski area and the variety of slopes are also important for the day guests, according to a study by the Austrian Cable Car Association.
Potential criteria for measuring the size of ski areas
When comparing the size of ski areas, the first question is how to measure this size? There are several variables to choose from:
The following criteria remain for measuring the size of a ski area:
- Total length of runs (ski runs or organised ski area, i.e. length of runs, ski routes, special areas and catwalks in kilometres)
- Skiable area (marked and secured area within the ski area boundaries in hectares)
- Boundary area (area enclosed by lifts and pistes in square kilometres)
- Extent of the ski area (largest linear distance between two points within the ski area in kilometres)
- Vertical drop (difference between the highest and lowest point in the piste network in metres)
- Topography (number of peaks and mountain sides in the ski area)
- Longest run not interrupted by ascents in kilometers
But how can these very different features be combined into a single value for the size of a ski area? The first question to be answered is how much weight the listed criteria have for the perceived size of a ski area. This perception should be represented as accurately as possible by the size value.
An online survey was therefore conducted as the basis for such a weighting. The results are shown in the following diagram.
As part of the online survey, the criteria were first explained (as explained above) and finally the following question was asked: "Please assess how important the criteria shown are to you with regard to the actual perceived size of a ski area. You can award a total of 100 points. These can be placed completely on one criterion or distributed as desired to the different criteria."
The criterion total length of runs was subdivided into length of runs, special areas and ski routes on the one hand and length of catwalks on the other hand. This was done to reflect the fact that catwalks can be used to produce "length" much easier, a length, however, which in its significance for the perceived size of a ski area is much less weighted than that of the pistes and ski routes.
Beaver Creek in Colorado is an example of a ski area that has a lot to offer in terms of kilometres of catwalks with more than 1/3 of the total length of runs being catwalks.
Whereas the category "length of runs, special areas and ski routes" received an average of 33.2 percent of the points to be awarded and is thus, as expected, the most important single criterion, the catwalks received only 5.0 percent. The second most important criterion is the skiable area, closely followed by vertical drop and topography. A little bit behind followed by the boundary area, the extent and the longest run with values between 7.4 and 8.5 percent.
Using these survey results, the values of the individual criteria can be weighted and combined into a single value for the size of the ski area. We have given this value the name Skimiles. How the Skimiles are calculated is explained here.