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Slope Degree?

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Slope Degree?

Postby kmclimber » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:55 pm

When ever I read about back country skiing or ski mountaineering I often see slope degree mentioned. I think a 30 degree slope is often used as the mark where avalanche danger increases, and some times in trip reports people estimate the degree of a slope they climbed/skied. When I read a report where someone skis a forty degree slope I always wonder if I could ski this or if I would just end up killing my self in a fall.

I am trying to get a feel for slope degree base on where I have experience, which is resort skiing.(Breck, Copper, Winter Park, etc...)

Is there any general degree range I could use for a comparison? For instance maybe blue runs range from 15-20 degrees, and black runs from 20-30, double black is 30-35. I don't really know I'm just kind of making up numbers here to help get my question across.

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby realhillboarding » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:22 pm

This site explains the backcountry ski rating system a bit http://www.wildsnow.com/more/ski-descent-rating-system/

I think 30 degrees is generally where runs start to be rated as double blacks, but they can get much steeper. I believe Prima Cornice at Vail, Gauthier at A-basin, and the far skiers-right in the lake chutes at breck (only at the very top) are 45+ degree slopes. Fall danger really depends on the surrounding terrain. If you're in a narrow 40 degree couloir, you're probably in a worse spot than a 50 degree wide open face with a gradual runout. If you fall on 40 degree ice, you may not stop for a while, whereas if its corn you may just take a fun little tumble and be back on your feet in no time. I guess what I'm trying to say is that slope angle is just the beginning, there is a lot of variability in the fall danger.

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby Carl » Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:21 pm

If you've skied the cirque at winter park, it's mostly about 40 degrees, maybe a little steeper. Thought there are sections that get to 50 to 60 degrees for a short bit if you seek them out.

As for avalanche danger, the prime number is 38 degrees, with the danger zone being mainly 30 to 45 degrees for Colorado. Half of human triggered avys occur between 37 and 42 degrees.

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby Kojones » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:59 am

I use a slope meter - a very simple one that is basically a plastic card with a string and a washer. It displays the degrees, relative avalanche danger of those readings, a grid and black background to measure and inspect facets against, and other avalanche information.

A quick search brought up this, which is way more expensive, and IMO not as valuable as the plastic card, but shows the relative avalanche dangers of the degrees:
http://www.rei.com/product/807495

Unless you want to carry this whole kit:
http://www.backcountryaccess.com/index.php?id=56

Anybody know the card I'm talking about? Anybody have a link?

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby TomPierce » Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:46 am

I've had an old one for 15+ years, I think it was made by LifeLink. Heavy plastic card with a simple dial inside the size of a 50 cent piece, maybe that's it. Simple but very effective. For those just getting out into the winter backcountry, try estimating a slope angle, then measure it. Only takes a minute or two. Pretty sooon you'll be able to eyeball a slope angle with some accuracy.
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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby Carl » Mon Oct 04, 2010 8:56 am

This one runs about $25. Seems like it should cost about $5. Nice though. I assume it is or is similar to what Tom and Kojones are using.
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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby rickinco123 » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:21 am

kmclimber,

There is absolutely no standard for slope and difficulty labeling of runs.

Most skiers statistically ski blue runs so that is what resorts want the most. Crested Butte and A-basin both have some steep blue runs! I suspect Vail wants some extra blacks in their back bowls so tourists can return home and brag about how they skied a black run in the back bowls, if you ask the resort they will say it is because of the conditions, southern exposure. Fair enough, but marketing definitely plays a role at some of the larger resorts.

If you look at the map of A-basin, Sundance and High noon are next too each other and share basically the same slope, one is blue, the other green. The map makes the difference more pronounced. The West Wall - King Cornice area (blue) is generally steeper than Powder Keg ( Black ). There are obviously other factors besides slope, even within the same ski area.

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby Hacksaw » Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:49 am

The Backcountry Field Card by Hacksaw Publishing has a slope angle inclinometer on it for $5.50.

http://www.hacksawpublishing.com
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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby rickinco123 » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:13 am

Hacksaw wrote:The Backcountry Field Card by Hacksaw Publishing has a slope angle inclinometer on it for $5.50.

http://www.hacksawpublishing.com


If that is the same one I have, it has the slope measure hashes you can place on a USGS map and measure the slope by lining up the hashes with the elevation lines, awesome! The slope meter is a string placed through a hole in the card, you must fix a weight to it. I use fishing shot. Low tech and field repairable. The only downside is the slope can only be measured in 1 direction but I have always been able to compensate for that, never had a problem with wind. Also doubles as a ski scraper :-)

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby Kojones » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:26 am

rickinco123 wrote:
Hacksaw wrote:The Backcountry Field Card by Hacksaw Publishing has a slope angle inclinometer on it for $5.50.

http://www.hacksawpublishing.com


If that is the same one I have, it has the slope measure hashes you can place on a USGS map and measure the slope by lining up the hashes with the elevation lines, awesome! The slope meter is a string placed through a hole in the card, you must fix a weight to it. I use fishing shot. Low tech and field repairable. The only downside is the slope can only be measured in 1 direction but I have always been able to compensate for that, never had a problem with wind. Also doubles as a ski scraper :-)

This sounds exactly like the one I have. This really is the BEST because it has more features (such as that USGS map feature - forgot about that). And for 5 bucks plus the cost of a string and washer (which I use as the weight since it circles the slope degree if the string is the right length), it is the best deal out there. Saves weight, too, from the fancier tools that just show slope.

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby CO Native » Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:35 pm

You can also just buy a compass that has a clinometer in it. If you already own a decent compass you may want to check it. Usually it's a black needle as in the photo below.

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Re: Slope Degree?

Postby Jim Davies » Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:48 pm

There's an iPhone app that does this, for 99 cents. Of course, two of the three comments say that it doesn't work, despite it's four-star rating. :-k
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