Ski Tour Planning

The last line in my Kaleetan Pk post - at the bottom of the photos - got me thinking:

"Statistics:  Kaleetan Peak (6259'), Snoqualmie Pass.  13 milometers, 4380' climbed and skied."

Kilometers?  This is America, what the hell am I doing using kilometers?  And then to mention elevation as a measurement in feet in the same sentence!  I might as well be running around screaming "SOCIALIST!  SOCIALIST!  SOCIALIST!"  What am I thinking?

It boils down to tour planning - which is essential is I'm trying to make a plan that fills an 8-hour commitment, but doesn't accidentally run over to 10 (bad).  Or 12 (very bad), without some sort of good excuse like Joe-blew-his-toe-binding-and-we-spent-an-hour-rigging-a-repair-to-get-back.

A tour plan can also help figure out deadlines.  Need to ski a slope before it gets so warm that you're scared of it?  Figure your tour plan, determine the latest time that you dare be on that slope, and pin the tour leg to that time to determine when to get going.

Anyways, I thought I'd write a post about how I do this:

1.  Get a map, and draw in the route you want to take.  I find National Geographic Topo to be really useful for this in the US.  Make a note of the total distance and elevation.
13 kilometers and 4380' of gain/descent later, we have a tour.
2.  Now split the route by Transitions - points that you expect to switch between skinning, booting, and skiing.  Take note of the elevation of each transition point, and the distance between points.  On paper, I usually draw a short line across the transition point and write the elevation there.  On Topo, I'll split the route as many times as I need to, and have the uphill portions in red, the bootpacks in yellow, and the downhill in blue.  Each individual distance between transitions is a Leg.
The same tour broken into Transition/Legs.  Note that I expected a boot pack to gain Bryant Col, Kaleetan Notch,
and Kaleetan Peak.
3.  Start plugging these elevations, distances, and skins, boots, and descents.  Spreadsheet this - either on paper or on the computer.  I rigged up a blank spreadsheet on Google Docs that looks like this:

4.  Take a look here - I have columns for Elev Difference (the absolute value of the elevation difference between the start and the finish of each leg), then that same measurement in meters in the next column, which starts to hint at my socialist tendencies.  I need both values because 1) clients always ask how "much further?" and typically think better in feet, but 2) the metric value makes time plan calculations easier to use.  Its also important to note that most USGS maps still measure topography in feet, making this the better value to use if you're doing this on paper.  If you are doing this on paper, than divide your feet value by 330 to determine meters.

5.  Distance - since I can have Topo measure horizontal distance in kilometers, and I really only care about this for time plan calculations, I try to keep things short by measuring distance in km.  I round it up the the next whole unit to factor in time spent at transitions eating, drinking, photo-taking, and jawing, so the total sum of leg distances on the spreadsheet will add up to more than the original measurement back in step #1.

6.  Unit estimates - I use is the Munter Method for time estimation - which gives a "unit" for each 100 meters of elevation difference, and a "unit" for each horizontal kilometer and add up the units per leg.  I also make a note if this leg is skinning/booting/skiing (U/B/D) to help me with the next step.

7.  For the Munter Method, I take the units per leg and divide it on an open ended scale to arrive at a time estimate.  As a general rule of thumb, 4=skinning and 10=skiing.  These values may be changed based on the group, i.e. a group of beginner backcountry skiers may be 3/9, while on my AMGA Ski Mountain Guide exam we were traveling at 7/12.  Being able to use a spreadsheet, with formulas, makes this a quick exercise - that slowest part is transcribing the elevations and distances from the map to the spreadsheet.

But what matters?  Some of these columns are important in the field, so I'll either print this off and stick it in my pocket, or I'll write the following columns into my notebook:

Those notes are extremely short hand, and will look something like this:

Does this work?  We followed this tour last Sunday, and finished it in 8:15 - 15 minutes faster than my 8:30 plan.  When I worry about foul weather, I'll enter GPS waypoints and make notes of which points correspond to transitions, and compass bearing are written down on a printed map.