Tom Ross: Logging a season’s worth of powder tracks at Steamboat Ski Area
April 15, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Soren Jespersen knows more about the ski season he just completed than the average skier.
If you gazed up at Mount Werner this morning and had a difficult time reconciling with the fact that the chairlifts are no longer running, you're probably not alone.
The truth is that ski season isn't over. Is it ever really over? Perhaps not, but from here on, we have to earn our turns. So, for the balance of April and May (and June?) even the most passionate skiers won't put nearly so many runs up on the board as they did from late November to mid-April.
Perhaps nobody has as clearer a picture of the lift-served ski season they just completed at Steamboat Ski Area than Jespersen. He managed to balance family, career and powder this winter for 60 days on Mount Werner and 10 days elsewhere. And he can demonstrate how prolific he was.
Throughout the course of the 60 days on the mountain, Jespersen recorded all but a handful of his powder runs and cruisers, preserving a visual record of every run with the help of the GPS app, HD MotionX. You can download it for $1.99.
Jespersen confesses he's always been a guy who likes lists and maps.
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"I missed a few runs when I failed to turn it on or my battery died, but for the most part, this is my entire season," Jespersen said. "I've done similar maps for the past three seasons. Some folks probably think it's pointless, but I'm a map junky and I've had a lot of fun doing these."
Jespersen's record of his ski season is in the form of delicate yellow lines overlaid onto a Google Earth satellite image of Steamboat Ski Area. The process takes him only about three minutes in front of a laptop at the end of a ski day, he said.
"After three years of records, you can see what your habits are and how snow conditions affect where you ski," Jespersen said. “This year was such a good season with such consistent snow, I found myself staying in bounds and avoiding (Fish Creek) Canyon more than I would have in a low snow year. Why go out of bounds when the snow is so good" on the trails?
The original inspiration for Jespersen's recent habit of graphically recording his entire ski season probably comes from his work with the Wilderness Society. A typical work day often finds him far afield in a remote BLM roadless area where he uses the GPS, often in his iPad, to set data points and record conditions on the ground. That might include the presence and condition of roads and any impacts on wilderness study areas. Later he uploads his collected data onto his computer for analysis.
The exercise of tracking his ski runs reminds him a little of following the daily movements and migratory habits of wildlife.
"It shows how I move across the limited landscape of the ski resort and the frequency you go to different runs," he said.
You might wonder if Jespersen has ever contemplated tracking all of his movements throughout the course of a year.
"One year I used my GPS to track everywhere I went, but I stopped after two months," he said.
I can't say that I blame Jespersen. I'm not sure I want to be reminded of how much I repeat myself.
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