Getting the Best Piste for Your Money

We’re halfway through the 2017-18 ski season in the Northern Hemisphere and the mountains are calling (in part to help shed some of the extra Christmas kilograms).

One thing that’s clear for those looking at taking some time off on the slopes;¬†skiing is a costly sport. However, with lift tickets nearing the ‚ā¨200 mark for a day on the slopes, some resorts (predominately those in the United States) are taking that expense to an entirely new level.

How do you measure value for money at a ski resort?

Snow quality is definitely important. So is nightlife (for us Brits, anyway). Though I decided to take a fully quantitate approach measuring three different metrics; value of lift pass based on skiable area, value of lift pass based on vertical elevation, and finally the piste to lift ratio.

Methodology

Skiresort.info has compiled a regularly updated list of almost 5500 ski resorts around the world. They details key information about each resort, from piste lengths by difficulty to the price of a lift pass.

Using this dataset I extracted data from the top 50 largest resorts by piste length (between 600 and 136 kilometres) for the analysis below.

Results

Lift pass prices

Rank lift pass cost Resort Region Lift day ticket (EUR)
1 Beaver Creek North America ‚ā¨157.00
2 Snowmass North America ‚ā¨141.00
2 Vail North America ‚ā¨141.00
4 Steamboat North America ‚ā¨137.00
5 Breckenridge North America ‚ā¨136.00
6 Park City North America ‚ā¨121.00
7 Winter Park Resort North America ‚ā¨116.00
8 Big Sky Resort North America ‚ā¨112.00
9 Whistler Blackcomb North America ‚ā¨92.00
10 Zermatt/Breuil-Cervinia/Valtournenche – Matterhorn Europe ‚ā¨78.00

Full table.

The¬†Beaver Creek lift pass is the most expensive by price in our list at ‚ā¨157. The cheapest day lift pass can be found in¬†Espace Lumi√®re ‚Äď Pra Loup/Val d‚ÄôAllos, France for only¬†‚ā¨39 with 180km of skiable pistes.

9 of the top 10 resorts by lift pass are located in the United States. At the other end of the scale, 8 of the top 10 cheapest resorts for daily lift passes can be found in France.

Lift pass value per piste kilometre

Les 3 Vall√©es has the largest skiable area in my top 50, 600km for a daily lift price of¬†‚ā¨52 though you’d be hard pressed to cover a tenth of that in a day.

Cost per skiable km by resort (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

A lift pass, on average, costs ‚ā¨0.37 per skiable kilometre for the 50 resorts covered (‚ā¨0.65 in US,¬†‚ā¨0.25 in Europe)

Cost per km rank Resort Region Lift day ticket (EUR) Total piste Length (km) Cost per km
1 Les Portes du Soleil – Morzine/Avoriaz/Les Gets/Ch√Ętel/Morgins/Champ√©ry Europe ‚ā¨52.00 580 ‚ā¨0.09
2 Les 3 Vall√©es – Val Thorens/Les Menuires/M√©ribel/Courchevel Europe ‚ā¨61.00 600 ‚ā¨0.10
3 Via Lattea – Sestriere/Sauze d’Oulx/San Sicario/Claviere/Montgen√®vre Europe ‚ā¨48.00 400 ‚ā¨0.12
48 Steamboat North America ‚ā¨137.00 165 ‚ā¨0.83
49 Breckenridge North America ‚ā¨136.00 153 ‚ā¨0.89
50 Beaver Creek North America ‚ā¨157.00 150 ‚ā¨1.05

View full table.

The best value lift pass by available skiable area is¬†Les Portes du Soleil, France where a day pass costs¬†‚ā¨52 and covers 580km (‚ā¨0.09 per kilometre). In contrast, in Beaver Creek, North America a day pass will cost¬†‚ā¨157.00 covering only 150km of pistes (‚ā¨1.05 per kilometre). Of course I’m sure there will be many off-piste hikers willing to put in some legwork to make up for this.

Lift pass value per vertical metre

The resorts in the Europe, on average, have more vertical descent than those in the US; 1553 metres versus 1144 metres (though the US resorts are located at a higher altitude; 3186 metres versus 2751 metres).Lift cost per vertical meter (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

To go from top to bottom of all 50 resorts on the list you’ll pay and average cost ‚ā¨0.05 per metre (lift pass / elevation change).

Rank elevation change cost per m Resort Region Lift day ticket (EUR) Elevation change (m) Lift cost per vertical m
1 Vail North America ‚ā¨141.00 976 ‚ā¨0.14
1 Breckenridge North America ‚ā¨136.00 988 ‚ā¨0.14
50 Alpe d’Huez Europe ‚ā¨52.50 2205 ‚ā¨0.02
50 Les 2 Alpes Europe ‚ā¨50.00 2243 ‚ā¨0.02

Full table.

Using this metric, the cheapest resorts per vertical metre are¬†Les 2 Alpes and¬†Alpe d’Huez in France at¬†‚ā¨0.02 per metre.

The most expensive? All in North America.¬†Breckenridge and¬†Vail in the US have the highest cost per metre at¬†‚ā¨0.14

Ski area covered by each lift

Waiting for a lift is a real pain. In some resorts I’ve heard people standing in line for over an hour (I’m looking at you Chamonix). This led me to wonder; which resorts the best lift to piste ratio?

In Les Portes du Soleil, France, there are a whopping 170 lifts to cover the skiable area of 580km (each lift covers 3.41km). Lake Louise has just 7 lifts covering 139km of pistes (each lift covers 19.86km).

Ski area km per lift by resort (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

On average, one lift exists for every 5.8 km in the 50 resorts covered, though there are outliers.

Rank ski area km per lift Resort Region Total piste Length (km) Ski lifts Ski area km per lift
1 Gröden (Val Gardena) Europe 175 79 2.22
2 Espace Diamant – Les Saisies/Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe/Praz sur Arly/Flumet/Crest-Voland Europe 192 79 2.43
3 La Plagne (Paradiski) Europe 225 91 2.47
48 Snowmass North America 237 17 13.94
49 Fernie North America 142 9 15.78
50 Lake Louise North America 139 7 19.86

View full table.

Gröden (Val Gardena), Italy, has almost 1 lift for every 2km of pistes. Lake Louise, ranked in last place for lift coverage, has just 1 lift for every 20km of pistes. Like value, North American resorts are, mostly, the worst for lift coverage.

tl;dr

Based on marked pistes, European resorts offer significantly better value for money (‚ā¨0.25 p/km) than their counterparts in the United States (‚ā¨0.65 p/km).

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

The Only Thing Tougher Than Climbing Everest is Raising The Funds

Over the summer I climbed a few mountains; Mount Snowden in Wales, UK (1,085m) and Mount Diablo in California, USA (1,173 m). These are the 1273rd and 1268th highest peaks in the world respectively.

While I’m happy with these expeditions they do not compare with even the top 100 peaks, all of which reach 7,000m above sea-level.

On my summits the biggest cost was the car park (¬£10 per day at Snowden, if I recall correctly). However, these sums are insignificant to climbing some of the world’s highest mountains where costs can easily run into tens-of-thousands-of-dollars.

Which left me wondering; how much does it cost to summit the highest mountains?

Methodology

To get a wide spread of mountains, to account for geographic cost differences, I decided to compare costs of climbing the Seven Summits. For those unfamiliar, the Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge. The seven mountains that make up the series are:

Overall rank Mountain Meters Feet Continent
1 Mount Everest 8,848 29,029 Asia
235 Mount Kilimanjaro 5,895 19,341 Africa
134 Aconcagua 6,962 22,841 South America
247 Mount Elbrus 5,642 18,510 Europe
213 Denali 6,168 20,236 North America
303 Puncak Jaya 4,884 16,024 Oceania
301 Vinson Massif 4,892 16,050 Antartica

You’ll see the only mountain in the top 100 highest peaks worldwide in this list is Everest. Over half of the top 100 peaks are found in the Himalayas, the mountain range where Everest is located.

Climbing costs can vary significantly person-to-person. One of the largest costs climbers incur are climbing guide fees. Generally, the more experienced guides are, the more climbers will pay for their services. I used the cheapest guide prices taken from two American guide services advertising climbs for the Seven Summits in 2017.

Climb times offered by guides also vary too. For time, I used an average figure calculated using the high and low climb estimates provided by the two guide services.

Results

Guide fees to climb the Seven Summits

Guide-fees-to-climb-the-Seven-Summits-20171

Download chart.

Guide fees rank Mountain Guide fees (USD) Meters
7 Aconcagua $4,700.00 6,962
6 Mount Kilimanjaro $5,000.00 5,895
5 Mount Elbrus $5,000.00 5,642
4 Denali $8,500.00 6,168
3 Puncak Jaya $27,000.00 4,884
2 Vinson Massif $42,000.00 4,892
1 Mount Everest $65,000.00 8,848

Download table.

Some of these climbs are seen by elite climbers as hikes. For example, trips to Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa, are advertised to the masses as a safe and relatively easy climb. The low climbing fees, starting from $5000, make it even more attractive for those entering the world of mountaineering. Compare that to Everest, where prices start from $65,000, or the price of premium car!

To climb all Seven Summits at the prices listed above would cost you $157,200 in guide fees alone.

Cost per day to climb the Seven Summits

Cost-per-day-to-climb-the-Seven-Summits-20172Download chart.

Cost per day rank Mountain Cost per day USD Days ave Meters
7 Aconcagua $213.64 22 6,962
6 Mount Elbrus $357.14 14 5,642
5 Denali $386.36 22 6168
4 Mount Kilimanjaro $434.78 11.5 5,895
3 Mount Everest $896.55 72.5 8,848
2 Puncak Jaya $1,687.50 16 4,884
1 Vinson Massif $2,153.85 19.5 4,892

Download table.

While an Everest ascent and descent of 8,848 meters takes on average 72.5 days to complete, the cost to climb is significantly cheaper at $896.55 per day than both Puncak Jaya and Vinson Massif costing $1,687.50 per day and $2,153.85 per day respectively.

In contrast, Aconcagua is the cheapest to climb at $213.64 per day, over 90% cheaper than the most expensive Vinson Massif.

Cost per meter to climb the Seven Summits

Cost-per-meter-to-climb-the-Seven-Summits-20171

Download chart.

Rank cost per meter Mountain Cost per meter USD Meters
7 Aconcagua $0.68 6,962
6 Mount Kilimanjaro $0.85 5,895
5 Mount Elbrus $0.89 5,642
4 Denali $1.38 6168
3 Puncak Jaya $5.53 4884
2 Mount Everest $7.35 8848
1 Vinson Massif $8.59 4892

Download table.

Again, and surprising to me, Everest is not the most expensive mountain to summit. When looking at cost per meter Everest will set you back $7.35 per vertical meter, however, Vinson Massif, almost half the height of Everest will cost $8.59 per vertical meter! Whilst Everest is remote, Vinson Massif in Antartica is significantly harder to get to and has a less developed climbing industry resulting in the higher costs.

Similarly, Puncak Jaya, the smallest summit by height of all seven (4,884m) is the third most expensive costing $5.53 per vertical meter.

Improvements

This post only considered costs listed by two climbing guide companies. There are large variations in actual costs charged by guide companies. Take Mount Everest for example, where some report guide costs between $30,000 – $85,000. It would be interesting to compare summit success per company by costs charged to help understand if more money buys success (or better guides).

tl;dr

As expected, guide fees to climb Everest are most expensive of all seven summits costing around $65,000 with expeditions taking on average 72.5 days. However, Vinson Massif, the second smallest mountain in the Seven Summit series at 4,892m has the second highest guide fees, $42,000, which means it is the most expensive when analysing the expeditions based on cost per day ($2,153.85) and cost per meter ($8.59).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

London Has Enough Attractions to Keep You Busy For 16 Years

Have you ever visited a city and thought; 3/5/7 days is not enough?

Leaflets line the lobbies of hotels the world over advertising the wide range of activities you can sign up for, from elephant trekking in South East Asia to bungee jumps in New Zealand.

Often many of us will pick new destinations for holidays based on the activities on offer.

Which cities will keep you most busy based on your interests?

Methodology

I used Euromonitor’s Top 100 City Destinations Ranking (tourist arrivals) to identify the top 100 cities for tourism in 2015.

Using this list of 100, I then turned to Tripadvisor to identify number of activity options in each city. Tripadvisor splits activities into the following 20 categories:

  • Sights and landmarks
  • Transportation
  • Nature and parks
  • Shopping
  • Water and amusement parks
  • Tours
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Outdoor activities
  • Museums
  • Food and drink
  • Fun and games
  • Nightlife
  • Boat tours and water sports
  • Casinos and gambling
  • Concerts and shows
  • Spas and wellness
  • Classes and workshops
  • Traveller resources
  • Events
  • Day trips

Results

Top cities (all activities)

Activities-Count-Map

Interactive map.

Rank total activities City & Country Activities Total
1 London, UK 5809
2 Tokyo, Japan 5021
3 Moscow, Russia 4375
4 New York City, US 4342
5 Rome, Italy 4159
6 Paris, France 3732
7 Prague, Czech Republic 3239
8 Barcelona, Spain 3203
9 St Petersburg, Russia 3158
10 Istanbul, Turkey 2990

Full list.

London has the most activities for visitors 5809, nightlife activities account for 1280 of the total. That is enough to keep you busy for almost 16 years (5809 / 365).

Europe is one of the best regions to visit for spread of activities, 8 of the top 10 cities in the top 10 are all European.

Top cities (nightlife)

Nightlife-Count-Map

Interactive map.

Rank nightlife activities City & Country Nightlife total
1 London, UK 1280
2 Madrid, Spain 913
3 New York City, US 857
4 Barcelona, Spain 776
5 Prague, Czech Republic 648
6 Berlin, Germany 600
7 Rome, Italy 565
8 Istanbul, Turkey 440
9 Paris, France 429
10 Milan, Italy 376

Full list.

9 of the top 10 cities for nightlife attractions are all European with London leading the way with 1280 options — over 300 more than 2nd placed Madrid.

Top cities (shopping)

Shopping-Count-Map

Interactive map.

Rank shopping activities City & Country Shopping
1 New York City, US 796
2 London, UK 718
3 Paris, France 646
4 Tokyo, Japan 645
5 Istanbul, Turkey 530
6 Shanghai, China 506
7 Bangkok, Thailand 457
8 Rome, Italy 427
9 Prague, Czech Republic 386
10 Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China 386

Full list.

Unsurprisingly the “fashion capitals”, New York (769), London (718), Paris (646) have the most shopping options available to visitors.

Top cities (museums)

museums-activities-count

Interactive map.

Rank museums attractions City & Country Museums
1 Moscow, Russia 594
2 St Petersburg, Russia 430
3 Tokyo, Japan 390
4 Seoul, South Korea 330
5 Prague, Czech Republic 317
6 London, UK 314
7 Beijing, China 284
8 Istanbul, Turkey 283
9 New York City, US 266
10 Shanghai, China 261

Full list.

Russia, a country with a very rich history has a large number of museums compared to other major cities. Moscow (594) and St Petersburg (430) are placed 1st and 2nd for count of museums.

2¬†cities in Euromonitor’s Top 100 list have no museums: Halong (Vietnam) and Palau Pinang (Malaysia).

Top cities (food & drink)

food-activities-count

Interactive map.

Food & drink rank City & Country Food & Drink
1 Rome, Italy 211
2 Hanoi, Vietnam 188
3 London, UK 170
4 Barcelona, Spain 166
5 Paris, France 159
6 Florence, Italy 134
7 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 112
8 Tokyo, Japan 106
9 Prague, Czech Republic 106
10 Madrid, Spain 102

Full list.

Rome tops the list for Food & Drink options. Parisians will be very disappointed to see themselves in 4th place, behind London in 3rd.

Top cities (nature & parks)

parks-activities-count

Interactive map.

Nature & park ranks City & Country Nature & Parks
1 Tokyo, Japan 378
2 Beijing, China 273
3 Moscow, Russia 187
4 London, UK 179
5 Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China 141
6 St Petersburg, Russia 133
7 Taipei, Taiwan 126
8 Shanghai, China 125
9 New York City, US 109
10 Sydney, Australia 106

Full list.

The greenest city in the world is highly debatable (how do you measure “green”?). Tripadvisor’s count does not account for area of green space, rather the number of distinct green spaces and parks. Tokyo, a city with a very dense population, does not have many very large parks but seemingly lots of very small green spaces.

Top cities (landmarks)

sights-activities-count

Interactive map.

Rank sights activities City & Country Sights & Landmarks
1 Tokyo, Japan 1851
2 Moscow, Russia 1300
3 St Petersburg, Russia 1030
4 Rome, Italy 894
5 Kyoto, Japan 799
6 Beijing, China 757
7 London, UK 693
8 Osaka, Japan 614
9 Paris, France 505
10 Milan, Italy 451

Full list.

I was not going to include this category as Sights and Landmarks is a very broad categorisation. However I decided to include with an explanation. Older cities will likely have lots of historic landmarks, but this category has no distinction. Likewise, a “sight” can be very subjective. As such, I am not sure there is too much we can draw from this category.

Improvements

Tripadvisor’s count of activities offers a general overview of the most popular activities within a city. If you’re like me, you’ll browse¬†Tripadvisor’s “Top 10” activities before visiting a new city. However, the activities listed by Tripadvisor is not exhaustive. Many activities, especially those of a very specialist nature, are likely to be excluded. If I could identify a better way to classify and count activities in each city the accuracy of the results could be improved.

tl;dr

London has the most activities for visitors 5809, nightlife activities account for 1280 of the total.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

Burn 12000 Calories A Week Skiing

Skiing is the greatest winter sport. End of discussion.

Enjoying the clean, fresh air whilst rushing down the side of the mountain is exhilarating. Who said exercise was boring?

Skiing 6 hours a day can make you very tired, and very hungry.

Which left me questioning; just how much food do you need to eat to replenish the calories burnt skiing?

Methodology

Using GPS data collected from a recent 6 day ski holiday I was able to obtain the daily distances skied and then best guess my exertion level.

I was then able to use this data with standard exercise / calorie information available on CalorieLab to estimate how many calories I used up each day.

Analysis

Calorie expenditure

Minutes Skiing by Exertion by Day

Download chart.

The data was collected using the Ski Tracks app (Android & iOS). Ski time only includes time spent descending. Ski exertion is best guess (40% time = light, 50% t = moderate, 10% t = vigorous).

According to NHS guidance the average male needs 2500 kCal per day to maintain their weight, or for the sake of this analysis have a kCal neutral balance. For simplicity, lets assume my daily energy requirements are 2500 kCal + energy spent skiing only.

My vital stats used to calculate calorie expenditure on CalorieLab: sex = male, weight = 70kg.

kCal Burned Skiing by Day

Download chart.

Did you know: A 70kg male can expend almost 3000 kCal moderately skiing for 5 hours (500 * 5.83 kCal p/min).

On Sunday 23rd January 2016, it is estimated I expended the¬†highest number of Kilo Calories (kCal) skiing (1777.4 kCal), with estimated daily kCal expenditure falling slightly with each day — something I put down to fatigue. My average estimated daily kCal¬†burned skiing was about 1676 kCal (8380 kCal week total).

Calorie intake

Food / Drink Serving Size kCal
Carlsberg (lager) 470ml (pint) 180
Cheese, Gruyere 10g 122
Red Wine 12.5cl (glass) 85
Domino’s Original Cheese & Tomato Large Classic Crust Pizza Slice 183
Oatmeal 100g 375
Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnut Doughnut 222
Morrisons In Store Bakery Artisan Baguette 0.25 baguette 246

Full table.

To put this into perspective, you can see from the NHS Choices Calories Calculator how calorific classic skiing fare is.

A¬†particularly calorific¬†food diary from a skiing companion of mine saw an average intake of over¬†4000kCal, though I’m not naming anyone. On¬†one day this figure was¬†4727 kcal! In his¬†very weak defence, using my¬†calorie¬†neutral daily average of 4369 kCal this was¬†only a surplus of 358 kCal (4727 – 4369), or two pints of beers (360 kCal).¬†With a more controlled diet he could maintain a high daily kCal deficit and potentially lose weight.

Effects of altitude

There is not a huge difference in the amount of calories utilised at a higher altitude during exercise even though it may feel as though you are working much harder. The few extra calories burned will be a result of increased breathing to get more oxygen into the body, which means increased work by the rib cage and other muscles involved in ventilation (which are all relatively small).

Returning home

Some would argue the biggest danger is¬†continuing such a diet upon your return home. 4727 kCal is almost twice the daily recommendation of 2500 kCal,¬†a difference of 2227 kCal — one that¬†would¬†quickly¬†start resulting in weight gain.

Improvements

The science behind calorific burn is a confusing area to research due to the many conflicting arguments. Clearly, this is a very inaccurate analysis for the most part. By adding in additional variables to my calculations – like heart rate, temperature, etc – rather than just time would likely produce some very different results.

tl;dr

5 hours of continuous moderate skiing can burn almost 3000 kCal. Or 16 pints of beer (@180 kCal p/pint).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.