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Learn about True-up Vertical - a more useful and accurate ski resort statistic

About Our Mountain Stats and Independent Verification


About True-Up Vertical Descent

Intro to True-Up Vertical

True-Up Vertical Drop is a new ski metric created by MountainVertical.com, and is intended to be a more meaningful ski resort statistic for skiers and snowboards researching mountains. In a nutshell, it represents the most vertical distance at a resort that can be achieved on commonly skied, lift-served, continuous fall-line runs.

What is the conventional definition of vertical drop? How is True-Up Vertical different?

The conventional definition of "vertical drop" is more rudimentary: it is the elevation at a mountain’s highest point minus elevation at the lowest point – but does not take into account the skiability of all the terrain in between.

True-Up Vertical is similar, but also considers the all of the terrain of the mountain and will limit the measurement based on the vertical that is commonly skied.

Why is knowing the True-Up Vertical more meaningful in your mountain research?

Basically, True-Up Vertical is meant to be skier's perspective on mountain height, not a topographical view on mountain height.
A resort's topography might occupy a 3000 ft vertical drop, but if the mountain terrain flowed in a way where you would never actually ski that full amount, then that 3000 ft measurement isn't representative of what you would experience. True-Up Vertical asks the question - what is the typical full amount of drop that you would normally ski, run after run, when you go to visit that ski resort.

Examples of how True-Up Vertical better represents a resort to skiers:

The following examples illustrate how the conventional measure of vertical drop would be different from the True-Up Vertical, and why using True-Up Vertical to represent a resort makes more sense.

Example 1: Impossible to ski from the highest point to the lowest point

brian head true up example

Example Resort: Brian Head in Utah
Topographic Vertical Drop (conventional definition): 1690 ft - from A to C above
True-up Vertical Drop (from MountainVertical.com): 1135 ft - from A to B above

The conventional topographical definition of vertical drop is the height from highest point to the lowest point, or from A to C above. However, if you look at the layout of the trails, you can see that there is no actual way to ski on a run from A to C.

Instead, A to B is the longest span of continuous run vertical that would be frequently skied when you visit the resort - this is the True-Up Vertical, which is over 500 ft shorter. Claiming that Brian Head has a vertical drop of 1690 ft is somewhat misrepresentative of your skiing experience at this resort because it is impossible to ski that amount at once.

From a ski resort research perspective, it is more meaningful to know the height between A and B than A and C.

Example 2: The solitary trail that inflates the vertical drop, but adds little to your ski experience

smuggler's notch true up example

Example Resort: Smuggler's Notch in Vermont
Topographic Vertical Drop (conventional definition): 2564 ft - from A to C above
True-up Vertical Drop (from MountainVertical.com): 2088 ft - from A to B above

The conventional definition of vertical drop is the height from highest point to the lowest point. However, when skiing down from this summit, it becomes clear that continuous fall-line runs are between and A and B, not between A and C, based on the mountain's layout.

B to C is actually just a single long green traverse away from the main lift area, which inflates the resort's vertical drop by an extra 500 ft, but is not part of the primary mountain face and is rarely skied from the summit, therefore not counted as part of the True-Up Vertical.

From a ski resort research perspective, it is more meaningful to know the height between A and B than A and C.

Example 3: The highest and lowest points are only connected via a catwalk or long traverse

sunday river true up example

Example Resort: Sunday River in Maine
Topographic Vertical Drop (conventional definition): 2317 ft - from A to C above
True-up Vertical Drop (from MountainVertical.com): 1758 ft - from B to C above

Many resorts with numerous peaks have highest and lowest points that are not well connected and require a long traverse to get across. In this example, Sunday River is organized with many peaks along a diagonal ridge, where the highest peak and the lowest base are definitely not along the same fall line, and may even require considerable poling to get across.

In these cases, the True-Up Vertical is the tallest fall line offered by the resort. For Sunday River, it is from the top of Locke Mountain to the lowest base area, or from B to C. This is about 550 ft shorter the conventional definition of vertical drop, but it represents the most drop a skier would typically ski in a run.

From a ski resort research perspective, it is more meaningful to know the height between B and C than A and C.

Example 4: The highest point is not lift-served and requires hiking

marmot basin true up example

Example Resort: Marmot Basin in Alberta
Topographic Vertical Drop (conventional definition): 2869 ft - from A to C above
True-up Vertical Drop (from MountainVertical.com): 2240 ft - from B to C above

On many mountains, the highest point is not lift-served and requires you to hike. We only include the lift-served portion as part of the True-Up Vertical, because lift-served runs are more frequent and repeatable when you're out skiing, while hiking to the top for a run is generally more of a one-time thing, given the time and effort required.

From a ski resort research perspective, it is meaningful to know both the height between B and C and A and C.


Here is one example where the True-Up Vertical is exactly the same as with the conventional definition of vertical drop, given the nature of the resort's mountain terrain and trail layout.

Example 5: True-Up Vertical is exactly the same as Topographical Vertical

jay peak true up example

Example Resort: Jay Peak in Vermont
Topographic Vertical Drop (conventional definition): 1936 ft - from A to B above
True-up Vertical Drop (from MountainVertical.com): 1936 ft - from A to B above - exactly the same in this case

For Jay Peak, the True-Up Vertical Drop number is exactly the same as with the conventional definition of Vertical Drop, because the highest and lowest points are fully connected by numerous continuous fall-line runs. In other words, if you were to visit Jay Peak, you would make regular ski runs from the highest to lowest points on the resort.

Why did we name this metric "True-Up Vertical"?

Because the conventional reporting of vertical drop can be misleading. With this new metric, resorts must "true up" to what their reported vertical actually means to skiers and snowboarders visiting their mountain.




About Skiable Area

How is skiable area defined?

Skiable Area is simply the number of acres of terrain at a resort that is designated for skiing. This includes cut trails, bowls and snowfields, and gladed runs.

Skiable area does not include backcountry, or the unmarked area between trails (unless it has been specially gladed for tree skiing). We also don't include the footprint occupied by a resort's restaurants and facilities, such as base lodges and parking lots.

Why do we report skiable area as a range?

Skiable area is nearly impossible to determine precisely to the exact acre - especially because of the complexity of calculating only the area on marked runs (not the area between trails), as well as measuring the surface area of the mountain face over all of the varied mountainous terrain (this is different from just measuring the footprint).

We always want to provide numbers that we can stand behind. We can calculate vertical drops to the exact foot, but acknowledge that for skiable area its better for us to tell you the range.

The goal of reporting area is to give you a decent idea of scale, so providing an accurate range works well. If two resorts both have 1500-2000 acres of skiable area, consider the amount of terrain to be roughly even in your comparison. If one resort has 1500-2000 acres and another has 750-1000 acres, then consider the first resort offer about twice as much terrain. Easy.




About MountainVertical.com Verification of Stats

It should all be about accuracy:

MountainVertical.com is seeking to independently verify every single metric that every ski resort out there claims – to keep them honest. We've spent thousands of hours to conduct deep analyses and independently calculate the key stats for every resort: vertical drop, true-up vertical, and skiable area.
Our aim is to be the most reliable independent resource on the web for ski and snowboard mountain metrics.

The numbers floating around out there now are simply not accurate:

For example, Whistler claims that their vertical drop is 5280 ft, which is exactly equal one vertical mile (coincidence..?). In reality, the resort put the slightly inflated number out there for marketing purposes, and their actual vertical is a little bit lower. We'’ll get you that actual number.

Similarly, many resorts claim to have more than double the skiable acreage than they actually have, and they are able to get away with it because no one has ever tried to verify the figures they claim.

In our deep analysis of resort metrics, we found that more than half of the numbers that resorts claimed were clearly inflated. In most instances, they were just rounded up, but there were also many cases where the numbers were clearly just made up.

A rigorous process to make sure our numbers are accurate:

What is our method? Verify, verify, verify. For every single resort, we independently analyze and calculate numbers for vertical drop, true-up vertical drop, and skiable acreage. We're able to do this by using external mountain data to perform our own independent topographic analysis of what the numbers should be, and draw our own conclusions. We can understand everything there is to know about a ski resort’s mountain topography, and report it accurately on this site.

MountainVertical.com Verified

MountainVertical.com Verified

In every single place where you see the MV-verified check mark on a resort listing, that means we have undergone a full analysis to verify vertical drop and skiable acreage metrics. You can trust that those figures will be accurate and correctly represent the mountain.

Please remember to cite:

We have analyzed and determined our vertical drop numbers ourselves to a high degree of accuracy. If you are writing content on another site and would like to report any of these numbers that we have independently calculated, please state in a footnote that the information came from MountainVertical.com.