Marolt: Long Shot isn’t so long after all
“Higher, faster, stronger.” We have to amend that. It’s the Olympic motto, you know, and it’s supposed to stand for everything we believe about competition. Therefore, we have to change it to “Higher, faster, stronger at all costs because reality is a bore.”
Have you ever heard of so much cheating? We no longer have any idea what the limits of human strength and endurance are because there is so little honest effort. The Olympics are a showcase for covert chemistry and camouflaged engineering. It’s a proving ground for cliches: You can’t believe everything you see. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The keys to success are shameful secrets and nothing we want to teach our kids.
I was thinking about this Saturday as I walked my dog up the ski trail Long Shot in Snowmass. It was a beautiful August afternoon, and it felt good to be moving up a mountain without the aid of a footpath and powered by nothing except a bowl of granola.
Usually we go about halfway up Burnt Mountain, just past the biggest raspberry patch you’ve ever seen. I marvel at the view, my dog takes a dip in the creek, and then we go down.
This day was so nice, though, that I decided, after seeing how much my dog was enjoying it, to go all the way to the top. It would be an honest accomplishment to highlight an otherwise pointless hike. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, either, because I believe a walk in the hills should be pointless to be truly worthwhile.
You know about Long Shot, right? It’s advertised as the longest continuous ski run in Colorado, Ski Country USA. It has become a skiing novelty. People make it a point to come here to test their ski-leg endurance. Cyberspace is full of posts and blogs about thighs searing under the demands of covering the highly touted 5.3 miles of terrain. Some skiers challenge themselves to span the descent without stopping and then calculate impressive average speeds by dividing the touted distance by their clocked time it took to cover it.
It’s not easier to hike up in the summertime. You can imagine my feeling of accomplishment as I crested the summit. There’s a ditch flowing near the top, so my dog was ecstatic, too. I caught my breath and took in the stunning view, and I admit I was a little proud. I pulled out my iPhone and did the obligatory distance check with its health app.
What the? The almighty iPhone said I had only covered 3.9 miles from my Prius to the pristine. Ah, well, you know how stupid smartphones are. That app is notoriously unreliable — but usually not that far off. Hmm.
I heard thunder echo from the Willow Creek Valley and checked my watch to see if the daily summer showers were on schedule. Wow, I got up here quicker than I thought. Wait a minute! An hour and a half to cover 5.3 miles of semi-steep mountain terrain? That’s an average speed of about 3.5 miles per hour, including three stops for dog paddling and one for raspberry picking? Have you ever picked raspberries? It takes a long time!
Logical thinking materialized out of the thin air. They say an average person walking on flat ground covers about 3 miles in an hour. I was on a slope at high altitude with a curious dog. I’d say I was doing 2 mph at best. You do that math. It says the summit is only 3 miles from the bottom!
Do you realize what that means? I was the doping test for artificially enhanced Aspen information. Long Shot is not nearly as long as claimed! I didn’t break our record; I turned it into a myth!
Once home, I went to the lab for the foolproof test, Google Earth. As the camp robber flies, it turns out Long Shot measures just 3 miles top to bottom. When I took a little more time to measure the twists and turns of the trail, it still only added up to 3.2 miles long. Accounting for altitude gain with geometry, it added up to just 3.26 miles. The long and, especially, the short of it is that Long Shot is probably only about 3.3 miles in length, at best. The record book has exaggerated the famous trail’s length by more than 60 percent!
Sorry, Aspen fans. It turns out we don’t have the longest ski trail in Colorado, and those remarkable speeds you averaged covering it nonstop are highly inflated. It just goes to prove you can’t believe everything you read in the record books. It was just too good to be true.
Roger Marolt believes that Long Shot, by any measurement, is still just a mediocre intermediate ski run. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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