Vertical is a term that skiers and mountain bike riders use when describing their day on the hill or trail. Vertical drop is generally described as the measurement from the top of the mountain to the base lodge. Particular ski trails are listed with a certain vertical drop, and you can track these statistics on a number of apps today including the popular Slopes app. It gives you information like how many runs you made and what total vertical drop was achieved in your day of skiing. My friend Mark Hutchinson and I used an app called Alpine Replay which was the forerunner to Slopes to track our runs at Northstar at Tahoe one day. I have posted before that we achieved 57,000 vertical feet that day and the next day at Mt. Rose in Nevada, we achieved 52,000 vertical feet. It was kind of fun to track our runs and see how many we made and what the total vertical or vertical drop we had achieved skiing. Plus we totally honked off a French guy who held the record up to that point. A couple of old geezers took him down. The app developer loved it. LOL!!
Another fun statistic is to see how high the summits are at different ski areas and to see the total vertical drop based on those summit elevations. When you ride the Summit Chair at Whiteface as seen above, you will see markers on the chairlift towers that show your elevation and also how it compares to similar resorts in Vermont and New Hampshire. The summit at Whiteface is actually higher than a lot of New England ski areas. So, elevation vertical and vertical drop are used a lot when describing your day on the slopes at any ski area. How much vertical did you ski and what is the vertical of the summit? Cool statistics that are apres ski conversation pieces.
Similarly, mountain bikers rack up vertical while climbing up a trail. We all have devices that track different statistics like heart rate, distance, time on the ride and vertical. In this case, vertical means what is achieved when we climb on our mountain bike. My Garmin Fenix watch tracks these efforts, and I can log how many miles I have ridden, on what trails, what was the distance and other metrics that are interesting to see at the end of a ride. I can compare them to my friends’ metrics and see how we do in comparison to each other’s efforts. Gaining vertical on a mountain bike ride takes some effort and it is what usually gets you in shape when you have to climb a hill on a bike. This time of year, the effort is making us stronger with each ride. No pain – no gain. When we climb hills on a mountain bike, we sweat, breathe hard, and fatigue our legs to the point of exhaustion. So vertical in this case is all uphill effort with trackable results.
So, thinking about this the other day while looking at my Garmin statistics, led me to some conclusions which will show you a little bit about how my mind works. This winter, I always thought about the vertical on the summits where I skied. I thought about how many vertical feet I had skied and how it felt to achieve those metrics. Usually, I work hard at making clean turns and I learn something new every year. But the effort is assisted by gravity and even though sometimes I am breathing heavy at times due to altitude, or working the turns, the effort is not as difficult as when I am riding uphill on a mountain bike to achieve vertical feet in climbing. It occurred to me that the two different efforts are really like what goes on in life. Some days we flow downhill through the day, with little effort and appreciate the beauty of the world similar to a ski run on a sunny, groomed slope. Gravity is our friend as we make our way through the day with no encumbrances. But then there are the other days where it is tough. Like climbing a steep hill on your mountain bike in 90 degree weather. The sweat is pouring, you are breathing heavy, and your legs sometimes feel like lead. Those days, while achieving vertical feet of climbing, can be tough. But here is the good news. The effort most of the time yields great rewards. You get in better shape and the adversity turns you into a stronger rider and the no pain no gain axiom is found to be true.
There are those days when you think that there is no way you are going to make it. Like riding that mountain bike, you think you cannot make one more pedal stroke ……..but you eventually do. You don’t give up and you get to the top. You look back at the ride or the day, and you realize that life can be tough sometimes. But when you summon up some effort, learn to accept the pain and the adversity, you can achieve many things – a lot more than vertical feet. There are downhill days and uphill days, but when we learn to appreciate both efforts of gaining ……………..vertical………….we can see how it makes us a stronger, better person. Right? Thanks for reading.