Though once frowned upon among the grim “ski-it-like-it-is” Europeans, grooming is now becoming as widely and expertly practiced at most Alpine resorts as on the slopes of New England or the Rockies.

Trail Maps. These show all the regular runs at a resort. The trails are usually depicted in color to indicate whether they’re easy, intermediate, or rough and tough. Maps come in two sizes: the small kind that slips into your jacket pocket; and - usually at the base area but often at the top of the mountain as well - the huge billboard kind. Larger ski resorts indicate on the billboard current conditions - that is, which trails are open or closed and which ones were groomed overnight.

Vertical. Descriptive information about every ski area always includes three elements - the base elevation, the summit elevation, and the vertical, or difference between the two. The vertical has nothing whatsoever to do with how steep the runs are. But a higher vertical generally means longer and more runs of all types, from green to double black.

Most North American resorts have a vertical somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 feet. A dozen exceed 3,000 feet. The verticals of Europe’s Alpine ski areas generally range from 4,000 to 6,000 feet.

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