Goodbye, Paper Trail Maps.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 12/01/20 •  3 min read

Have you ever put your hand in the pocket of a ski jacket you haven’t worn for a while and pulled out an old trail map?  There’s something satisfying about that, isn’t there? You’re immediately drawn back to a time and place — a day you spent skiing at XYZ resort, for example, when the snow was deep and the sky was blue and conditions were nothing short of amazing. Remember when you almost took a wrong turn onto a double black cliff and the map saved your life? Remember when you thought you’d explode if you didn’t find a rest room ASAP? Thanks, trail map.

Maps open up a whole world of skiing to us. They’re more than just guides to a resort. They’re beautiful to look at, fun to collect, and a great way to revisit past ski days. You can hang them on the wall or look at them in a book  (incidentally, James Neihues’ book, The Man Behind the Maps, makes a great holiday gift). They’re the keys that unlock the mountain to us all.

Like a lot of you, I have a whole collection of ski maps from the places I’ve skied. I love unfolding them and reliving my trip to a particular resort. I love sharing them with my Dad, who lives in Florida and doesn’t ski anymore. And while I can see any ski map I want online, there’s just something satisfying about having a hard copy in my hand (even though yes, they’re always a pain in the ass to re-fold).

But maybe I’m romanticizing. Because like straight skis, lace up leather ski boots, and bear claw bindings, paper trail maps may soon be a thing of the past. Vail Resorts, for example, has stopped providing them entirely at its resorts this season.

Why get rid of paper maps?

I’m sure there are many reasons. I imagine a big factor has to be cost. Vail prints thousands and thousands of trail trail maps each year for each of its individual resorts. Multiply that by all the resorts in its empire, and that has to be a huge printing bill. Eliminate the maps, and you save a ton of money.

Then there’s the environment. According to Bonnie MacPherson, Vail’s Northeast Communications Director, getting rid of paper maps is part of  the company’s EpicPromise Commitment to Zero. The goal is to achieve zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill, and zero net operating impact on forests and habitat by 2030. Getting rid of as much paper as possible is a big step toward reaching that goal.

Bonnie also noted that there are safety issues, too. “As an aspect of our overall safety protocols, our efforts to create a no-touch/no-contact environment have resulted in many changes like cashless transactions, the reimagining of food services, and the elimination of paper trail maps,” she said. “In preparation for this, we’ve made upgrades to the map features on EpicMix. We’re encouraging our guests to use the free app.”

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Sure, I can get behind the environmental aspect of getting rid of paper. Besides, all too often the maps end up as litter around the resort. You can see them scattered beneath the lift, or blowing around on a windy day. Not good.

Still, I’m sad to see them go. What about you?




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