Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Snowboarder vs. How Fast Was I Going for Real?

It's now four weeks without an update on the ankle.  What's the deal?  Update!

I needed a break.  Dealing with ankle pain on a daily basis for two years can wear on you.  The distraction arthroplasty surgery has, for once, given me that awesome break.  The ankle has felt good enough over the last few weeks to finally forget, momentarily, the last two years.  It still hurts -- just not nearly as bad as it used to!

I now walk without a cane.  I stopped using the elevator last week and I've been hitting the gym regularly.  The ankle arthritis has returned, but it's not debilitating.  I'm still taking 200mg of Celebrex every morning.  The pain is probably around 20% of what it used to be before the surgery.  I still limit walking and time spent on my feet.

I apologize for not updating you all over the last four weeks.  I've been taking it from all sides, including my good friend Phil.  

Phil just recently moved to Denver for the sole reason to annoy me with the massive amount of regular weekend snowboarding he now does.  

This past weekend, Phil took a short drive up to Breckenridge on a mission to bust a widely held belief that there was no way I could possibly have been snowboarding at 40MPH when I hit the tree.  I thought that was awesome.

Without further delay, here is his write-up of his attempt to bust the myth!

MythBusters edition: Snowboarder vs. Collision Speed

If you have ever met Tony you know a few things about him:
  1. He never plays practical jokes on anyone.
  2. He never bets anyone to do pretty much anything
  3. He never over-exaggerates
Point three is what caused this analysis to be completed.  Tony's blog states that he ran into a tree at 40-45mph.  I have been skeptical of this number for awhile as I have hit a top speed of 53mph on my bicycle and that was pretty scary.  Since I have had no way to determine speed while snowboarding, 40mph seemed very fast.  I know pro downhill skiers hit 80mph and average 30 – 40mph, but that is on some steep terrain.  Furthermore, if you analyze the actual spot of the collision with the tree it is right off Lower American, a green (easy run).  

The Test:
Take a similar route as Tony and wear a GPS unit to determine speed.   

I spoke with Tony the night before completing the test to determine his actual route and possible variables in the setup.


Tony and I are built nearly the same as far as height.  Tony does weigh a bit more than I do, so that would also increase his speed [Editor's note: I weigh 200lbs now, jerk].  Tony's snowboard is 7cm longer than mine, which generally equates to a obtaining and holding higher speeds.

Height Weight Board Length Hair Eyes Riding Ability
Tony 6'4” 220lbs 165cm wide Brown Blue Treetastic
Phil 6'3” 200lbs 158cm wide Brown Brown Super Awesome


Tony started at the top near the Mercury lift then took American (blue\black diamond) to Lower American (A green) on route to clobber a tree.  My route was a bit different due to American being closed due to a lack of snow.  I followed nearly the same path as I took Sundown (blue) to Lower American (green).  The section actually containing the tree was also closed, so I had to detour around a section of trees.

Note:  Tony took American to Lower American before his accident.  How much more patriotic can you get?

Here is a map so you can compare our routes:

Since our routes are nearly the same I do not consider this is be much of a factor in the test.   Both runs are very similar, with American being a little bit steeper.  Sundown and American are very steep for the first part of the run dropping 40 vertical feet in about a quarter mile.  The runs both level out around 500 yards before connecting with the very flat Lower American.  Tony would have entered Lower American earlier than I did, so his speed would have started to bleed off a bit sooner that mine.  I believe this detail levels the playing field and negates any extra speed he would have had.  The slight detour near I had to take around the tree is nearly the same grade as the route to the tree.  Again, a slight difference, but it should not affect the results much.

Snow Conditions\Time of Day\Temperature:
The test was completed at 12 noon on ski runs consisting of groomed packed powder.  The temperature was in the high 30's\low 40's.

Editor's note: my crash run took place a little after 9:30AM with groomed packed powder.  The temperature was a bit colder -- low 30's.

Riding style: “You better go as fast as you can because that's how I do it.” -Tony, Dec 2011

I go fairly fast but I generally take it a little bit easy.  After riding with my GPS my average speed when cruising around is between 20 and 25mph.  I really had to step it up to meet the speed and agility of Tony.

Here is some interesting data from a few leisurely runs at Breck:

The Test:
On both runs I started collecting GPS data near the top of the run and stopped collected at the Mercury lift.  The ski runs were not too busy so it was easy to cruise on both runs.  I tried to straight shoot both runs as much as possible.  To maintain stability I did have to edge somewhat, but did so in a manner as to not lose speed.  I also took corners this way to ensure the most amount of speed was kept.  I tucked a bit at high speeds so I was more aerodynamic and also 'pumped' the snowboard on rollers to maintain speed.

Two different test runs were completed, both with very similar results.

Garmin's site is terrible for analytics, so I imported the GPS data into map my ride.

First Test:
http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/82299108 (Click on splits and graphs)

Second Test:
http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/82296678  (Click on splits and graphs)

The actual collision would have occurred between two data points:

Based on the graphs it is easy to see how fast speed starts to bleed off as you continue on Lower American.

The other test I completed had my speed was about 1 mph faster, so between 34 and 35.75.

The Results:

My estimated speed at the point of collision:  32 – 36 mph.

Based on the data it is possible that Tony was going 40 mph when he hit the tree.  This is due to the longer board length and because he is quite an all-American badass!

Speed Likelihood
30 Too Slow!
35 For Sure
40 Probable
45 Unlikely

Editor's note to all of my friends that doubted me: I told you so.


  1. Excellent update -- your buddy would definitely fit right in with those mythbuster guys.

    Glad you're experiencing such a dramatic reduction in pain.

    Merry Christmas!


  2. Tony,

    Merry Christmas and the best on this 2012 for you and your family.

    I like the approach you guys took to model your speeds. Hope you will be able to get on the board again and show them how is done while this time they hold a speed gun (not sudden stops included of course).

    All the best again,


  3. Myth - Plausible

    Bulldog Crew

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Hey Toni! How it's going?

    I finally got my ex-frame (RAD-Fix, from Small Bones Technology) in NYC last 15th. Less pins and almost no pain. 5 series of 15 pumps daily and WB as tolerated.

    Hope thing are going well for you,