Ever wonder what some of those trail names mean? Here are a few that have puzzled me over time. It turns out that they’re related to the flora and fauna of the mountains.
Ptarmigan: Otherwise known as the rock ptarmigan, this bird is well-adapted to a snowy environment.
Pika: also known as a “rock rabbit,” it is is a small animal that lives in the mountains.
Wapiti: An elk.
Columbine: a flower.
Larkspur: a perennial flower.
Some trail names have an historical connection. The longest piste in Vail is called “Riva Ridge.” During World War II, the 10th Mountain Division made a remarkable assault in the Italian Alps, in a region known as the Riva Ridge. Here’s how GlobalSecurity.org describes the operation:
The division entered combat on January 28, 1945 in the North Apennine Mountains of Italy. The division faced German positions arrayed along the 5 mile long Monte Belvedere-Monte della Torraccia ridge. Other divisions had attempted to assault Mount Belvedere three times, even holding it temporarily, but none had succeeded. To get to Mount Belvedere the division first had to take a ridge line to the west known to the Americans as the Riva Ridge. The Germans on Riva Ridge protected the approaches to Mount Belvedere. The assault on Riva Ridge was the task of the 1st Battalion and F Company, 2d Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry. After much scouting, it was decided the assault would be at night, a 1,500-vertical-assent. The Germans considered the ridge to be impossible to scale and manned it with only one battalion of mountain troops. The attack by the 86th on February 18, 1945, was a complete success and an unwelcome surprise to the Germans.
Gandy dancer: a railroad worker.
Some names suggest daring-do, recklessness, and danger lurking ahead:
Widowmaker (Sugarloaf; Park City)
Deliverance (Jay Peak)
Cesspool (Crested Butte)
Body Bag Glades (CB)
Dead Bob’s Chute (CB)
Close Call (CB)
Good Luck Glades (CB)
Drop Off (CB)
CPR Ridge (Kicking Horse)
Terminator Peak (Kicking Horse)
Hail Mary (Kicking Horse)
Redemption Ridge (Kicking Horse)
Ski Dive (Fernie)
Bye Bye Bowl (Sunshine Village)
O.S. Pitch (as in “Oh S***) (Sunshine Village)
Elevator Shaft (Lake Louise)
Wounded Knee (Lake Louise)
Free Fall (Lake Louise)
Ghastly (Lake Louise)
Hang on (Lake Louise)
Idiot’s Option and Chicken’s Option (Attitsh)
Chicken and Chicken Out (Welch Village0
Agony (bump run at Sunday River)
AMF (Adios, My Friend) (Snowmass — cleaned-up version)
Chicken’s Way Out (Panorama Mountain)
The Wall (Holiday Valley)
Ego Ally (Wild Mountain)
Ka-Wham (Mission Ridge)
What trail names have stood out to you? Leave a comment.