Answer to Map #80

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Answer: This week’s map was a dot map depicting all the places in the contiguous U.S. where you could go downhill skiing.

To make this map, we found a list of 453 ski areas in the contiguous U.S., geocoded them to find latitudes and longitudes for each, and then plotted them on a blank map. The result is a clear picture of the country’s most important mountain ranges: the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Cascades, and the Sierra Nevadas. You can also see a collection of dots in the cold states around the Great Lakes. In fact, by our count, the state with the most ski areas is Michigan with 39.

Of course, not all ski areas are created equal. The grandest and most spectacular mountains tend to be in the West, especially in the Rockies. The ski area with the greatest difference in elevation from top to bottom is Telluride in Colorado (4,425 feet). The ski area with the most land available to be skied is Powder Mountain in Utah (8,464 acres). And the ski area with the most chair lifts is Park City in Utah (41 total lifts). If, rather than simple dot map, we had made a proportional symbol map based on one of these variables, the states of the Mountain West would have appeared much more pronounced.

On our dot map, the dots for Telluride, Powder Mountain, and Park City appear exactly the same size as the lone dot in Texas. That dot indicates the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. Near the university’s tennis center stands a 35-foot man-made hill covered in a synthetic material that sort of mimics snow. Students can sign up for a class called “Beginning Snow Skiing.” By the standards of our map, it counts. Barely.

One common incorrect submission for this map was that it represented the hometowns of American athletes in the 2018 Winter Olympics. That guess can’t be right because there were some American athletes from places where you could never go skiing, including speed skaters from Houston and Orlando and bobsledders from San Antonio and Las Vegas. But it is certainly true that a lot of Winter Olympians grew up in places where skiing was convenient!

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