Skiing - A Mountain of Risk and Return

What investment path will you chose to your investment destinations?

Here in Beautiful B.C. the sunny season has given way to the rainy season. The rainy season has a couple of silver linings, one being that the rain in the mountains will soon turn to snow – and that means ski season!

Over the years many people have visited me for ski holidays and I’ve had the chance to play ski guide. These experiences have taught me about risk tolerance. The hard runs off Whistler’s summit can be intimidating. I’ve seen them bring smiles to some, but I’ve also seen them lead to terrified looks from a few Torontonians (Whistler is bigger than Blue Mountain).

There are many ways to get down from Whistler’s summit - all of them get you to the bottom:

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Easy green runs are essentially meandering roads that switch back and forth to dampen the gradient down the mountain.

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Intermediate blue runs take a somewhat steeper track. They are usually groomed to smooth the snow and dangerous rocks or drop off are well marked. Blue runs keep most skiers happy.


Advanced and Expert routes, called black runs, often take the most direct route down the mountain, with gradients typically in excess of 40 degrees.

If you’re looking for a “quick return” on your lift-ticket and you want to pack in as much skiing into a day as possible then aggressive black runs are the way to go… but there are some considerations.

The most direct routes are the most challenging to ski and take the shortest time to get to the bottom but with extra steepness comes the risk of something not going as planned. The extra steepness ups the ante for injury, equipment malfunction, and crashes. Any one of these things can take extra time – making the more direct route far from the shortest way off the peak of Whistler.

You can view the journey down the mountain as having parallels with an investment path. The question for every investor is that of green, blue, or black runs. Should you take the conservative, moderate or aggressive route? A few points to consider:

1. Suitability

It doesn’t matter if it's sunny out. Or if your “guide” knows of an awesome powder line hidden in a gully. The aggressiveness of the route must match the skier. “Easy-steep route” is as much an oxymoron at the top of Whistler as it is in the investment world.

2. Experience

Have you done anything like this before? It helps to know what you’re heading towards if you’re going to navigate a route properly.

3. Time

How long do you have until you must be down the mountain? When does the sun go down? The longer time you have to invest the more aggressive you can be. It you’re behind schedule I disagree with those suggest stretching your risk ability for higher returns. It’s better to ski out in the dark on a green run than on a black run.

4. Attitude

What would it feel like in to crash? A simple slip will hurt drastically more on a double black run then on a green. What’s your ability to get up and dust off? There are some runs that don’t allow you to change courses. Are you happy committing yourself to a black run for the duration of the journey down the mountain or is it going to scare the living daylights out you?

Apres ski in Whistler Village is always a joyful time for all skiers no matter which routes they skied on the mountain. There are rewards for all who make it down the mountain.

Enjoy your portfolio and enjoy your skiing this winter. But stay safe. Ski and invest appropriately.

Photo by Willem De Meyer on Unsplash

Written by Ian Collings