Ski run ratings are used across the globe to denominate the difficulty of a particular run. Rating systems are different in different parts of the world, but they do represent the same basic idea.
The one thing to keep in mind though, runs are rated in relative to other runs or paths within the same resort, meaning a Beginner run at one resort, won’t necessarily be a Beginners run at another resort.
The ratings don’t vary so much that a Beginner run will be qualified as an Expert run somewhere else, but it is important to keep in mind that it isn’t a standardised system.
Although the gradient of the slope is the primary factor in determining difficulty, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration. Trails are rated off of their most difficult part, meaning a slope can be grade as Black, even if there is only a small section that is difficult.
Ski resorts will rank their trails based off of their own attributes, rating trails compared only to the other trails at the resort. The width of the trail, the sharpest turns, terrain roughness, and how often the resort can groom the trail, all plays a role in the difficulty rankings.
North America, Australia and New Zealand
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These countries use a color and shape rating system. Ski trail difficulties are measured by percent slope, and not degree angle.
Beginner slopes : 6% to 25%
Intermediate slopes : 25% to 40%
Expert slopes : 40% and up
Usually the easiest slopes on the mountain, runs are very wide and well groomed, making them very smooth and great for kids and beginners.
Intermediate slopes, these slopes usually make up the majority of the slopes at a resort.
Black Diamond slopes are usually the most difficult slopes on the mountain. They are usually the steepest and are also not as groomed as the intermediate and beginner slopes.
Double Black Diamond
These slopes are even more dangerous than the black diamond paths and are usually comprised of narrow paths, many obstacles, and are most definitely for experienced skiers only.
Many resorts and parks will have variations, usually meaning a trail won’t fit into one particular category. These variations can indicate a run that is a mixture between beginner or intermediate, or expert with more obstacles than usual.
A terrain park is a run that will have ramps, half-pipes, rails, and many other things for skiers and snowboarders to do tricks are extreme skiing and boarding, they are indicated with a orange rectangle with rounded corners.
In Europe, slopes are classified using a color coded system. Different countries have variations of difficulty, but Blue for easy, Red for intermediate, and Black for expert, or all used everywhere.
Slopes marked Green, Blue or Red are runs that are groomed at all resorts and ski areas. Black slopes are groomed in Switzerland, Austria and Italy. In France, not all Black slopes are groomed.
(Spain, Scandinavia, France, Poland and the U.K). These slopes are easy slopes and are for beginners and younger skiers and snowboarders. Ideal for learning, as they are wider and well groomed.
Blue slopes are easy slopes. These slopes won’t have a gradient of more than 25%. Blue slopes in Europe are very similar to the Green slopes in the U.S, Australia and New Zealand.
Red slopes in Europe are intermediate slopes, and are similar to the blue square in North America. Steeper, and sometimes narrower than a Blue Square run, these runs are usually groomed, but sometimes aren’t completely groomed depending on the path of the run.
Black slopes are expert slopes, which are the equivalent to the Black Diamond or Double Black Diamond slopes in the United States. Like mentioned above, in Austria, Italy and Switzerland, these runs are groomed.
In France, some of the Black slopes are groomed and some aren’t. The variation between Black slopes is sometimes pretty large as they are sometimes slightly steeper than red slopes, or much steeper than red slopes.
Double Black or Triple Black
In Scandinavia, these are very or extremely difficult runs.
In Austria, Switzerland, and a few other areas, this color indicates an extremely difficult slope.
Yellow, Orange Square, Red Diamond
Recently, many resorts reclassified Black routes to Yellow routes. This signifies and ungroomed and unpatrolled route that is usually off-piste but in a marked skiing area.
Japan uses a color coded system much like the one used in Europe. Some resorts use the same systems as either the United States or Europe, this can sometimes be very confusing. If you are ever in doubt, the the resort map legend.
These slopes are usually found at the bottom of the mountain are are for beginners and kids, very useful when learning to ski or snowboard. They can also be found of switchback paths.
Red slopes are intermediate slopes. These slopes make up the vast majority of Japanese skiing resorts, usually between 40%-60%, depending on resort to resort classification.
Black slopes are expert slopes and are almost always the steepest. They aren’t always as steep as equivalent Black slopes in the United States, New Zealand, Australia or Europe, but their difficulty is dependent on the target audience.
These ratings are designed to ensure the safety and well-being of the skiers and snowboarders who use the slopes. It is also a way to keep track of your own abilities. If you are wanting to up the level of slope you want to run, taking a look at it and all of its intricacies will ensure you keep yourself out of danger.