Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Understanding the Trail Signs on Your Ski Vacation

Have you ever wondered what it means when you hear from your previous ski vacation skiers or snowboarders say something like, “I can do the blacks” or “I prefer to stay at greens”?

If you are clueless about their meaning, they actually refer to a mountain trail designation system categorizing the difficulty of ski and snowboard slopes. The green circles, blue squares and black diamonds are used throughout the ski vacation destinations in North America (and most of the world) to indicate relative difficulty level. Here's how to classify them:

Green circle stands for the easiest trail at particular resort; blue square indicates more difficult trails; and, black diamond being the most difficult type of slopes.

Additionally, some resorts combined two symbols to show even more degrees of difficulty. You'll find that these resorts have five or six levels (instead of three). These are very helpful as you progress your ski level. Telluride, Colorado, for instance, uses double markings to show six degrees of difficulty.

These are the two blue squares for more difficult trails and two black diamonds for extremely difficult trails.

Meanwhile, some large ski resorts in Colorado including the Winter Park have five designations: A green circle, a blue square, a black diamond inside a blue square, a black diamond and a double black diamond:

A blue square indicates more difficult, a black diamond inside a blue square for even more difficult slopes; and, a black diamond signifies the most difficult trails.

Other useful tips:

·         Some ski resorts have an orange oval on their maps. This orange oval sign means that the particular trails are used for halfpipes and freestyle terrain parks.

·         Make sure your first run should be on the easier slope. Easier slopes allow you to leisurely do warm ups. Also, you can have enough time to evaluate the relative degree of difficulty of the area.

Little known facts:

·         In 1964, the trail marking system in the U.S. used a green square to indicate the easiest trails, and yellow triangle to signify a more difficult level. The blue circle identifies the most difficult trails, and a red diamond marks extreme caution. But four years later, the signs were changed to the present system of using green circle, a blue square and a black diamond.

·         Each ski resort has its own trails marking designations based on the difficulty of the particular skiing area. Most of the resorts have designated 25 percent for green trails. Almost 50 percent are blue, and about 25 percent are black.

·         Not all green trails are easy peasy. If mountain slopes are steep, the green trails will already be a huge challenge for novices. They may not be the easiest trails for some rookies.


Now that you already have the knowledge on the trail marking systems, you must always remember to ski safely and make some precautions before gliding on the slopes on your ski vacation.

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