One of the most important aspects of skiing to understand before hitting the slopes is the terminology, and slope symbols. Less experienced skiers may not understand this system, which could lead to a catastrophic mistake in traversing a highly advanced course that they aren’t prepared to handle. Before choosing a trail, make sure you are able to recognize and understand which is safest for you.
Slope signs first began in the mid-1960s to better regulate skiers and protect them from unexpected courses or terrain. Since then, these have become a staple in winter sports safety for skiers and snowboarders across the world (after a few color disparities between countries).
These indicate the easiest slopes on the mountain. They tend to be very wide to accommodate for beginners with very slight slope gradients to prevent high speeds. Green slopes also typically have completely flat surfaces with no difficult terrain.
For skiers and snowboarders that have surpassed the level of beginner but are still somewhat cautious, blue square trails are perfect for an easy, yet slightly steeper ride. They do however, tend to be the most crowded, as most skiers on the mountain are at this level of experience. Note that depending on where in the world you are skiing, these can still be significantly more difficult than green circle trails.
Here’s where things start to get even more difficult. Black diamond slopes have much deeper gradients than their green and blue neighbors, and sometimes come with moguls or difficult terrain. It is suggested that only winter sport enthusiasts with a great deal of experience navigate these tricky runs.
Double Black Diamond
As the name suggests, these are considerably more difficult than single black diamond trails. Leave these to the ski and snowboard experts. Double black diamonds come with dangerous terrain that can only be navigated by those who have been hitting the slopes for their entire lives, such as cliffs, trees, and moguls, not to mention the extremely steep gradients that are often used for heli skiing.
Triple Black Diamond
Not every ski resort in the world has these, but those with extremely tall mountain ranges will sometimes take advantage of the natural terrain and give skiers and snowboarders access to the incredibly steep runs that they provide. Triple black diamonds are, without question, for experts only. The extreme heights and cliffs are often coupled with enormous boulders, woodland areas, and dangerous conditions that can even the deter the most seasoned veterans.
The symbols mentioned above are there for your safety. Depending on your skiing experience, choose the trail that is safest for you, and try not to venture onto more difficult terrain until you are confident enough that you’ve gained the skills necessary to do so.