In many countries, a rating system is used to indicate the condition and grade of the slopes. The grading of trails is done by the ski resort and is not standardized. This means that although the ratings are usually similar across different regions, slopes are rated according to other slopes in the area. For instance, an intermediate-level slope at one resort may be more challenging than a similar one at another. Even if the grades are similar in nature, skiers should be careful about assuming that they are in the same league.

Green Circle

While it’s true every ski resort determines the rating system of their own slopes, there are guidelines to indicate the difficulty of trails. In North America, Australia, and New Zealand, a color coordinate system of green, blue, and black indicates the level of expertise needed to traverse that slope. Beginner slopes have inclines anywhere from 6% to 25%. Green circles are used to indicate that these slopes are suitable for skiers just learning. The trails may be wider, less steep, and allow newcomers to practice before moving on to anything more advanced.

Blue Square

A blue square run is an intermediate-level slope intended for those who have advanced past beginner. Their inclines can be anywhere from 25% to 40%. They are usually the busiest and thus are often groomed to maintain the slope’s integrity. Most skiers should be comfortable and able to execute turns smoothly and stop quickly, as steeper grades can lead to faster speeds. Many intermediate runs are also ungroomed, which can be challenging for beginner skiers. Blue square trails are ideal for more advanced skiers to perfect their high-speed run skills and access more advanced courses. It’s the most popular run on the mountain, and it features a variety of gradients.

Black Diamond

An indication for advanced skiers, black diamonds have more than a 40% gradient. These slopes are ungroomed, vary in conditions, and require advanced knowledge and confidence to traverse. A skier preparing for a black diamond run is able to easily maneuver down beginner and intermediate slopes. Capable of making smooth turns, skiing in parallel, and navigating through different terrain is an essential skill for those attempting a black diamond. A skier’s rapid reflexes become critical when slopes are narrow, ungroomed, and contain obstacles like trees and cliffs.

While black diamonds are usually the most difficult of ski runs, slopes can be graded on an even more difficult level. These types of trails are more challenging to navigate due to the steep slopes, the presence of trees, and the exposure to wind and other hazards. Called double black diamonds, these trails are intended for only the most experienced skiers.