A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO SKI RESORT SIGNS

06/02/18

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO SKI RESORT SIGNS

When it’s a bluebird day, there are few places more idyllic than the mountains and a ski resort. This can soon change with temperamental weather turning this heaven-like play area into a treacherous snowstorm maze.

Taking the time to learn a few signs could help you stay out of trouble and keep you safe on the mountain.

Ski Slope Difficulty Ratings


a ski resort and mountains

At the start of every run, there are signs that signify the difficulty of it. These signs can vary from country to country with newer signs differing slightly in shape but it is the colours that determine the level, and this remains constant. However, just to confuse things individual countries judge runs slightly differently, i.e. red runs in Austria are generally easier than red runs in France.

These difficulty ratings are mirrored on piste maps and along both sides of every run (within the ski resort boundaries) where you’ll find corresponding coloured poles.

If in doubt ask the local ski patrol to for advice (they should be wearing a black and yellow or red and black (USA) uniform and have huts positioned around the mountain with a cross on them).

European Ski Slope Difficulty Ratings


Colour
Level
Description
Sign
Green
Beginner
Groomed gentle slopes that are ideal for learning on, especially if you’ve never been skiing before (1° up to 25° slope angle)
a green circle
Blue
Beginner/Intermediate
Groomed slopes that are wide and good for developing skills at slightly faster speeds than a green (up to 25° slope angle)
a blue circle
Red
Intermediate
A groomed run that is narrower and steeper than a blue and requires more technical skill (<40 ° slope angle)
a red circle
Black
Expert
Groomed or moguls, a black run is aimed at experts who are confident in their ability to navigate very steep, narrow and challenging terrain (no upper limit on slope angle)
a black circle
Yellow
Advanced Expert

An ungroomed run or freeride area that has a similar slope angle and characteristics to that of a black run. This area is unpatrolled and considered off-piste.

a yellow circle

USA Ski Slope Difficulty Ratings


Colour
Level
Description
Sign
Green
Beginner
Groomed gentle slopes that are ideal for learning on, especially if you’ve never been skiing before (1° up to 25° slope angle)
a green circle
Blue
Beginner/Intermediate
Groomed slopes that are wide and good for developing skills at slightly faster speeds than a green (up to 25° slope angle)
a blue circle
Black
Expert
A groomed run that is narrower and steeper than a blue and requires more technical skill (<40 ° slope angle).N.B Red runs are not part of the grading system in America.
a black circle
Diamond Black
Expert
A groomed run that is narrower and steeper than a black that requires more technical skill (<40 ° slope angle).
a black diamond
Double Diamond Black
Advanced Expert

Groomed or moguls, it is aimed at experts who are confident in their ability to navigate very steep, narrower and challenging terrain (no upper limit on slope angle).

two black diamonds
Triple Diamond Black
Advanced Expert

Very few of these extreme slopes exist and should only be attempted by experienced experts.

three black diamonds

European Avalanche Risk


an avalanche sign

You may or may not be venturing off-piste in the immediate future, but it’s always good to know the snow conditions in and around your resort.

The avalanche risk runs on a scale of 1 to 5, from low to very high. You should be able to see these warnings on maps around the resort or signage at the top of lifts.

EAWS European Avalanche Warning Services

Avalanche chart

Avalanche chart

* The avalanche-prone locations are described in greater detail in the avalanche bulletin (altitude, slope aspect, type of terrain)

  • Moderately steep terrain: slopes shallower than 30°
  • Steep slope: slopes steeper than 30°
  • Very steep, extreme terrain: adverse slope angle (more than 40°), terrain profile, proximity to a ridge, smoothness of underlying ground surface

** additional loads:

  • Low: individual skier/snowboarder, riding softly, not falling; snowshoe; group with good spacing (minimum 10m) keeping distances
  • High: two or more skiers/snowboarders etc. without good spacing (or without intervals); snow machine; explosives; single hiker/climber

Ski Signs


a ski resort and mountains

Danger: there is a significant risk that you should be aware of. Extra signs or text will accompany the exclamation mark to explain what you should be aware of.

a danger sign

Ski Area Boundary: the area beyond the sign is not supported by ski patrol, may have dangers that are not marked and be susceptible to avalanches. You ski at your own risk.

a ski boundary area sign

Crosstrails: pay attention and be ready to change direction as other skiers travel across your intended route.

a cross trail sign

Cliff: avert your course of direction as there is a cliff beyond the sign.

a cliff sign

Snow Making: pay extra care, and attention; a snow making machine may be in use, spraying snow in the air, obstructing your view and making the snow surface icy.

a snow making sign

Avalanche: the area beyond the sign is prone to avalanches and is skied at your own risk with no ski patrol or rescue.

an avalanche sign

Ski Lifts: skiers are crossing the piste on a Poma or button lift. It is the responsibility of any skiers not using the lift to navigate anyone using the lift.

a ski lift crossing sign

Slow: slow down your speed - these signs are often found close to lifts, trail crossings or blind summits; for the safety of all users.

a slow your speed sign

Crevasse: be aware that the area beyond the sign may be susceptible to crevasses.

a crevasse sign

Ferme/Closed: it is not safe for anyone to travel down the piste. This is normally due to extreme weather conditions, a lack of snow coverage or the risk of an avalanche travelling onto the piste.

a closed sign

Even with good visibility, the mountains can harbour hidden dangers that can soon place you in difficulty. It’s important to respect all the signs that the ski patrol use to help keep you safe.

If you have any doubts, ask ski patrol (it’s their job to help you) or if needed, take the gondola down to the bottom of the hill.

 

About the Author:

Pete Fletcher - Outdoor Expert

Pete grew up hiking most of the trails in the Lake District before being introduced to skiing. A decade later and you're most likely to find him snowboarding, skateboarding or making a mean coffee.

Posted by: Pete F Tagged as: Ski Equipment