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How To Read A Piste Map

28 January 2020
How To Read A Piste Map

When you open a piste map you’re greeted with a melee of different coloured lines and symbols sitting across several mountains. At first, this can be slightly overwhelming and confusing, making it difficult to understand where you are and where you want to go.

Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can follow which will soon have you skiing around the resort like a local. 

How To Read A Piste Map

Step 1
Open up the map take a look at the overall view.
The thick black lines are lifts and the thinner coloured lines are pistes.
Step 2
The colours of the pistes denote the difficulty of the run.
Green = Beginner, Blue = Intermediate, Red = Advanced, Black = Expert. And each run has its own number.
Step 3
The lifts (thick black lines) have symbols attached to them which denote the type of lift. Drag lift, chair lift, Gondola etc.
In addition to the to type of lift, you'll find a that each lift has a name printed on it.
Step 4
Every map will have a legend or key in the corner or on the reverse.
This will explain all the symbols on the map.
Step 5
You can work out where you are on the map by looking at the side of the pistes for poles.
The poles will be the same colour as the run on the map and have the piste number on it.
Step 6
At the top and bottom of most lifts, there are large maps which should tell you where you are located on the mountain.
Or look at the name written on the lift station then find it on the map.
Step 7
If you are still struggling; ski instructors, ski patrol and lift attendants know the mountain well;
don’t be afraid to ask for help with directions.

More Information

Ski Lifts

Ski lifts are denoted by thick black lines which travel up the mountainside, generally in straight lines. You will encounter several different types of lifts at a resort; each lift will have its name attached to it and a symbol referring to what type of lift it is and, potentially, how many people can travel on it.

Lift Types

  • Button lift/ drag lift/ t-bar/ poma: This type of lift is a series of poles which hang from a cable; you hold on to a single-pole that pulls you up the slope. These lifts generally travel short distances up gentle to moderate slopes.

  • Chairlift: Chairlifts are 2 up to 10 seater chairs that carry you above the ground to the top of the piste.

  • Gondola / Cable car - An elevator lift-style box which and can carry anywhere from 6 to 100 people depending on the size.

  • Funicular: A cable railway cart that is pulled up the hill on tracks. This lift travels large distances at fast speeds.

Pistes / Runs

Pistes or runs are the thin coloured lines that cover most of the map. The colour of the line denotes the difficulty of the route.

  • Green = Beginner

  • Blue = Intermediate

  • Red = Advanced

  • Black = Expert

The difficulty of each colour can (annoyingly) vary from country to country so please bear this in mind and always ski to your ability.


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.

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