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|It has been suggested that this article be merged with Fall line (skiing). (Discuss) Proposed since September 2014.|
This European term is French ("trail", "track") and synonymous with 'trail', 'slope', or 'groomed run' in North America. Pronunciation varies slightly in English, with British English using a long "e", (e.g. rhymes with "beast"), and American pronunciation using a short "i" (e.g. rhymes with "list").
Individual trails on pistes are graded by difficulty using ski trail ratings.
Pistes are usually maintained using tracked vehicles known as snowcats to compact or 'groom' the snow to even out trail conditions, remove moguls, and redistribute snow to extend the ski season. Natural snow is often augmented with snow making machines early in the season or when the snowpack is low.
Typically, grading is done by the resort, and grades are relative to other trails within that resort. As such, they are not classified to an independent standard; although they are likely to be roughly similar, skiers should be cautious about assuming that grades in two different resorts are absolutely equivalent.
In North America, a color–shape rating system is used to indicate the comparative difficulty of trails (otherwise known as slopes or pistes). Australian ski slopes also share the same rating system.
Ski resorts assign ratings to their own trails, marking a given trail according to its relative difficulty when compared with other trails at that resort. Although slope gradient is the primary consideration in assigning a trail rating, other factors come into play—including trail width, normal snow conditions and whether the resort regularly grooms the trail.
|Trail Rating||Symbol||Level of difficulty||Description|
|Green circle||Easiest||The easiest slopes at a mountain. Green Circle trails are generally wide and groomed, typically with slope gradients ranging from 6% to 25% (a 100% slope is a 45 degree angle).|
|Blue square||Intermediate||Intermediate difficulty slopes with grades commonly ranging from 25% to 40%. These slopes are usually groomed. Blue Square runs make up the bulk of pistes at most ski areas, and are usually among the most heavily trafficked.|
|Black diamond||Advanced||Amongst the most difficult at a given mountain. Black Diamond trails tend to be steep (typically 40% and up) and may or may not be groomed, though the introduction of snowcats has made the grooming of steep slopes both possible and more frequent.|
|Double black diamond||Expert Only||These trails are even more difficult than Black Diamond, due to exceptionally steep slopes and other hazards such as narrow trails, exposure to wind, and the presence of obstacles such as steep drop-offs or trees. They are intended only for the most experienced skiers. |
This trail rating is fairly new; by the 1980s, technological improvements in trail construction and maintenance, coupled with intense marketing competition, led to the creation of a Double Black Diamond rating.
|Variations||Various||Variations such as doubling a symbol to indicate increased difficulty, or combining two different symbols to indicate intermediate difficulty are occasionally used, as is often in Colorado at Winter Park resort and other Colorado ski resorts. One example is a diamond overlapping a square to indicate a trail rating between a Blue Square and a Black Diamond. Many resorts throughout Colorado use a double diamond with an "EX" in the center to mark a run with extreme terrain, even more difficult than a double diamond. Other resorts, such as Smugglers' Notch, Vermont, Le Massif, Quebec, and Mt. Bohemia, Michigan, use triple black diamonds. The combination of symbols is comparatively rare at U.S. ski areas; most ski resorts stick to the standard 4-symbol progression (with the exception of the common EX runs in Colorado). |
Non-standard symbols for standard ratings may be encountered at some ski areas. Bogus Basin, a resort near Boise, Idaho, uses orange diamonds on trailhead signs considered to be more difficult than double black diamonds; however, those trails are indicated on the trail map as double black diamonds. Jiminy Peak, MA uses two variations of normal trail ratings; one is a blue square with a green circle inside of it used to represent an easy-intermediate trail. The other is a blue square with a single black diamond in it, used to represent an intermediate-hard trail.
|Terrain parks||Various||Terrain parks are whole or portions of trails that can offer a variety of jumps, half-pipes, and other special "extreme" sporting obstacles beyond traditional moguls. The trails are typically represented by an orange rectangle with rounded corners. |
Usually, the terrain park will carry its own trail rating, indicating the level of challenge. A terrain park with a Black Diamond or Double Black Diamond rating would contain greater and more challenging obstacles than a park with a Blue Square rating.
In Europe, pistes are classified by a color-coded system. The actual color system differs in parts for each country - in all countries blue (easy), red (intermediate) and black (expert) are used. Shapes are not always used - sometimes all ratings are circles as being defined in the basic rules of the German Skiing Association DSV. The three basic color codes of the DSV have been integrated into the national standards DIN 32912 in Germany and ÖNORM S 4610 f in Austria. The ratings are:
Alpine slope classification in Europe is less rigidly tied to slope angle than in North America. A lower angle slope may be classified as more difficult than a steeper slope if, for instance, it is narrower and/or requires better skiing ability to carry speed through flatter sections while controlling speed through sharp hairpin turns, off-camber slope angles or exposed rock.
Japan uses a color-coded system, but shapes do not usually accompany them. Some resorts, mainly those catering to foreigners, use the North American or European color-coding system, adding to the confusion. When in doubt, check the map legend. The usual ratings are:
Japan has more than 1000 ski areas (115 in Nagano Prefecture alone), many of them small and family-oriented, so comparisons between slope classifications in Japan and "equivalent" slopes in Europe or North America are minimal.