In North America, there are three main ski slope grades:
- Green Circle
- Blue Square
- Black Diamond
In this article I’ll address all the differences between Blue Square and Black Diamond runs and which skills are required to ski them.
Black Diamond ski slopes have a gradient steeper than 40%, whereas Blue Square runs have a shallower gradient of between 25% and 40%. Blue Square runs are designed for intermediate skiers, whereas Black Diamond runs are only for very experienced skiers.
|Blue Square Runs||Black Diamond Runs|
|Intermediate level||Advanced level|
|25-40% Gradient||>40% Gradient|
|Always groomed||Sometimes ungroomed|
|Moderate width||Narrow width|
|Some obstacles (bumps and rollers)||Many obstacles (moguls, trees and rocks)|
Blue Square Slopes
- Intermediate level
- 25-40% Gradient
- Always groomed
- Moderate width
Blue Square slopes are slightly steeper compared to Green Circle slopes which are designed for complete beginners. Blue Square runs have a moderate gradient of 25-40% and are designed for skiers and snowboards with a bit more experience.
Since the gradient is steeper compared to Green Circle runs, skiers attempting Blue Square runs should be comfortable controlling their speed. Skiers should also be able to make sharper turns as they are narrower in comparison to Green Circle runs.
When stepping up from Green Circle to Blue Square slopes, you’ll also notice there are more obstacles such as bumps and rollers to provide a bit more of a challenge. However, Blue Square runs will be groomed to improve the quality of the snow by making it easier to grip the piste, and prevent the formation of moguls.
I strongly advise getting the opinion of a ski instructor at the resort to assess if you are capable of skiing blue runs. Here are some general skills that skiers attempting blue runs should have:
- Ability to perform left and right wedge turns
- Ability to stop on the left and right sides
- Full control over speed and direction on Green Circle runs
Blue Square runs should not be attempted by beginner skiers who have only been on the slopes for less than a few days, or those who find any of the Green Circle runs on the slope challenging whatsoever.
On average, it takes skiers around 4-10 days of practicing on Green Circle runs to be comfortable attempting Blue Square runs.
Black Diamond Slopes
- Advanced level
- Steeper than 40% gradient
- Sometimes ungroomed
- Narrow width
Black Diamond runs are designed for advanced skiers and snowboarders who are very comfortable on the slopes. They are significantly steeper than Blue Square runs (over 40% gradient) and have more obstacles and steep drops.
Depending on the resort, some Black Diamond runs can be ungroomed meaning there is likely to be moguls. You can also expect sudden steep drops, and other obstacles such as trees and rocks to contend with. Since the runs are also narrower compared to Blue Square runs, you also need more precision to navigate these obstacles.
Although it’s likely that fewer skiers/ snowboarders will be present on Black Diamond slopes due to the difficulty barrier, you should be aware that other people on the run will be travelling very quickly which requires you to be very aware of your surroundings and quick to react.
Again, I’d strongly advise getting the opinion of a ski instructor to assess your technique before you attempt any Black Diamond runs. Here are some things they will look for:
- Complete comfort and ease on all Blue Square runs
- Ability to perform parallel turns with confidence
- Excellent edge controls
- Ability to stop very quickly
It typically takes at least 10 weeks of skiing before even considering Black Diamond runs as they require a high-level of competency. In some cases, it may take several years before a skier feels confident enough and has the required ability to ski a Black Diamond run.