European vs North American Ski Slope Grades

Ski slope ratings can be very confusing to get your head around if you’re skiing in resorts in different parts of the world. So, I’ve created this guide to European and North American ski slope difficulty classifications to help simplify the grading systems.

Euro and American Ski Slope Rating 101

In Europe, the pistes are categorised by color whereas in North American they are named according to a color and shape.

The ski slopes in Europe are graded as follows from easiest to hardest: green, blue, red and black. In North America the grades from easiest to hardest are as follows: green circle, blue square and black diamond.

Hence the main difference between the North American and European grades are that only European countries use the color “red”.

In North American Ski resorts, the easiest slopes are classified as “green circle”. In France, Spain and the UK the easiest slopes are classified as “green” whereas in Austria, Switzerland and Italy the easiest slopes are “blue”.

In North America, “blue square” slopes are designed for intermediate-level skiers, whereas in Europe they are red or blue. In Austria, Switzerland and Italy, the red slopes are similar to the blue square slopes in North America. In France, Spain and the UK, these slopes are more comparable to the hardest blue slopes or easiest red slopes.

The most difficult slopes in North America are black diamond, double black diamond and triple black diamond. The most difficult slopes in Europe are black, double black and triple black. North American black diamond slopes are similar to the hardest red slopes and easiest black slopes in Europe.

North American GradeEuropean GradeAverage Gradient
Green CircleGreen and Blue<25%
Blue SquareRed25-40%
Black DiamondBlack>40%

European Ski Slope Grades Explained

Slope Difficulty in Europe (Least to Most):

  • Green
  • Blue
  • Red
  • Black
  • Double Black
  • Triple Black
  • Orange
  • Yellow

Green Slopes

Green classified pistes are designed for beginners in most European countries. The only exceptions are Austria and Switzerland which do not have any green slopes and instead start with blue slopes. Green slopes are always groomed and are wide and shallow with a gradient of less than 25%.

Blue Slopes

Blue pistes are designed for beginners-intermediates in Austria and Switzerland. In other European countries such as France and Italy blue slopes are more difficult than green slopes and are designed for intermediate skiers.

Blue pistes have a gradient of roughly 25% (similarly to the most difficult green runs) and are groomed.

Red Slopes

Red slopes are are designed for advanced skiers in Europe. The gradient is between 25% and 40% making them much steeper than blue and green slopes and are also usually narrower. Red slopes are groomed in European resorts.

Black Slopes

Black slopes are designed for expert skiers in Europe with a high level of experience. They have a gradient of over 40% and are groomed in most European countries except for France where only some are groomed.

Double and Triple Black Slopes

Double and triple black slopes are mostly limited to Scandinavian resorts and are extremely difficult and designed for the most experienced and skilled skiers. Triple black slopes are more difficult than double black slopes.

Orange and Yellow Slopes

Orange slopes are mostly limited to Austria and Switzerland and are very difficult and more advanced compared to black slopes. Yellow ski runs are quite rare but mark the most dangerous routes because they are off-piste (un-groomed).

North American Ski Slope Grades Explained

Slope Difficulty in North America (Least to Most):

  • Green Circle
  • Blue Square
  • Black Diamond
  • Double Black Diamond
  • Triple Black Diamond/ Orange Diamond

Green Circle

In Canada and the USA, green circle routes are the easiest and designed for beginners. They are wide and shallow and have a gradient of less than 25%. Prerequisites for green circle runs include the we