Knowing your ski ability level: how to interpret ski slope ratings for your family

This fun infographic says it all, and if you go on a family ski vacation, you’ll see these universal ski slope ratings no matter where you go:


How to know your (and your kids’) ski ability level:

Get out there and ski! There are many ways to gauge a skier’s level (we recommending taking family lessons when visiting major ski resorts), but if you find yourself free-skiing with your kids, start with beginner runs but don’t be afraid to push yourself to steeper terrain.

Green means go: Green circle beginner runs are great for everyone, from the new skiers in your family to the little shredders. Green runs are always groomed, and often take the form of ‘cat tracks’ or ‘roads’ that kids find very fun to navigate. Kids with higher ability levels will enjoy veering off the trail to find fresh powder or small jumps, but keep the speed down: green runs are meant for beginners and more cautious skiers and snowboarders.

Blue means explore: We say that blue square intermediate runs foster exploration because once you’ve graduated beyond green runs, the terrain gets more exciting! Blue runs can take many forms, including long groomers, more cat tracks, and even some gladed (tree-lined) skiing. Blue runs are almost always available from the top of even the highest chairs, meaning you or your kids can now navigate the whole peak!

Black means expert: No doubt about it, black diamond runs should be respected. Like blue runs, black runs can take many forms, and vary in difficulty. They can contain moguls, bowls, powder, and deep ruts, and can be harder to navigate in poor conditions, such as ice or fog. Don’t be afraid to try them, however; my kids all remember their first black diamond runs!

More than one factor goes into a ski slope rating:

Bear in mind that steepness is not the only criteria that goes into a ski slope rating. Bumps and moguls (which can alter overnight), sharp turns, and bowls with ever-changing conditions also constitute higher ratings. Even once a run has been labeled, look twice before attempting it: visibility, snow conditions, and weather all effect a run’s difficulty on any given day.

Study the resort trail map before hitting the slopes:

My kids love looking over the trail map, and I admit I’m guilty of pouring over it pre-vacation, too. While families are not going to memorize every run, it’s nice to find the lifts that offer the most selection of runs in the level of your choice, or identify lifts that offer a green and blue run adjacent to one another, should you have a beginner and an intermediate skier cruising along together.

This post was written in conjunction with my partnership with Mountain Reservations as a Mountain Ambassador.