Circles, squares and diamonds: Understanding trail designations:
By Diane Scholfield, Snowlink.com editor
Have you ever wondered what it means when a skier or snowboarder says, "Yeah, I can do the blacks" or "I ski mostly blue trails?"
They are referring to a ski area trail designation system that categorizes ski and snowboard slopes by difficulty. Since the 1960s, ski areas throughout North America (and much of the world) have used green circles, blue squares and black diamonds to indicate difficulty. Nordic trail systems often use these symbols, too. This is what the symbols look like and mean:
The easiest trails at a particular resort are known as "green runs" and will be shown on signs with a green circle.
Trails that are more difficult are known as "blue runs" and will be shown on signs as blue squares.
Trails that are the most difficult are known as "black diamonds" and will be shown on signs as you guessed it, black diamonds.
Other things to know about the trail marking system:
* Each resort ranks its own trails based on the difficulty of that particular area. At most resorts, you'll find that about 25 percent of the trails are designated green, about 50 percent are blue, and about 25 percent are black. But if a mountain is steep all over, the green-circle trails will be a huge challenge for novices. They are the easiest trails at that resort, but they may be too tough for someone who is learning.
Diane Scholfield has been the Snowlink.com editor since 1996. She has received the Excellence in Snow Sports Journalism award from the North American SnowSports Journalists Association (NASJA) three times, and has led Snowlink to several other awards. She has been an avid skier since the age of 19. Her memory is long, and she definitely recalls when she was able to ski a blue-square run for the first time. If you're at that stage, too, don't worry — she improved her skills quickly, and so will you!