This winter, millions of people will head to the mountains to go skiing and snowboarding. Will you be one of them? Depending on your experience, you might hop off the ski lift and make a beeline for a beginner’s bunny slope. Or, if you’re practically a pro, you could challenge yourself with the hardest trail on the map.
Each mountain has a unique shape, and resorts use different methods to classify their trails. Many factors are used to determine a trail’s rating, including its width, the presence of obstacles like trees or bumps called moguls, and, of course, the trail’s steepness.
Trail ratings aren’t standardized. But most resorts use the same general classifications: green circles for beginners, blue squares for intermediate riders, and black diamonds for experienced skiers and snowboarders. Some resorts even use double-black-diamond ratings for their hardest trails!
Each resort uses its own criteria to categorize its trails, but ratings aren’t set in stone. “Trail ratings are not an exact science, and the true difficulty of a trail is not just based on how steep it is—it can even change based on conditions that day!” says Kristel Killary, the communications manager at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. “We do our best to provide a guide for skiers and riders with the green, blue, and black designations and are confident that all ability levels will find something to love this winter.”