Ski Piste Markings

What do the slope colors and symbols mean? This can be confusing for beginners, or even for experienced skiers who are heading to a different ski region. Europe is much different from the US in these codes. Let’s start with the US markings:

North American slope markings

  • Green (circle): Beginner slope. This is for people who have never skied before, or are just starting out. Probably not exciting for intermediate or expert skiers, because these may not even be steep enough to make many turns.
  • Blue (square): Intermediate slope. More varied terrain, and a bit steeper. Could also be good for experts who want to do some nice, carving turns without picking up tons of speed.
  • Black (diamond): Expert slope. This could be a mogul run, or a steep piste. It’s recommended that beginners avoid these entirely, and intermediates only try them once their skills are improving and their confidence is rising.
  • Double black diamond: Experts only. If you have any fear at all on a standard Black Diamond, stay away from the double blacks. They may be very steep, have huge moguls, or have a narrow couloir (a steep and narrow corridor where you have to go straight down, and turning might crash you into rocks or trees).
  • Orange (rectangle): Terrain park. May also have a trail rating showing how difficult it is. Only go in here if you want to do some jumps and tricks. Probably not for beginners ;-).

European slope markings

  • Green: Learner slope, hardly any grade at all, may be very wide. Not used in all countries.
  • Blue: Beginner slope. This is usually equivalent to the US “Green Circle” so don’t be confused at an Austrian resort with no “green” slopes. Here, blue is beginner!
  • Red: Intermediate slope. Yep, there’s an extra color in Europe, and red slopes are open for intermediate skiers and boarders to improve their skills.
  • Black: Expert slope. These may range from a normal expert slope like in North America to a super-tough one. But in most places (like the ultra-steep Harikiri at Mayrhofen), there will be an extra sign explaining if the slope is exceptionally hard.
  • Orange: This means extremely difficult, and may be found only in certain countries like Austria and Switzerland.
  • Yellow: Generally a “skiroute,” which may be an uncontrolled or ungroomed off-piste area. Often these trails are marked but wind a long way down the mountain with flat spots which may be a pain for snowboarders. May be marked with orange squares in Austria.