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Ski Run Colours: Your Guide to Piste Difficulty

By TravelFactory , 20/10/2022

Are you going skiing or snowboarding for the first time? You’re probably excited to get away, spend quality time with friends and family, and take in that fresh mountain air. But how will you choose the right slopes? As part of our Ski Travel Guide, we’re teaching you the basics. 

Skiing and snowboarding are sports, after all, and it’s important to pick a piste that’s appropriate for your level. Ski runs are colour coded for exactly that reason. Let’s have a look at the different colours and what they mean. 

Important note: We’ll be looking at the European rating system below.  

What Do Ski Run Colours Mean? 

In Europe, four colours are used to rate the difficulty of groomed pistes at ski resorts: 

Four markers indicating green, blue, red, and black ski runs
  • Green (easy) 

  • Blue (average/intermediate) 

  • Red (advanced/difficult) 

  • Black (expert/very difficult) 

Green Ski Runs: The Beginner 

If you’re hitting the slopes for the first time, opt for green ski runs. Remember that all experienced skiers started out as beginners, so there’s no shame in taking it slow! These pistes are wide and shallow, and the gradient is less than 25%. They're designed for you to practice your snowplough turns (and keep you safe from more advanced skiers whizzing past).  

Green ski run at VAL CENIS 

As you may have guessed, green ski runs are the easiest. They are often filled with kids working to earn their Bear Cub, but there’s nothing stopping you from skiing alongside them if you’re a newbie. Starting out slowly helps to fend off any nagging fears, and you’ll eventually work your way up to steeper pistes.  

Green ski runs are great to do as a family. Check out the ‘Escargot’ ski run in Val Cenis! 

Ski areas to explore in France:  

  • Les Menuires is home to La Violette, a beginner-friendly extra-wide piste. 

  • Val Cenis has mostly green and blue ski runs: that’s almost 125km of slopes just for you! 

  • Alpe d’Huez has two huge areas dedicated to beginners: Les Bergers and the DMC. 

  • Les Deux Alpes has green and blue ‘Slow Zones’ for beginners. 

Blue Ski Runs: The Average Joe 

Blue ski runs are a bit steeper, but totally doable for new skiers. The gradient here is 25-40%. If you feel comfortable on green runs after a few days of practice, consider yourself ready. However, do make sure that you’ve mastered balance and control. You may need to turn or stop quickly to avoid other skiers: they come down a lot faster than on green runs. Blue runs are some of the most popular (and thus the most crowded), so always be aware of your surroundings. 

Discover the blue ski runs in La Flaine

Ski resorts to explore in France:  

  • La Plagne is home to over 170km of blue ski runs, so you’re sure to find the one for you! 

  • Val d’Isère's ‘nursery’ and intermediate slopes are especially well groomed, so it’ll be smooth sailing. 

  • Les Deux Alpes has 45 blue ski runs—some starting at 3200m above sea level. 


Red Ski Runs: The Adventurer 

Red ski runs are difficult but manageable with sufficient practice. Adventurous beginners might test them out at the end of their ski holiday, but blue slopes are usually challenge enough for a first timer. Red runs have a gradient of 30-45% and are laced with turns and jumps, more the domain of experienced skiers. Terrain may not be as smooth. The slopes start to get quite steep, so hang onto your skis! 

Discover the red ski runs in Chamonix

Ski resorts to explore in France:  

  • Tignes has over 40 red runs to choose from, so you’ll never get bored. If you’re interested in long descents, check out Double M. 

  • Val d’Isère offers the Laisainant piste for those who enjoy peace and quiet—there's rarely anyone on it! 

Black Ski Runs: The Seasoned Veteran 

If you’re dreading your first black ski run, that’s totally normal! The slopes have a gradient of at least 40% and the level of difficulty is high, so make sure you’ve got a solid repertoire of skiing skills, trust your gut instinct, and stay focused.  

Take common sense safety precautions and avoid unnecessary risks: the black ski runs in Courchevel and Val d’Isère are infamous for their drops! After a few practice runs, you may want to see if you can increase your speed. As you can see in the video, skiers can achieve speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour! 

Note: In North America, black ski runs may also be known as Black Diamond runs.

Discover the black ski runs in Alpe d'Huez

Successfully taking on a black ski run is a big achievement. You may be ready to go off-piste! 

Ski resorts to explore in France:  

  • Courchevel is home to the Grand Couloir, one of the most exhilarating pistes in the Three Valleys. Not for the faint of heart! 

  • Val d’Isère is famous for its advanced ski runs, so proceed with caution, and attempt La Face if you dare! 

  • Chamonix offers a wide range of black ski runs. Why not attempt Chanrossa? But be careful—it can get icy and winds can be fierce!