Which Way to Go

Posted by Pam on March 4, 2011

It happens every time we go skiing.  Half of the group wants to ski something more challenging and the other half wants to ski something less challenging.

If you are skiing in a group, it is best to have a good understanding of everyone's abilities. I know this from my experience as a ski instructor.   Every one skis differently, depending on their experience, the day, the weather, the sleep they had the night before, their mood and so on.

trail-signs (trail-signs)

Some people are more aggressive, even though they are not super advanced skiers or riders.   Others are more conservative, but have great skills.  Many kids think they are better than they are and are happy to ski a blue  in a full-on wedge just to keep up with the crowd.  Fun times, but maybe not the best form to enforce in the long run.

Everyone can, and should, be flexible throughout the day, but most skiers want to ski the last run feeling like they did their best, not having felt too tired, frightened or feeling they weren’t as challenged as they liked. Like Goldilocks, it's important to look for those "just right" runs for you and for those in your group.

When I was teaching skiing,  I met many people who were returning to ski again after a long hiatus because someone had taken them down terrifying runs when they were not ready.  I think kids experience this more than anyone: What looks easy to the parent often looks really scary to the child.

If possible, start the day with a really easy run.  Then decide if  the group should break up into smaller groups according to their comfort level for the day.  Set a time to meet up for lunch at one of the lodges.  Then plan from there, maybe do another easier run or two together and then agree to meet up at the top or bottom of the mountain at the end of the day.   Another good practice is to arrange a meeting place and time in case someone gets separated from the group.

So what runs are best for your ability?  What about for the kids? Think Lucky Charms!

lucky-charms (lucky-charms)

Look for the Green Circle - the Blue Squares - the Black Diamonds and new to the mix - the Orange Oval.

GREEN CIRCLES (Beginning) are the easiest runs to ski.  They are usually wide, groomed and have a gentle slope.  These are great for beginners and are a safe bet for anyone.  Skiers on Green Runs are usually never-evers, those who are learning to get on and off the lifts, ski in a wedge, working on their wedge turns and stops and are soon feeling in-control while skiing.  When in doubt - start here.  Green circles are also perfect for intermediate skiers at the beginning of the day who just want to get warmed up.

BLUE SQUARES (Intermediate) are for those who feel really comfortable on the green circle runs.  The terrain is a little steeper than the beginning runs, yet is easy enough for someone who is confident making turns to control their speed and can stop without any trouble.  These Blue Runs make up the bulk of most resorts because they are fun but not scary.  But  they can also vary a lot in their difficulty.  If there is new snow, they may not be groomed.  If you are not used to skiing in some powder, stick to those  you know have been groomed.   

Also, some blues will have areas that are a little steeper than your comfort zone and you mnight find some (easy) moguls along the way. Take it slow if necessary.  Blue Square Runs tend to be a great happy medium for everyone.  Just don’t take a beginner down a Blue who is not really confident with the Greens.  For the newbies in your group ready for blues, scout out the easiest Blue you can find.

BLACK DIAMOND (Advanced) runs are the quest of many experienced skiers and they are great fun if you have advanced skills that will get you  down gracefully.  Black Runs can be steep, narrow and are rarely groomed.  They can also be icy and full of moguls.  If you really want to venture into Black Diamond territory but are a little unsure, ask the mountain hosts, ski instructors, ski patrol or the lift operators which run is a good one to start on.  Otherwise, fasten your seatbelt and have a great ride!

DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND (Extremely Difficult) 
What more needs to be said?

ORANGE OVAL (Terrain Park) You won't find this at every ski resort and each resort may have a different rating system, but when you see an Orange Oval you know that there will be lots of fun terrain that allows skiers and snowboarders to do Jumps, Jibs, Quarterpipes and Halfpipes.  If you are not the type to ski or board at this level, pull up a mound of snow, have a seat and enjoy the show.


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