I think the whole notion of one state/region’s blue trails being tougher than another’s blacks is crap. I’ve never been to Whistler/Blackcomb but there is no way in Hell I can be believe that their blue terrain is steeper and tougher than Squaw Valley’s, Jackson Hole’s, Snowbird’s, or Alta’s blacks. In the words of Sherman T. Potter, “HORSE HOCKEY”!
I just returned from Utah and Wyoming. All my ski life, I have been hearing how tough and steep Jackson Hole is and how it‘s blues are like East Coast blacks. Yes, it has plenty of steep and dangerous runs but no more than SV or Alta/Bird and the blues corresponded nicely with their Eastern counterparts. Admittedly, the only double diamond I ventured down was Paint Brush and that was only after conferring with a local on the widest and easiest entrance. It was steep and tight at the top but no more than the low 40-degree range. The other famous runs, Tower Three Chute, Alta Chutes, and Expert Chutes were no steeper but left less room for error with their bottlenecks and cliff lines. I’d like to ski them with some local guidance. However, after listening to folks’ tall tales, I wondered if I’d be able to handle JH’s black terrain. Hell, waiting in line for the tram and reading that dreaded message they have posted on the wall and listening to the warnings of the tram operator, I thought I was headed for certain death in Rendezvous Bowl... “no easy way down... follow the green signs... ride the tram back down”. Well, I’d better follow those green signs for my first trip. On the way to them, I passed the “Steepest Part of Rendezvous Bowl” sign thinking, what the heck, I’ll take a look. I was shocked; the bowl at its steepest could not have been more than 35 degrees at most. Just a great solid black run that you’d find at any big mountain in North America.
I know there are resorts (typically smaller) that list a run as a black diamond when in reality it should be a black/blue, double blue, or, if your in Alta or Squaw, a plain old blue. A good point is Beech Mountain, NC, the highest ski summit in the East, every black run there is no more than a tough blue at most resorts. However, the next peak over at Sugar Mountain, they have a double diamond, Whoopdeedoo, that is approaching high thirties but is forty yards wide. The slope next to it, Boulder Dash, a single diamond, is very narrow, a good 38 degrees with a double fall line, and a turn to the right at the end. Much tougher, in my opinion, than Whoopdeedoo and would probably rate a double diamond in many Western resorts but hey, that’s NC what do they know?
My point is all big resorts in the East and West have runs that are flat out steep and dangerous if you make a wrong move. Some have more than others and I have yet to find one Western resort whose black terrain is less steep than another‘s blue terrain. The majority are fairly consistent with their labeling. I think the problem starts with East Coasters heading out West for their first couple of times hearing how steep the terrain is and confusing the wide openness, massive cliff bands, and shear size with overall steepness. There are runs on the East Coast that are 40 plus degrees that would scare the living daylights out of most Westerners if they had to ski them when they were frozen over with bumps the size of Volkswagens covering them. Those slopes qualify as double diamonds anywhere whether there located in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania or British Columbia.