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European Difficulty System Question

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hello, Everyone!  My sincere apologies if: a.) this question has already been asked somewhere, b.) this is the wrong forum for this question, or c.) this is an embarrassingly “newbie” question.  I have a question about the differences between ski run difficulties in Europe vs. North America.

 

A little background…my wife and I visited Austria several years ago and I took lessons during our trip.  It didn’t go so well, but I didn’t want to give up.  Last year, I took lessons at our local ski area (we live in Washington State), and the bug bit me.  I’ve been skiing for two seasons now, I ski blue runs (I even went down a black with an instructor at the beginning of this season), and I can’t freakin’ get enough skiing!  I can’t believe I waited until I was almost 40 to start!  Okay, so my wife and I are going back to Austria in a few days, and I need to know what runs to ski.  I’ve been led to believe that the red runs in Europe are close to the blues in the States.  Is that correct?  I’d like to enjoy myself and not bite off more than I can chew.  Any advice?

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 18

You are correct that red runs in EU are somewhat equivalent to blue in the US. However, they are steeper than blues in US, at leat in Switzerland they are.

post #3 of 18

My experience is that reds in Europe are definitely steeper (at least at their steepest part) than blues in the U.S. On the other hand, skiability isn't just about steepness and the snow conditions in many of the big European resorts with good grooming are just about ideal -- hard and icy trails that have been shaved by sn*wb**rders can be a lot more challenging than steeper ones with better snow.

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback.  I agree with hitherandthither, the endless cycles of thaw and freeze we've had a the passes here have made snow conditions icy, and frankly challenging.  I can handle a little steeper, provided the runs are fairly well groomed and not too moguly.  Really looking forward to good powder for a change!!!

post #5 of 18

My opinion - European red runs are somewhere between a North American blue and black, European black runs somewhere in the region of a NA black, but they don't generally grade the equivalent of a genuine NA double black as a piste.

post #6 of 18

I think that blue runs in america are probably between blue runs and red runs in europe. There are some red runs that are pretty steep and unpisted, which means that the conditions play a huge role in the difficulty. It also varies from country to country and from resort to resort. I wouldn't worry as much about the colour of the run, just look at it and see if it looks doable If you think you can get down, then you most likely can.

post #7 of 18

It varies from resort to resort on both continents, and varies based on the snow condition too.

My advice would be that when you get to a resort, make the first couple of runs on greens or blues so you get a feel for how steep it is. Then, based on how you feel, maybe try a red. If you find the red easy, try a black.

I've skiied greens that were steeper than some reds I've been on. I've also skiied blacks that were easier to ski than greens because of the snow conditions.

post #8 of 18

It really is impossible to give a clear answer, because everything is relative. This is even the case within Washington State. If I recall correctly, or at least it was true when I was a kid, there is one black run at Summit West at Snoqualmie. Well, that run sure wouldn't be a black at Crystal, and in fact I'd say all the blues at Crystal are more difficult than that black.

 

Reds at some European resorts are quite easy, while they can be quite hard at others. Where are you going in Austria?

 

But in general WTFH is exactly right. Start with the easier trails and work your way up. You'll get a feeling for it that way. You'll also notice that there are not a whole lot of black runs in Europe relative to in North America. That may be because the reds run more difficult, or it is because only groomed, pisted runs are graded on that scale.

 

The point about snow condition is also very true, especially in the European resorts that have massive verticals. The most difficult run on my Christmas holiday was the blue heading back down to the village. It was a crowded sheet of ice, while the blacks and ski-routes higher up the mountain were in good condition.

post #9 of 18

European reds carry the additional challenge of dodging the carving (or would-be carving) masses.

post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the great advice, everyone!  I'll definitely take your recommendations to heart, and start off on the greens and blues, and work my way up from there.  We're skiing in the Pitztal Glacier region of the Tyrols, just outside of the town of Imst, Austria.

post #11 of 18

Good answers from everyone, especialy Fox & Am...the thing that you have to remember is that almost allresorts want to appeal to a wide range of skiers- this means that they want to make sure that their trail maps have a decent mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs even if they would be rated differently elsewhere.

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEfree30 View Post

 

Good answers from everyone, especialy Fox & Am...the thing that you have to remember is that almost allresorts want to appeal to a wide range of skiers- this means that they want to make sure that their trail maps have a decent mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs even if they would be rated differently elsewhere.

Well, also, I've observed (at least in some areas here in N. Italy), for the same reason you mention (to appeal to the widest possible customer base) a very worrying trend, since the early '90s, some very challenging red runs (due to narrowness, as an example) have been dozed down, mowed, tamed (read: enlarged and flattened), some black runs have had the same fate (an example that you can relate to and that I never cease to bring : the "Gran Risa" run

, theatre of the December Geant Slalom, the Saslong "A", theatre of December DH...)

While some other run has been "promoted" to "Ski Route" (off-piste, let's say it's a ungroomed, in-bondary, a concept that doesn't exist here. "in-boundary" in Italy is equal to "groomed runs" and "out-of-boundary" everything else), where a skier is under his sole responsibility, and which could be "declared" closed "at-will" (reasonably, don't worry)

post #13 of 18

What I found at Kitzbuhel, having very easy pistes:

 

Blues are like an easy blue out west.

Reds are like a blue out west (very little difference, just steeper parts are more sustained).

Blacks are like a hard blue to a normal black out west.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post

 

What I found at Kitzbuhel, having very easy pistes:

 

Blues are like an easy blue out west.

Reds are like a blue out west (very little difference, just steeper parts are more sustained).

Blacks are like a hard blue to a normal black out west.

ireally don;t agree with that at all - In austria a lot of the blacks were downgraded to reds so as to make the runs into the villages look less daunting and i find some refs get the same treatment so as to help with the overall family feel of the resort. Just lok at some old piste maps and you'll see whrer they've been downgraded .Saying that a blue is a mix between your green and blue ,a red is nearer your black and our blacks can range from your black to double diamond black and beyond - so i'd agree with Crystal
 

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by keir View Post

 

ireally don;t agree with that at all - In austria a lot of the blacks were downgraded to reds so as to make the runs into the villages look less daunting and i find some refs get the same treatment so as to help with the overall family feel of the resort. Just lok at some old piste maps and you'll see whrer they've been downgraded .Saying that a blue is a mix between your green and blue ,a red is nearer your black and our blacks can range from your black to double diamond black and beyond - so i'd agree with Crystal
 

 

Have you been to Kitzbuhel?

 

The hardest piste, Diressitima, is just your normal groomed black at Heavenly, and a double blue at Jackson Hole. I was relating to Kitzbuhel, the easy piste place, not Austria in general.

post #16 of 18

Apologies - i see that you did reference your answer to Kitz

 

It's just that the overall question was that the reds in Europe are like the blues in the States ....and i just don't think it's that easy to answer . I hink most resorts world over try to tailor their runs to the clients they want to attract and slant their ratings of their pistes accordingly.

 

I suppose as always the best thing to do is get the resort and ask a local or at the ski school as to what the runs are like.I know that most ski schules in Austria are more than happy to give you the heads up and where you'll find the type of skiing you like.

 

 

post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 

I think the general consensus is that there is no consensus.

 

Having returned from my trip this past Sunday, I have a deeper appreciation for everyone's input here, because the runs did vary quite a bit, even within the same classification.  First, I had a blast.  The snow was like butter, and the runs were relatively wide and forgiving (on the glacier at least).  I’d rate the blue runs between an intermediate US blue and a difficult US blue, and the red runs between a difficult US blue and an accessible single diamond black run.  Because the snow was so good, I had no problem on either the blues or the reds…until my legs got tired.

 

Getting good snow up in the Cascades this week, so we’re off to our old stomping grounds at Stevens Pass to push some powder this weekend.  It's not Austria, but it's still fun.  Thanks again and see you on the slopes!

post #18 of 18

Glad you enjoyed your trip. Keep coming and explore the different countries...

 

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