This article will explain everything about black diamond ski runs.
Hi, I am Aspen, I am an NZSIA certified ski instructor and APSI certified snowboarding instructor. I have been teaching snow sports in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and China for over 15 seasons. Recently, I have developed a ski length calculator to help my students out in choosing suitable skis for them.
I love black diamond ski runs (double blacks) like other expert skiers and snowboarders. They are super fun, exciting, interesting, and challenging.
In this article, I will talk about everything relating to black diamond ski runs so you can get a clear picture.
What is a Double Black Diamonds Ski Run?
Usually, ski resorts will use specific colors to categorize their terrains. As ski and snowboard instructors, we use these sentences very often:
“The appropriate terrain to perform this drill is blue and easy black terrains.”
“You should practice this drill on a wide, green terrain.”
“Make sure you stay away from the black diamond runs today, it’s very icy and dangerous after the rain yesterday.”
Meaning of “Black”
Ski resorts will use different colors to rate their slopes. For example, in the US, Canada, and New Zealand, ski resorts will use Green and Blue to represent the beginning and intermediate ski runs and black for advanced runs.
While some resorts in Japan may use Green for beginners, Red for intermediate and black for advanced ski runs.
According to my expereience, the colors of beginner and intermediate slopes may differ, while black usually stands for the most difficult runs in the resort.
The diamond shape? It is part of the ski slope rating symbols adopted by NSAA (National Ski Area’s Association) since the 1964-65 winter season. For example, free circle, blue square, and black diamond stand for different terrains.
Double Black Diamonds Ski Runs
So now we get the idea behind black diamond ski runs, double black diamond ski runs? Usually stands for the most challenging ski runs in a resort. They are usually the steepest, narrow, and have been more complex, such as ungroomed, having bumps, trees, cliffs, and rocks on the trails.
Most ski resorts will encourage only advanced or expert skiers to ski on these trails because you will need more body strength and skills to maneuver on these slopes at controlled speeds.
Usually, at the beginning of a double black diamond/black diamond ski run, you will find a warning sign “Experts Only!”.
Double Black Diamonds are for Experts Because They Can be Dangerous
It is because it may be dangerous to ski on these ski runs if you are not good enough, or perhaps, your equipment is not good enough.
Several years ago, my friend skied down the double black diamonds ski run at Rusutsu Ski Resorts in Hokkaido, Japan. The first time he skied down was feeling very fine.
When we were having lunch, “well, double black diamonds wasn’t that difficult!” he said.
The next morning, he went there again, but the trail became so icy. The edges of his skis were not sharp enough to cut into the ice, and he had a big fall – almost hurt his knees.
It was raining last afternoon, and the following day was kindly cloudy. The rain had melted the snow, turning them into ice in the evening when the temperature dropped, and it was not warm enough to melt the snow in the morning. Imagine you are skiing on and giant ice cube.
So always stay away from the double black diamonds if you are not so sure whether you can make it or not unless you are with a great instructor, and he is taking you there because they believe you are capable to do so, plus the conditions are good to go.
How Steep is a Double Black Diamond Ski Run?
Usually, ski slopes over 40 degrees will be classified as black diamonds. The steepest double black diamond ski run globally is Harakiri in Austria. It is the steepest groomed run with a 78% gradient.
Famous Double Black Diamond Ski Runs in the World
Here are some very famous double black diamond ski runs in the world:
- “Harakiri” in Mayrhofen, Austria – super steep groomed run (78% gradient!)
- “The Streif” at Hahnenkamm in Kitzbühel, Austria – was considered as the world’s most dangerous downhill courses
- “Delirium Dive” at Sunshine Village in banff, Canada – you can only enter this off-piste area when you have a beacon, shovel, probe, and ski buddy. You can find frozen waterfalls, 35-degree chutes, and rocks on the trail
- “Christmas Chute” in Alyeska, Alaska, USA – very steep and narrow, you can only reach the highest point by helicopter or snowcat
- “Grand Couloir” in Courchevel, France – 85% gradient steepest part, super icy and narrow ridge
- “La Chavanette” in Avoriaz, France – super tough when it’s icy, freeflow monster moguls
- “The Black Hole” at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont – 53 degrees containing bumps, trees, rocks
- “Olympiabakken” at Kvitfjell in Norway – longest black run in Norway (used in Olympics!) with 64 percent drops, super steep in many sections
- “Corbet’s Couloir” in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – comes with mandatory 10 to 20 ft cornice drops, large rock walls
- “Great Scott” in Snowbird, Utah – lots of large rocks popping up on the run
- “Paradise” in Mad River Glen, Vermont – off-piste trail full of trees, rocks, cliffs, frozen waterfall
- “La Sarenne (Known as “Champagne”)” |, Alpe d’Huez, France – longest black runs in Europe (16km long + 2km vertical drop)
How to Ski Double Black Diamonds?
As a ski instructor who bought my students to double black diamond runs, I would recommend you to go to the local ski school or touring company in the ski resort and ask them for an instructor or guide to take you there.
Go With an Experienced Instructor or Guide
Most of the time, the ski instructor or guide who can take you there is the most experienced there, and they will access your ability before taking you there. It’s the best way to make sure you can leave these courses safe and sound.
If you are not good enough? They will help you develop the essential skills and sense required to prepare for the double blacks.
Plus, they are locals, so they understand the trial very well. You want these guys to stay with you for super challenging black diamond runs, so you know how to avoid the danger.
According to my experience, for average double black diamond runs, you can probably ski down with these tips.
Take it Slow
Start from black diamond runs, from small, flat moguls to monster moguls, from short runs to long, try to explore easy tree runs, and get used to skiing within a narrow pathway.
Build Up These Ability First
Master short turns, moguls, jumps, and skiing on powders, off piste will definitely help you ski down a double black diamond run. Side slipping is also very important because you need to use this skill for getting out of the very steep part in control speed.
Check these videos to get a better understanding of these skills.
Short Turn Skills by Benni Walch
Mogul Skills by Bobby Aldegheri and Deb Armstrong
Steep Off-Piste Video by Freeride Academy
Note: According to my experience, if you are still in the stage of “searching for the meaning of double black diamond ski runs”, probably, you are still not good enough for double blacks yet. Watching these videos can give you an idea about what sort of skills are needed, go for a lesson and let your instructor decide whether you are good to go!!
Build Up Your Body Strength
You will need to use a lot of short turns, jump a lot, and make lots of hocket stops, i.e. A lot of legs turning, up and down movement, and core burning exercises. You need lots of core and thigh to keep your skis under control. Make sure you sleep well the day before you head for a tough double black diamonds.
Plan Your Route
Stop before you ski down a difficult terrain, look at it, and plan your route. When you ski down, always look at the next stopping spots, a planned route is the basics of skiing down difficult conditions
Always Go With a Ski Buddy
Going with a friend who is a strong, experienced skier is always a great idea. If you head to an off-piste double black diamond run, a buddy with backcountry knowledge can protect you guys against accidents, hidden danger, or even an avalanche.
Here are some commonly asked questions relating to double black diamond ski runs.
Can a Beginner Ski a Black Diamond?
No, a beginner skier or an intermediate skier should stay away from black diamond or double black diamond terrain. Most black diamond slopes are pretty steep. As a beginner or intermediate skier, you may get scared and lean back. Then you will lose control and, very likely, hurt yourself eventually.
Is double black diamond the hardest?
Double black diamond ski runs are the hardest ski runs in most ski resorts. They are usually very steep, can be groomed or ungroomed, and may have moguls, trees, rocks, or even drops.
Is there a Triple black diamond in skiing?
Yes, Big Sky Resorts in Montana have introduced triple black diamonds ski runs. You may be exposed to these risks: uncontrollable fall on a steep, continuous pitch, running into complex, high consequence ski terrains.
Double black diamonds ski runs are challenging, with enough skills, they are the most exciting playground, and you will have lots of fun.
What are your favorite double black diamonds ski runs!? Send me a message, and let’s see if we can ski down these exciting runs together!