What do the colours of the ski slopes mean?

To ski safely, it is crucial to know how to assess the difficulty of ski slopes according to their colour code. Green, blue, red, black: how do you find your way around? Each slope is marked with a colour to determine the level of skiing required and to allow better circulation between beginners and experienced skiers. This way, you will be able to ski in safe conditions. In this guide, find out what the colours of the ski slopes mean to optimise your stay in the mountains this winter!

The ski slopes’ colour code


Whether you ski downhill or cross-country, you should know the colour code of the ski slopes as it indicates the level of difficulty. There are easy slopes, accessible to beginners, and very difficult slopes, reserved for experienced skiers and snowboarders. In France, there are 4 colours of ski slopes, which follow the AFNOR (French Standardization Association) standard. However, note that the assigning of a colour to a slope is left to the discretion of the ski resorts as there are no exact specifications.


The marking of a ski slope includes coloured markers, marker discs, directional signs and danger warning signs. This ensures the safety of skiers. You should also be aware that all ski slopes are groomed, which means that the snow is flattened and smoothed uphill by a groomer to spread the snow and smooth it out. Ungroomed (or rarely groomed) ski slopes contain mogul fields: these are red slopes or black slopes.


Good to know: the colours mentioned in this article only concern France and Italy. In fact, the marking varies from country to country. For example, Germany and Switzerland only use 3 colours. Always check the slopes map to see how difficult the areas are where you want to go!


4 colours, 4 levels of difficulty


1. Green slopes: easy


The first level of difficulty on the ski slopes is the green slopes, which are considered easy. They are intended for beginners, with a relatively gentle slope (between 5 and 8% gradient). The skier can therefore easily glide down by simply following gravity while maintaining a moderate speed. You can easily use the snowplough (or pizza) stance while going down and make slow, controlled turns. This is ideal for learning to master your equipment and for family outings as your children will be perfectly safe on these slopes. These easy ski slopes are usually go through passes and are marked with a green circle. As soon as you have mastered this level of difficulty, you can move on to the ski area’s blue slopes.


2. Blue slopes: medium


In the categorisation of ski slopes, blue means that the run is of moderate difficulty. The descent involves turns, so you need to be comfortable with a varying slope gradient and already be comfortable on green slopes. Generally, beginner skiers can try the blue slopes after a few days or a week of learning, depending on their level. Slopes of this level may contain the occasional so-called “wall”, i.e. areas with a steeper slope. In ski resorts, this is the most common level of difficulty and one of the most popular. Ideally, a beginner’s ski area should contain 50% green and blue runs.


3. Red slopes: hard


The next colour level on the list is the red slopes. These are for skiers who are at least comfortable with descending on slopes of a certain gradient. It is usually a wide ski slope with frequent “walls” and some knickpoints. It may also contain mogul fields and icy areas. It will be required to make sharp turns and to slow down using the edge of your skis. A relatively advanced level of skiing is therefore recommended to have fun and practice safely on these slopes.


4. Black slopes: expert


Finally, we come to the expert level slopes, which are the black slopes. These ski runs are disparate and have the highest level of difficulty in a ski area. You will have to face big “walls” (which however allows you to have a commanding view of your surroundings, which is a plus). These slopes can be groomed or completely untouched, which means bumps and icy areas. But don’t worry if you end up on a ski slope marked with a black diamond: a slope marked by the ski area authorities is a safe slope. All avalanches that could have potentially reached skiers have already been triggered by the ski patrol and are thus no longer a threat.


Crédit photos : Ski Planet