What is a Black Diamond?
If you have taken a basic Alpine skiing lesson, you may have been taught about the different terrain ratings: green circle, blue square, and black diamond terrain.
What does this all mean? Black diamonds signify the most technical and advanced trails with steep, uneven terrain, sharp turns, and few landing areas.
You can apply the same terrain ratings to other forms of uphill sporting activities, such as rock climbing. This will give you a sense of what level of challenges to expect and will help you better interpret difficulty levels as you climb.
If you’re a novice, you might prefer to keep to easier trails with a green rating until you are more comfortable, while experts can take on the black diamond trails.
Read the article Ski Symbols: What they Really Mean if you would like to learn more about terrain ratings.
Earn Your Turns
Also known as pisted terrain, black diamond terrain requires maneuvers such as skiing faster, making harder turns, and having more weight on the downhill skis. To avoid injuring yourself on black diamond terrain, you’ll need to have certain skills and techniques. Specifically, you’ll need advanced balance and edging techniques so you can ski down these advanced trails without running into obstructions, falling, and other dangerous mishaps.
To ski black diamond terrain, you must have confidence in your skiing ability, strong skiing form, excellent balance and strength, and proper downward skiing angles. You must also be able to identify common obstacles and recall techniques for dealing with them.
Focus on Form
Black diamond ski runs are often steep and very challenging. Proper skiing technique is key to skiing black diamonds because each wrong step could lead to a dangerous fall.
For lesser experienced skiers, it may mean a broken leg or worse. Skiers who ski down black diamonds incorrectly can also pose a danger to others. So if you regularly ski black diamonds, you owe it to your fellow skiers and yourself to take the time to really learn the right way to ski down them.
Skiers of all levels will agree that learning how to control your speed is essential to skiing black diamonds. Slowing down or stopping while skiing down a black diamond can lead to a nasty fall. But slowing down too much can also mean difficulty in climbing the next grade.
So, the key to successfully ski down a black diamond is to do it with balance.
Another technique to master when skiing black diamonds is to keep your eyes up and focus on the path ahead.
The more you struggle looking down at the snow below, the more your fear of falling and doubt will creep in. If you do accidentally look down, force yourself to look up, even if it’s for just a couple of seconds. It’s best to regroup then move on.
For tips on skiing black diamonds and building confidence, click here to watch an expert demonstration.
Take a Lesson/Ski With Friends
Mixing in some black diamonds will really help you NBD. The diamonds will help you learn to handle the hard-packed snow, small moguls, and icy patches. These trails will help give you more confidence with each run.
When first starting, you should also take a lesson or ski with friends. The outing will help you learn the basics of skiing.
When is the Best Time to Ski a Black Diamond?
Try to ski right after a snowfall, as the snow will be softer and have fewer icy patches.
You should also be aware of the fact that ski conditions change throughout an entire day. Even with a soft snowfall overnight, you might find yourself skiing through hard-packed snow and ice the next day.
Whether you’re being challenged by your own limits or those of nature, the black diamond is an ego-building experience that no skier wants to miss. It’s the little-death that every skier embraces with open arms – the challenge that every skier needs.
Thankfully, the black diamond is a rarity because the skill required to traverse one is not for the faint of heart.
Many of us are content to stick to the green or blue trails, where we’re never going to be—or never supposed to be—put into a position where we’ll have to make a decision that could cost us our lives.
But for those who thrive on challenges, the black diamond trail will be the thrill, the rush, and the unmatched excitement that we cannot find anywhere else.