How to Ski Black Diamonds: [Advice To Ski Black Diamonds]

If you want more terrain to ski at the ski resorts and get the most of your lift ticket then you will have to learn how to ski black diamond trails. Black diamond trails can be intimidating to even seasoned intermediate skiers but once you get the hang of them, they can be some of the most fun trails to ride.

Let’s take a look at how we recommend skiers approach a black diamond trail so they can learn how to ski black diamonds.

Skiing the End of a Black Diamond Run.
Skiing the End of a Black Diamond Run. Photo Credit: Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County (Flickr CC)

What Are Black Diamond Ski Runs?

Black diamond ski runs are admittedly where the experts separate themselves from the intermediate skiers. All resorts have them but only a handful of the people visiting the resort ride them.

If you want steep grades, challenging runs and even difficult turns then black diamonds are the place to look if your skill level is up to par. Black diamonds are steeper and more challenging than both greens and blues but, you probably already knew that, right?

How Steep Is a Black Diamond Ski Run?

Remember those blue runs we talked about and how they were between 14 to 22 degrees in angle? Well, a black diamond is anything over that.

How Hard is It To Ski a Black Diamond?

No helmet black diamond riding
No helmet black diamond riding. Photo Credit Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County (Flickr CC)

Black diamond ski runs are hard. So hard that it can take half a season to a full ski season before even attempting one. You can almost bet that if you see someone on a black diamond, they have been skiing for quite some time.

It shouldn’t be discouraging though. Anyone can get to the black diamond skiing level competency with some lessons and practice.

Can a Beginner Ski a Black Diamond?

If you are headed to a ski resort for the first time and looking over the trail map, don’t even consider the black diamonds if you are a beginner. Black diamonds need days if not weeks and months of practice on intermediate slopes before moving up.

Ideally, beginners should move from green to blue and master their technical skills before even considering black diamonds. Simply put, take your time. Beginners will get to the black diamonds trails at one point or another but definitely not the beginning of their skiing journey.

Knowing When Your Are Ready for a Black Diamond Ski Run

There will be a time that comes though and you’ll think, “ I’m ready to test myself on a black diamond.” Have a friend or instructor evaluate your skills visually on the intermediate slopes before riding a black diamond.

An impartial party can be the judge of your speed control, stopping abilities and ability to link turns. If they give you the thumbs up and go ahead, it is probably time. While you shouldn’t ride black diamonds before you are ready, most people wait to try one due to fear but they are actually ready.

How to Ski A Black Diamond Run (3 Things to Focus On)

Downhill skiing in full gear
Downhill skiing in full gear. Photo Credit Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County (Flickr CC)

Learning how to ski a black diamond is not like learning how to ski a green or a blue trail. Instead, you have to improve on those foundational skills you already know and leverage something you may not have realized in the past, confidence.

Before that, let’s look at what you need to ski black diamonds

Ski Gear Needed to Ski Black Diamond Trails:

Skiing Skills Required to Ski Black Diamond Trails:

  • Excellent linking of turns and carving abilities
  • Able to control speeds, turning and stopping
  • Able to stop when needed

If you can check all that off then let’s look at some advice or better yet, three things to focus on when learning how to ski black diamonds.

1. Having Confidence in Your Abilities

Once you are finally ready for a black diamond and you have someone who says you can do it, trust yourself. If they say you are ready then your abilities should be able the right level.

Having confidence in yourself and your abilities is a must when skiing a black diamond. Self-doubt will do nothing to help you. You might have a bit of fear when you look over the edge and drop-in but trusting in yourself and how good of a skier you are, will make all the difference when learning how to ski black diamonds.

2. Using Your Technique to Ski Black Diamonds Successfully

Go back up and make sure you can check off all the skills required to ski a black diamond ski slope. If even one is lacking then you shouldn’t be attempting black diamonds. Not only for your own safety but for people around you.

Keep in mind everything you have learned from an active stance, looking downhill and making the turns you know you can make.

Improving on black diamonds is two-fold. It takes the practice of your skiing technique and confidence as we mentioned. Both will grow as you get more laps on the black diamonds.

3. Focusing on Your Balance

Our last piece of advice when skiing a black diamond is to keep your balance like you have been taught. Don’t make the mistake of learning back since the slope is steeper. Keep your athletic stance and your weight well distributed.

Your hands and poles should be out in front of you, just like you have done on all those greens and blues. Stay balanced and you will crush black diamond runs.

Black Diamond Ski Runs: Are They Dangerous?

Heavy snowfall, Tumble Off trail sign
Tumble Off trail sign. Photo Credit Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County (Flickr CC)

If you asked ski patrol, they will often tell you that they see more accidents on green and blue trails than black diamonds. This is because individuals out on the black diamonds are usually higher-level skiers.

Every now and then you get someone flying down a black diamond who isn’t ready and wrecks. Generally speaking, black diamonds are not dangerous if you have had proper lessons leading up to your first black diamond trail.

Is a Black Diamond Run A Lot Harder Than a Blue Square Trail?

It is a big step up to go from a blue square to a black diamond. There can be an intimidation factor due to how steep black diamond trails are but also a question if your skills are ready. A wreck can be worse on a black diamond than a blue square but that is mainly due to speed.

At the end of the day, black diamonds are harder than blue trails. You’ll need a high technical ability level to ski a black diamond. Not to say that isn’t true with blue trails as well!

Final Thoughts on How to Ski Black Diamonds

Learning how to ski black diamond trails certainly puts you as an expert-level skier once you are riding them comfortably. Don’t think about how long it takes to learn how to ski black diamonds but rather appreciate the skiing journey.

With some practice and confidence, you will be the master of black diamond runs before you know it!

Alec Wilson writes for Proper Peaks and lives near Claremont, VT. He hardly misses a weekend on the ski slopes in the winter. If there is snow, Alec’s skis are on for a go. Look out for his stickered up helmet and you might just meet him on the trails.

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