How to Ski Black Diamonds: Achieving Expert Status
Testing your ability on various parts of the mountain is essential to advancing as a skier. Mastering how to ski black diamonds is a goal of many skiers. Being able to navigate this advanced terrain feels like a badge of honor and is a massive confidence booster. It also opens up the majority of the mountain for you to ski, providing almost infinite possibilities for your future ski days.
However, it can be scary to push yourself onto these runs if you have not done them before. In this post, we walk through how to progress from blue to black ski runs. You’ll discover that if you put in some practice and hone in on improving your technique, you will be skiing down expert runs in no time.
How to Know When You're Ready to Ski Black Diamonds
You are ready for expert black diamond terrain when you can ski using parallel turns on intermediate blue terrain and stay in control at higher speeds. At this level, you should also be able to make tight turns around bumps and other obstacles. Being comfortable getting on and off of any chairlift, including T-bars and fast-moving chairs, is another essential skill. If you can ski any blue run without issue, it may be time to challenge yourself on a black diamond run!
You may be wondering, can you ski black runs before you’re at this point? Yes, but it will be a lot more work and feel a lot scarier if you don’t have the appropriate skills yet. However, many skiers and snowboarders accidentally end up on black runs from taking a wrong turn and find themselves unexpectedly braving their way down. If you just take it slow and stay calm, you’ll be just fine. You can always “sidestep” your way down the mountain on more difficult areas if you find yourself in over your head.
How Long Does it Take to Ski Black Diamonds?
The ability to ski black diamonds varies drastically person to person. For more adventurous skiers, it can take just 1-2 weeks on the snow before attempting a black diamond run. On the other hand, more cautious skiers or those that do not have very many days to practice, it can take an entire season to feel comfortable skiing a black diamond.
Advancing to black diamond terrain isn’t for everyone. Some skiers are content with a few laps on blue and green groomers being the extent of their ski day. These more casual skiers don’t want or need the challenge of skiing blacks and never feel the desire to progress that far.
How Steep are Black Diamonds?
Steepness varies by run, but black diamond ski trails are usually on slopes with angles above 22 degrees. A pair of typical stairs is commonly built at about a 37 degree angle for reference. The most extreme runs (double blacks or above) within the boundaries of ski resorts rarely exceed a 45 degree slope.
How Hard are Black Diamonds?
Difficulty is often a matter of perception. Your first time on a black diamond ski run will likely be nerve racking but doable. Difficulty also depends on the type of run. Some black diamonds are groomed, while others are not. They can also contain moguls or tight trees, which make skiing down more of a challenge.
However, the hardest part about transitioning from blues to blacks is plucking up the courage to try – and then keep trying. Experts do not become experts overnight, so you’ll need to keep practicing to improve your skills and confidence. If you focus on making controlled turns and committing to proper form and technique, you’ll be cruising down expert terrain in no time.
How to Ski Black Diamond Runs
Black diamond runs are steeper and can contain more obstacles than blue runs. Feeling confident in your ability to parallel turn and remain in control is essential. Knowing how to ski moguls is also important as these are found more often in expert terrain. Before trying your first black diamond run, you should also consider the conditions. For example, if the slopes are blanketed with a fresh foot of snow, make sure you’re comfortable skiing in powder.
The steeper terrain gets, the more inclined people are to lean backward. Leaning backwards is the BIGGEST and most common mistake you can make on new terrain. It causes you to be off balanced, and with your weight on your heels, you cannot easily control your skis.
Your weight and balance should be over the balls of your feet at all times. Keep your hands and poles in front of you, reaching forward with your pole on each turn. This helps to ensure your upper body is staying in a balanced and forward directed position.
There are no significantly different ski techniques required for black diamonds. The skills you gain from skiing intermediate blue runs should be applied to expert terrain. This includes being able to link parallel turns and ski bumps and moguls. It is essential to actively keep your technique sound while skiing steeper terrain for the first time. Concentrate more than you might on intermediate runs to stay balanced in an athletic stance, with your eyes and upper body directed down hill at all times.
Be slow, patient, and in control. Skiing new terrain is not a race to the bottom. At first, follow your turns all the way through so that your skis are going across the mountain and slow you down or even force you to come to a complete stop. Once you have regathered yourself, take another turn. So on and so forth until you link turns together. The more you can link turns together and stay at a comfortable speed, the more confident you’ll become. As you gain more confidence, the easier it will become to link more and more turns together.
Confidence & Mentality
In reality, the biggest obstacle on most black diamond ski runs is your own mindset. Fear and hesitation will get you out of your normal rhythm, which can lead to abandoning your fundamentals.
To overcome these feelings, get yourself in a proper mental space before attempting the run. It’s nice to remind yourself that this is just skiing – it’s supposed to be fun! You might fall, so what? As long as you go slow and take it one small turn at a time, you are unlikely to get injured from falling. If it happens, laugh at yourself, pick yourself up, and remember you are lucky enough to be skiing in the first place. Failure is part of learning and is what will help you to become a better skier.
Progressing from blue runs to black runs isn’t nearly as difficult or different as most people make it out to be. Unless you have managed to completely avoid moguls and have only tried the gentlest of blue slopes, upgrading to black runs should feel like a natural progression. You just need to focus a little extra on staying balanced and committing to your already existing technique.
From there, confidence is key. Start slow, stay in control and let your confidence progress until you are linking more and more turns together on your way down the advanced slopes. That may sound easier said than done, but maybe that’s the point. You can’t improve until you try!