A Guide to Skiing Blue Runs for the First Time
Are you starting to feel bored of green runs? Do you want to take your ski skills to the next level, but you’re not sure if you’re ready? Every time you learn something new, the mountain becomes more accessible, and most importantly, more fun. Transitioning from beginner green runs to intermediate blue runs is one of those exciting early steps that really expands where you can ski at a resort. In this post, we discuss what you need to know if you’re thinking about skiing blue runs for the first time.
How to Know When You’re Capable of Skiing Blue Runs
For new skiers, it can be difficult to truly measure your own ability and know when you are ready for the next level. Blue skis runs are for intermediate skiers. In other words, you probably shouldn’t be skiing blue runs for the first time if it’s only your first day or two on skis.
Your foundations should be solid. Knowing how to come to a complete stop and do basic turns is recommended before tackling these intermediate runs. For turning, you should be able to make wedged turns comfortably and be progressing into making parallel turns.
Wedged turns are when your skis are in a “pizza” formation, but you are still putting weight on one foot or the other to swing your body and turn. If you have only just learned how to pizza, or snowplough, then you will likely not have fun on blue runs and they will be very tiring.
Being able to stop consistently is also key. Blue runs are steeper than greens, and therefore you will pick up speed much easier. You will need to control your speed and stop more frequently than you likely need to on green runs. It’s never too early to learn how to stop more efficiently by using what is called a hockey stop. This is where you stop perpendicular to the slope with your skis parallel with one another. Practice this on the green runs before moving on to the blue runs.
Signs That You Are NOT Ready To Ski Blue Runs
Blue runs should not be feared. In reality, mellow blue runs are often not much harder than green runs. However, you should still know some of the basic skiing techniques before trying to advance to steeper terrain. If you still can’t turn or stop consistently, you should stick to green runs until you improve these foundational skills.
It is recommended that you are able to link at least a few parallel turns (rather than wedge turns) and that you can come to a complete stop without any issues. If you find yourself frequently falling or struggling on any green runs, you should probably remain on those trails until you are able to ski down comfortably and confidently. Check out our beginner’s guide on how to ski if you need to brush up on the basics.
How Long Does it Take to Learn to Ski Blue Runs?
The time it takes to learn the skills necessary to ski blue runs can vary dramatically from one skier to the next. Some skiers attempt blue runs by their third day of skiing, while others may take 1-2 weeks of skiing to feel confident enough on intermediate terrain.
In many cases, it isn’t about technique or ability and has more to do with the skier’s mentality and confidence level. Advancing to more difficult terrain for the first time can feel scary. The initial look at a blue slope, which will be steeper, might make some skiers want to retreat back to the greens, even if they know how to turn and stop.
Once you know how to turn and stop, you can make it down a blue run. Your primary obstacle at that point is your own mindset. If you can parallel ski on a green run from start to finish and you can do a hockey stop, then set a goal for yourself to try a blue run. No excuses! You won’t be able to improve your skills if you don’t try.
Green vs. Blue Runs - What's the Difference?
The major difference between green runs and blue runs is how steep they are. Since blue runs are steeper, they tend to be slightly more difficult to ski down. However, this does not necessarily mean blue runs are more dangerous. More details on the differences are outlined below.
How steep are blue runs?
In North America, green run slopes are angled up to 14 degrees, while blue run slopes are typically angled between 14 and 22 degrees. In Europe, it’s slightly lower with blue run slopes angled between 11 and 17 degrees. For reference, common stairs are normally around 37 degrees.
Science aside, blue runs definitely feel steeper than greens the first few times you try them, but not so much that you should be afraid. Take a friend or ask a resort worker which blue runs are more mellow because the steepness can vary. Some blue runs are barely an upgrade over greens, while others can be notably steeper and even contain ungroomed terrain or mounds of snow called moguls.
How hard are blue runs?
Skiing blue runs is not too difficult. As long as you can confidently perform basic ski skills like turning and stopping, you can absolutely ski a blue run. Remember, blue runs are designed for intermediate skiers – not Olympic athletes. You will not accidentally ski off a cliff or encounter any extreme terrain.
In most cases, skiing blue runs isn’t much more difficult than skiing green runs. These runs are just a little bit steeper so you go a little bit faster. Take longer, wider turns at first to help control your speed. When in doubt, come to a stop to regather yourself. Practice makes perfect!
How dangerous are blue runs?
Some people are under the impression that blue runs are more dangerous than the beginner trails. This is not true. Blue runs are not situated in dangerous spots on the mountain. There are often still many beginner or early intermediate skiers on these trails, so you will be in similar company. While people tend to go slightly faster on blue runs, collisions are rare and do not occur any more frequently than on green runs.
How to Ski Blue Runs
Making parallel turns is the best way to ski blue runs. However, if you haven’t got that skill down yet, you can still make your way down a blue run using wedged turns.
Blue runs are steeper, so you tend to ski a little faster, which can cause people to hesitate. One tip is to not lean back when skiing. To successfully turn, you need to lean slightly forward and commit. It helps to reach downhill with your ski pole to guide your turn.
The initial arc of your first turn on steeper terrain can be intimidating. By this point, you should know that when you put your weight mostly on one foot, your momentum will naturally swing into a turn. To slow down at the end of your turn, keep your skis perpendicular, across the slope of the mountain. Then, once you’re ready, initiate your next turn and gradually make your way down the run.
Tips for Skiing Blue Runs for the First Time
- Go With People You Know
Skiing with friends or family members is nice because they can assist you if necessary. A great way to practice is to have someone ski ahead of you, and you do your best to follow them. Watching others ski successfully allows you to pick up on little things that can help you in your own technique. They also may know of a good trail to take you on that’s good for skiing blue runs for the first time.
- Take a Lesson
Lessons at resorts are provided for all skier levels, not just first time skiers. An instructor can lean on years of experience of helping others advance to help you. They likely have seen every obstacle that people go through and can coach you through skiing blue runs for the first time. If you really want to accelerate your learning, take a lesson. You have the added benefit of skiing with someone who knows the mountain very well and can take you to mellow slopes or less crowded areas where you’ll feel more comfortable.
- Ask Ski Patrol or Lift Operators for Recommendations
As mentioned, there can be variations in the difficulty of blue runs. Some are groomed, mellow runs. Others can be steeper, icier, or contain moguls. All of those factors can increase difficulty. It is common to find ski patrol at the big trail maps near crowded junctions and generally popular areas. If you see them standing there, don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation on a good first time blue run. It is part of their job to be answering questions and directing traffic.
- Pay Attention to Chairlifts
It’s important to note that the lifts servicing blue runs may be faster than what you are used to on the green runs. Skiers are expected to get on and off the chairlift efficiently, so make sure you are paying attention. You should feel completely comfortable riding the chairlift before progressing to blue runs.
- Warm Up
It’s best to take a few warm up laps on some green runs first. Get the feeling of your skis beneath your feet, and hone in on your turning and stopping techniques before taking the plunge to ski a blue run for the first time.
- Master the Basics & Feel Confident on Greens
There is absolutely NO shame in wanting to continue to build your confidence on the greens. Don’t feel pressured to move on to steeper terrain unless you want to. It helps to master the basics and really feel comfortable on beginner terrain before moving onto other areas of the mountain.
- Scout It Out First
When in doubt, scout it out! Look at the map and try to identify an area where there is a mix of blue and green runs. If you ski up to the beginning of a blue run and it looks too scary, no worries. Turn around and head back to the greens or take a look at another blue trail. It may help to go around scouting out several blues and picking the easiest or least scary looking one to start off on.
Skiing blue runs for the first time is exhilarating and exciting! Not only do you complete a skiing milestone, but this often opens up a large portion of the ski resort for you to explore. Make sure you know the basics of turning and stopping before progressing to the blues. Once you have mastered the foundations, don’t overthink it. Blue runs are not as hard as you will likely make them out to be in your head. Take it slowly, grow your confidence, and go for it! Then treat yourself to a well-deserved après treat.