What is a Double Black Diamond Ski Run

A double black diamond ski run is probably the most challenging run you will find at a ski resort. These runs are for experts only and can feature extreme terrain that makes them dangerous if you don’t have to skills to go down them. 

I’ve been skiing for nearly my entire life and have skied every type of run. I consider myself an expert skier, and I’ve been on plenty of black diamond runs over the years. 

In this post, I’ll explain exactly what a black diamond is and provide you with some information on what you can expect if you want to ski down one. This information is good for any beginner or intermediate skier to know and understand. 

Here we go. 

Ski Difficulty Rankings

If you haven’t skied before or have only been a few times, you might not be completely familiar with the ski run difficulty ranking system. This color and/or symbol system describes how difficult any particular run is. 

The rankings for resorts in North America go like this (from easiest to most difficult): green, blue, black, double black. In Europe and Japan, the rankings go like this: blue, red, black, double black. 

As you can see, the double black represents the most difficult type of run you are likely to encounter at a ski resort. They are usually only for expert skiers because of their varied terrain and conditions. 

Double Black Diamond Ski Run Explained

So on the most basic level, a double black diamond is the most challenging type of run you will see at a ski resort. They are for advanced and expert-level skiers only. Beginners and intermediate-level skiers should not attempt them. 

Let’s break the double black diamond down a bit more to give you a better understanding of precisely what it is. 

Double Black Diamond Steepness

These runs will be some of the steepest areas of the mountain. They can be extremely steep, and this means you need to have the technical skills to know how to make quick jump turns and avoid falling. 

Double black diamond runs are often so steep that there is no chance to recover if you take a bad fall. This can cause you to slide completely down the slope until it gets flatter, or you can self-arrest. 

The exact pitch of a double black can vary from run to run, but they will almost always be steeper than the standard black diamond run. 

Double Black Diamond Terrain

You can expect all types of terrain on a double black diamond run. You know it’s going to be steep, but there can also be moguls, trees, rocks, cliffs, cornices, dropoffs, and other sorts of extreme conditions. 

A double black will not be groomed or maintained much at all. The ski resort might do avalanche mitigation on it, but you will not experience smooth corduroy or other man-made manicuring here.

The terrain of a black diamond can be highly variable from run to run. One might have super steep moguls, while another has a narrow chute between rocks that you need to navigate safely through without making many turns.

Black Diamond Conditions

The exact snow conditions of a double black diamond run can be extremely variable, depending on how much snow the ski resort has had lately. 

If you are lucky, these runs can hold extraordinary powder stashes that offer some of the best skiing you can imagine. One of my favorite runs in the world is a double black at Aspen Highlands, and I had my best powder day ever there. 

But double blacks can also be super sketchy. There are often exposed rocks or other extremely difficult obstacles to navigate through or by. You need to keep your eyes out for just about anything when charging through this type of run. 

They can also have huge bumps or ice if the run hasn’t seen fresh snow. Even if the run hasn’t been skied often, the conditions can still change rapidly. And you should always be aware of avalanche danger in extreme situations. 

Double Black Diamonds are Extreme

Some resorts label their double black diamond runs as Extreme Terrain. This is a broad description, but it’s basically a warning to expect the unexpected and only ski the run if you have the skills to deal with that. 

Extreme skiing can mean many things, but one universal rule to it is that it’s not for beginners. And it’s not for most intermediate skiers either. You need to have a high level of skills and confidence to go down a double black diamond. 

That said, extreme terrain also has many benefits. If you have the skills, these runs offer an amazing skiing experience. You can access terrain that some skiers only dream of and get access to untouched lines of deep powder. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you are still learning how to ski and daydreaming of the time you’ll be ready to handle a double black or are an expert skier with years of experience; safety is still the name of the game whenever you want to do something extreme. 

Always wear a helmet if you are attempting a double black diamond and ski within your abilities at all times. Ski with friends in case of an emergency and educate yourself about avalanche safety, just in case. 

Skiing a double black diamond can be amazing, but it also comes with a certain level of responsibility. Play it safe so you can keep skiing for years to come!

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