Updated July 2nd, 2023
Double Black Diamonds have a little bit of mystique to them. Double blacks bring up famous runs such as Corbet’s Couloir or KT22. Ski resorts such as Crested Butte, Jackson Hole, and Snowbird are famous for their advanced ski runs. What does Double Black Diamond skiing and snowboarding entail? How difficult are double black diamond ski runs? What skills are needed to ski double black diamonds?
What are double black diamond Ski Runs?
A double black diamond is a more difficult run than a black diamond in the North American system of ski trail ratings. They are “expert terrain”. Ski resorts will name their most difficult runs double or sometimes triple black diamond. Like all other ski slope ratings, it is relative to that mountain. A double black diamond at one ski resort doesn’t necessarily equal one somewhere else.
Corbet’s Couloir at Jackson Hole is a tight chute with a big drop in that only a really strong expert skier should even think about doing. Outer Limits at Killington Vermont is a steep mogul run that most average skiers can make their way down. The Sudan Coulier at Whistler Blackcomb is a steep off-piste run with lots of rocks and cliffs around that most advanced skiers could handle. At the far easier of the spectrum, Spectacular at Blue Mountain ON. is a steep groomed run that most intermediate level skiers can do.
Here is a video of Corbet’s
Here is a video of one of my ski friends falling all the way down Spectacular at Blue Mountain. They are both rated Double Black diamonds. You can see the difference.
Double black diamond runs can be a wide ranging variety of ski run depending on the ski area. Double blacks at an eastern or midwest ski mountain might only be intermediate runs somewhere like Crested Butte.
How hard is it to ski double black diamonds?
The difficulty of a double black diamond depends on the ski resort. It can be anything from a groomer to a narrow steep chute to tight steep glades. The difficulty ranges from you could kill yourself falling to just a steeper groomed run. At the harder end, you need to be a very advanced confident skier. Average intermediate skiers can handle the easier end of double blacks.
As a beginner skier, you should stay away from anything with a Black Diamond or Double Black diamond rating.
9 skills need for double black diamond skiing
The skills needed to skill double black diamonds depend on the run and what ski resort you are at. You need to be comfortable parallel turning and stopping on steep groomed runs.
To ski the most advanced double black diamond you need some basic advanced skills such as jump turns, side slipping, and the ability to stop quickly if you fall.
1 – Be comfortable skiing black diamond runs
The easiest way to know if you are ready to ski a double black diamond is skiing a black diamond. If you can comfortably ski the hardest black diamonds somewhere you are ready to try one. Just because you can ski an off-piste black diamond trail at Jackson Hole doesn’t mean you are ready to drop into Corbet’s. It’s a good sign that you are getting close.
2 – Good turning skills
To tackle the toughest double blacks you need good turning skills. Different terrain requires different turn techniques. You should be able to parallel turn and be able to carve or skid through a turn or a mixture of both. You should be able to jump turn for tight steep terrain.
3 – Good stopping skills
You need to be able to slow down and stop right now on steep tight terrain. You may not be able to turn uphill or ski across the trail to bleed off speed. You should be able to hockey stop and wedge stop.
4 – Ability to stop yourself after falling
An important skill for skiing steep terrain is the ability to stop yourself when you fall. On a wide open groomed run with no obstacles below you, you can slide a long distance with no risk. On steep technical terrain, there may be rocks, trees, or cliffs below you. When skiing steep off-piste terrain it’s important to stop yourself quickly. When you fall use your skis, hands, boots, legs, etc to dig into the snow and stop. If you wait until your sliding down the run at Mach 2, head first on your back, it’s too late. You are at the mercy of whatever is downhill below you.
5 – Side slipping
Side slipping is an important skill. Being able to slide down the slops can help you get into and out of difficult situations. If you need to get down something steep that is too narrow to turn, side slipping can take care of it. Being able to control your sliding speed is a good skill. You can use it combined with turning to wash off speed or slide down slope before completing your turn.
6 – Good control and stance
Leaning back up the slope on steep terrain can be an instant fall. It’s important to lean downhill when it’s steep. Keeping your body aiming down the fall line is also important. When the slope gets steep it’s time to have confidence and attack the run. If you hesitate and lean back into the hill you are likely to do exactly what you’re afraid of. Fall and slide down the run.
7 – Comfortable on all snow conditions
You never know what snow conditions you are going to encounter. The best way to be prepared is to learn to ski on hardpack, ice, and powder. A steep double black is not the place to learn to ski powder or ice. Practice skiing on a variety of snow types on blue and black runs before going down the double black run.
8 – Able to ski off piste
A lot of double black runs are off piste or ungroomed. Once you venture off piste you will encounter a lot of different snow surfaces. You can find moguls, crud snow or powder if you are lucky. You might find them all on the same run. It can be a good idea to spend some time skiing easier mogul runs to get comfortable on them. It doesn’t mean you need to be a great mogul skier. Almost no one is. You just need to be comfortable in bumped out terrain.
For some good advanced skiing tips. See the YouTube Channel Ski School by Elate Media.
9 – The ability to just let it run
Sometimes you just have to go tips down and let it rip to ski through something until you have space to stop or turn. There is a narrow chute through a bunch of trees or rocks or a big drop you can’t turn in the middle of. You have to take a full throttle approach and not panic and try to turn or stop in the middle of it. There is some truth behind the Better Off Dead quote “Go that way really fast. If something gets in your way turn”
Look before you leap
If you have never been down a really advanced run or area of the mountain before, study up a little before doing it. These days there are tons of YouTube videos out there showing how to approach almost any advanced run. Look around while riding the ski lift to see what you might encounter.
Do a few blue run warmups. Ski the hardest looking black diamond trail before going on to the double black. Most advanced runs do not have a blue trail bailout if you get in over your head. A little prep can either give you the confidence you need to get it done or stop you from making a giant mistake. No one wants to end their day with a sled ride down courtesy of the ski patrol.
Take lessons To Ski Double Blacks
If you want to tackle the most advanced ski runs at a big resort out west, ski school can be a good place to start. Many ski resorts out west offer advanced lessons that will take you down their most advanced terrain. This is a great way to learn techniques and build confidence to handle those runs. Programs like TheCamp at Whistler Blackcomb or The Jackson Hole Steep and Deep Camp are great examples.
I have personally done many TheCamp sessions at Whistler and skied terrain I would have never done on my own without it. It also gives you a good excuse for a ski trip.
You might also like:
- Mount Bohemia Ski Resort. The Best Michigan Skiing
- First Time Guide To Skiing Out West
- The Best Type Of Ski For Intermediate Skiers
Co-Founder & Chief Editor
I grew up back east in Pennsylvania and learned to ski on a family trip to Killington, Vermont when I was 6. I immediately fell in love with the mountains and outdoors and have been skiing across the US and Canada ever since. I went to school for Mechanical Engineering, and have a Master’s Degree in Material Science and Reliability.
I am a total gear nerd and love learning how things work and thinking about how they could be improved. Nothing excites me more than trying out new gear. I’d rather spend 3 hours taking my bike apart and learning how to change something than go to a bike shop. These days I reside in Michigan by the Great Lakes and go skiing, biking, and boating as much as possible.