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southern coast mountains ski tour ratings

The following system is a proposed rating scale for ski tours and ski descents for the Southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia. The system combines an overall tour difficulty rating with a crux ski descent rating. These two ratings are combined to give a complete picture of the difficulty of a given ski tour or ski descent.

Overall Tour Difficulty - Alpine Grades for Ski Alpinism

Rating Terrain: Ascent and Descent Exposure Bottlenecks: Descent Only SWBC
Easy F Tame, hilly terrain, no obstacles. No glacier travel. No danger of sliding out of control No tight spots Elfin Lakes
Not Very Difficult PD
Usually open slopes with some short steep steps, quick turns might be necessary to avoid some obstacles. Straightforward or no glacier travel. Short steep sections with gentle run outs Bottlenecks are short and not steep. Mt Rohr,
Rather Difficult AD
Short steep steps which cannot be avoided, some obstacles in moderately steep terrain, requires quick reactions. Kick turns necessary on the ascent. Glacier travel requires routefinding. Steep sections with longer slides possible. Danger of injury if sliding. Bottlenecks are short but steep. Quick turns necessary. Cayoosh Mountain,
Difficult D
Steep slopes, many obstacles require good skiing skills. Complex glacial terrain. Long slides, possibly into blocks, rubble, trees. (danger of death if snow is icy!) Long and steep narrow spots. Short, quick turns still possible Joffre Peak - Aussie Couloir
Very Difficult TD
Generally very steep terrain, often with interspersed rock steps, many obstacles. Complex glacial terrain. Slide ways with steep steps, cliffs (mortal danger!)

Long and very steep couloirs. Often jump turns and side slipping necessary.


Extremely Difficult

Extremely steep slopes and couloirs, no safe spots for stopping. Complex glacial terrain.
Extreme exposure

Long and very steep couloirs. Only jump turns and side slipping possible

Exceptionally Difficult
Extremely steep faces and couloirs, only for experts
Possibly rappelling necessary over rock ledges

The overall tour ski rating is an estimate of the general level of the difficulties encountered and their continuity, it also takes the altitude and length of the route into account. The scale, modeled on the overall alpinism rating, goes from F (easy) to ABO (horrible).

Remember: This rating is an overall difficulty rating. It is used to compare one route to another. The criteria listed above are guidelines for how to classify routes into ratings, but are not absolute. A straightforward route with a short, unexposed 45° pitch would not necessarily be rated TD based on slope alone. If the rest of the route is fairly easy ski mountaineering, it could easily be rated something like AD+.

WARNING This is a rating for skiing, and not for alpinism: a corridor may be rated D for skiing whereas for alpinism, its ascent does not exceed AD or PD.

Spot (Crux) Ski Difficulty - Traynard Scale

This point rating, is an addition to the overall rating, and evaluates the difficulty of the most difficult section of the downhill ski run. It is primarily related to the slope, but also takes the exposure into account, on a scale going from S1 to S7.

  • S1 : Easy route. No particular technique is required to safely descend. For example: a forest route. Well-defined, easy-angled tracks.
  • S2 : Large slopes, slightly steep (25°), or hilly routes. Easy-angled undulating slopes and hollows.
  • S3 : Slope up to 35° (equivalent to black diamond runs on ski hills). Skiers must be comfortable in variety of snow conditions. Big slopes with low exposure. The ability to make controlled turns.
  • S4 : Slopes up to 45° if the exposure is low; starting from 30° to 40° if the exposure is high or if there are narrow passages. Very good ski technique is essential. Big slopes with increasing exposure, or couloirs with limited turning space.
  • S5 : Slope from 45 to 50° or even steeper if the exposure is low. Starting from 40° if the exposure is strong. Perfect technique and good headspace are critical. Mountain faces and couloirs.
  • S6 : Slopes of 50° and greater if the exposure is high, which is generally the case. If the exposure is not high, short sections of slope at 55°. Slopes with great exposure and seriousness,
  • S7 : Sections to 60° or greater, or mandatory cliff drops in very steep and exposed terrain.

Ratings with Route Descriptions

When used in a guidebook, the ratings are used along with a short description that provides more specific information.

Each tour would receive two ratings. For example:
Mount Garibladi, Northeast Face
Overall Tour Difficulty AD+
Ski Difficulty S4
Difficulty Comments The upper face begins with a short section of 45° followed by a longer 40° section. A fall from the top would result in a long slide towards a bergshrund, which may fill in mid-winter.


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