Colours of fear?

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Colours of fear?


Colours of fear

Colours of pistes, are they gospel, can you trust them, do they cause confusion?

Colours of fear, you may have seen this before but I had to post again as needed to update some of the info. When I started writing my #ALCblogbook project and I got to Dealing with Fear and piste colours as a subject I hit a problem that comes up all the time; “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” – piste colours are totally subjective and can have lots of deciding factors. The person’s ability is an obvious one, along with physical and emotional state that may vary from day to day and variable snow conditions/weather to name a few.
If you are a confident and accomplished skier then there is generally no problem, “all runs become white”, so no need to read further unless interested

If I was hypothetically given the task to re-design the piste map what would I do? I came up with three ideas/solutions;

  1. give the runs names that reflect their qualities (i.e. the meadow, daffodil = easy – T. Rex = hard)
  2. have 8 colours, light & dark green, light & dark blue, pink, red, purple and black
  3. go down the % route or degrees of steepness

Or a mixture; 3 red runs side by side accessed off the same lift; Sleepy Tiger (pink) is 18 degrees at it’s steepest section and Veloceraptor (red) is 24 and Angry T. Rex (purple) is 28. Easier to choose from?

colours fear
As an example: When I first came to Les Gets in 2000 the Reine des Pres (light blue above) run was marked on the piste map as a green run, then around 2006/7 it suddenly changed to blue! In my opinion and many others it is arguably green or blue depending on which part of it you’re on. Campanule (dark blue) beside is way steeper).

Who makes the decision and on what criteria
Without knowing what the criteria is (none of us know) it is a very hard task. Do we measure it backwards from a black run or forwards from a green? From whos perspective is this measured? An experts or nervous beginners or somewhere in between? Surely it has to be from a beginners!

If a beginner has skied a certain run then they can only measure or compare it to something they have already done. How do they pick another blue from the piste map? (They may assume that they’d all be similar if not exactly the same, right?). Wrong, all over the world runs vary in steepness including many that are side by side.

Note; more info may be needed too; not all runs have to be skied the whole way as they sometimes cross each other and give an escape route. For the nervous/weaker person what was easy today (perfect groomed slope) might not be so tomorrow due to many factors – ice, slush or no visability. Info not only on the run and conditions but how to get  back – i.e. type of lift.

The things that make a run scary/hard vary too; narrow or a drop off/edge to the piste.

What follows is a mixture of opinion – mine and colleagues but mainly what clients think the piste colour runs should be marked as and maybe I should make a pdf of it so you can use it on holiday.

Les Gets:
Nursery areas, are what they are and could be yellow adding another colour and will have different aspects and steepness ranging from dead flat to easy light green ideally.
Les Gets has a great area for total beginners however, Magic carpet 1 and Magic carpet 2, are quite steep for 1st ever turns as you have to go all the way up, dark green or black when seen through the eyes of a day 1 beginner.
Close by, the 2 Rope tows, have much flatter terrain and also have the benefit of allowing you to get on and release where suits you (please think of others when you do this), yellow to light green (hard on the hands and arms though).

Piste 64, green run – most of this run is pretty flat however, it has one steep-ish (only 50 mts) part, dark green/light blue close to the top.
It is also quite hard to access if you are a weak or nervous skier/boarder – using either a draglift (Mouille au Roi) that follows a blue run so if you do fall you have to ski a blue or walk down or, ride the De la Croix chair and a little walk/climb to the top of the drag.

Piste des Indiens area, although mainly for children these fun park runs including Piste Mauve (Milka run) are quite good areas if you can get there, as you will need once again to ride a drag lift (Grand Cry) or access it from the Criox chair. There are tricky bits and pieces to these but there is a good progression (ask the pros). Light green/dark green.
In here there is a green run Les Trappeurs, quite steep for a green, it’s at least a light blue similar to the steep part of Piste 64 but longer.

Gentiane, this is a very long blue run that starts way up at the top of Le Ranfoilly chair where it should be RED at least for the first 100 mts or so. From there it becomes a sedate blue but with a drop off to the right and a climb back up to the top of Nauchets chair. Following on it drops away becoming dark blue for 50 mts or so, then turning green for the return to the Croix chair area.
Gentiane (easy street), from here we can deal with it as if you’ve riden the Criox chair and turned right. This part looks daunting but is only steep (blue) for 10 mts or so, so could be side slipped, walked down with or without skis on. If you look far left the green part above comes down to meet you so if brave you can aim up there letting the terrain slow you down, be aware of others whatever you do on this bit.
From here the slope can look daunting too 1st time (but is really wide), although marked as a blue most of my clients mark the bit from here passing Piste des Indiens to the white cross on the hill as light blue or dark green. Allow your skis to run about half way to the cross so you don’t have to walk and stay above it and veer right. Look straight ahead to the gap in the trees past the 2 draglifts following the Bruyere blue until you reach a left turn following Piste 64. This part of Gentiane has the nickname “easy street”.

Bruyere and Gentiane, if you stay on any of the blue runs to the village they both have sections that would definitely be considered steep (red-ish), “horrible hill” for example on Bruyere from post 16 – 12 at the Folliets chair to Morzine! Or the first right under the red eggs (gondola) on Gentiane. Although these sections aren’t the whole length of the run they do contribute to them being at least dark blue to PINK.
Bruyere, Gentiane, Fougere, from the Croix chair there a many different routes down if you mx and match switching/combining between these runs along with Piste des Indiens area and the Camel humps under the chair. You can get really inventive after you’ve mastered “easy street” – start easy, finish challenged on the bottom of Fougere. Dark green/dark blue/pink great for preparing for later challenges. Tip; exhaust the possibilities here and build confidence before trying anything else, there’s lots.

Violets, another blue from the Croix chair. This run allows you to access the “bowl” and has a funny off camber slope at the beginning, this could make it very intimidating for some and this part could be dark blue/pink.
However, there is a walking track (narrow but flatter) to the left that winds toward Rhodos (red) before it turns back cutting this tricky part out. After a long easy section you’ll see “slow” signs and after these it steepens again for another short part. If you get into trouble aim left up Rhodos where it joins to control your speed. From here it steepens again use the up and let tactic where it joins Ambresailles (red). If it looks too challenging following Violets at piste marker 3, 2, 1 as it can, carry on across Sautenailles (red be careful look left) down another narrow walking track on the other side. It sounds like madness but the bottom of Tulipe (red) is shallower than the 3, 2, 1 of Violets. Dark blue, pink in places.

Choucas (blue), If you can ride the long drag (Tete des Cretes) and skate/walk past Llotty’s restaurant or follow Violets and ride Nauchets chair to get to the same place, then you can use “chocholate box” blue. This is a road in the summer (TdF) and is a great confidence builder as it should be light green however, to get back to Les Gets and Morzine from is slightly harder, so have a good few runs with breaks at Llotty’s or any of the snack bars at the bottom.

Rhodos, the top of this run can look daunting however, it is the first “red run” I take people on, normally in stages or short lengthening sections;

  • access via Violets narrow path, from piste marker 10 to marker 8 where it re-joins Violets
  • from top marker 15 to 10 giving the get out of using path back to Violets or adding 10-8
  • adding from marker 8 to the bottom (Nauchets)
  • other short challenges in other areas (i.e. Rosta blues)

At the top of this run to the skiers right there is a new blue run (Cyclamens) most clients that have used this run say it’s harder than Rhodos as it twists and turns whereas Rhodos is relatively straight and has a fairly consistent steepness. Rhodos dark blue Cyclamens pink. Cyclamens also crosses the Violets path and Violets, at this stage re join Violets don’t carry on, although it does join Bleuet (blue) that goes almost all the way to the bottom joining Bruyere/Gentiane.


Piste colours
In the picture above (of a different part of Les Gets) I’ve drawn in the main piste colours of the runs but added others to show how every run has easier and harder sections including the blacks. It’s not totally accurate but gives the idea.

Hopefully I’ve given a flavour of what I’m on about, from here on I’ll carry on listing the piste and official (piste colour) and the colour that I/colleagues/clients think it should be at it’s steepest point when compared to similar runs. If it’s not on the list we agree and (blacks) do differ but are Black.

Campanule/Vorrosses/Renardiere (blue) Dark blue/Pink these blues are steeper or at least equal to Rhodos and Chevrelles (reds). Sometimes people can just be afraid of the colour they see, so we sometimes use these as transitional training runs to help people overcome their fears of reds. Chevrelles has two entrances one easier than the other.
Belle Mouille (red) Purple. There are some easy sections to this run but it winds and twists and is challenging in at least one section.
Before we move on to other areas; the blues are the main problem as less confident people may venture onto them for many reasons. I’ve included reds though to show that the problem doesn’t stop at blues. Of course many people who are thinking of venturing onto reds shouldn’t have a problem however, many do. There are many factors that impact and we’ve mentioned some of them; weather, snow conditions, width is sometimes more of a problem than just steepness and a narrow piste having an edge (giving the impression of a cliff or drop off) can be the greatest fear.

Mont Chery

All the runs on this side are challenging, there are plans to make some easier runs and a gondola from the other Chavannes side. There is one blue on the Mt Chery side, Ourson (pink) everything else is RED or Black.


One of the reasons for rewriting this is because of the brilliant changes that happened here a few years ago – the new beginner area and covered magic carpet. It makes, apart from the walk up, this area awesome for beginners.

Arbis (red) Purple/Black. This is located up the Chamoissiere chair, at the top you have the choice of Arbis or Les Creux (black). I honestly believe if both are pisted, Arbis is harder however Les Creux is normally full of bumps!

Granges/Crocus (blue) Dark blue/Pink. Crocus leads you to “horrible hill” on Bruyere that takes you to Les Gets, covered earlier. Granges is challenging, twisty and narrow in places. Alternately there is an easier way, Chardon Bleu that starts from the bottom of the penguin run (Nabor) and although narrow has only one short challenging part.
Les Trappeurs (green) up above the Pleney beginner plateau.

Piste B (blue). This is the easiest of the blue runs in Morzine and is a very long run that has many aspects and can involve Les Trappeurs and Piste N above it and the Tapis (Magic carpet/beginners area). From the Tapis it changes to dark green (it’s the run you walk up as a beginner to the magic carpet) and down to Belvedere chair isn’t too intimidating or long and is quite wide. The Belvedere chair enables you to access the easy terrain above.
If you blindly follow the B signs you can encounter problems, however; The BEAUTY of the Piste B/Nabor area is that you have CHOICES!
If you descend from the meeting point and pass the Pistuers (rescue paramedics) hut; it gets dark green for a short section (20 mts), then flattens for 100 mts, then steepens again for 30 mts leading you to the Nabor chair that accesses the nursery area and various other light green – dark green – blue terrain that you can view on the way up. There is a way of cutting right, past the small race start hut hugging the trees to your left shoulder that has music coming out of them which is easier than the above. From here we’ll examine later.

Piste D, C and G (blue) these are all accessed from Piste B/Belvedere chair environs however, they bear no relation to what you’ve encountered so far and are a mixture of dark blue, pink and red. Build up confidence and ability on B to all routes on Nabor before venturing further.
Getting to the village (blue); from Nabor, B starts shallow light blue but will vary between both shades of blue until you reach where it comes alongside the steeper D.
To recognise where this is: over to the right is the finish hut to the start hut mentioned above and the run obviously widens massively. This is important if nervous or 1st time down here; head right onto D past and above a big clump of trees in the centre. Why? B now steepens to red but D shallows gradually to green. At the end of this flatter section it dives (blue) toward the main red Piste N which you can use to slow you down as you eventually turn left and fly as fast as you like to the Des Mouilles chair that returns you to the bottom of the nursery/meeting area.

If you’ve built good technique and confidence and want to go all the way form here B will be varying blue/pink all the way however, there is an easy choice to the left of the restaurant there is a small path going past a couple of huts after about 200 mts you’ll see a big banner “the zoo run” basically a light green children’s path with animal sculptures all the way down it. This cuts out some of the more challenging sections but you will have some achievable challenges once it finishes and you’re back on B to the bottom.

Blanchots/Chamois (red) Red/Purple-ish.

Super Morzine:
Tetras/Zore (blue) Dark blue/Pink.
Seraussaix/Proclou (blue) Light green/dark green/light blue. There’s a new option of a real light green run Premier Glisse here now.

These if you can get to them are great confidence building runs for nervous or less confident people, also fantastic for learning new tricks like skiing backwards for example.

Bleue du Lac/Bleue de Arare/Bleue du Fornet/Bleue du Chavanette (blue) Pinky/Red in places.

Prolays (blue) Red.
Parchesse/Grand Plan/Combe du Floret (blue) Pink at least.

Piste colours Avoriaz
Same as the picture on Les Gets; showing how runs marked can get harder and easier at certain points, once again not totally accurate but just to give an idea.

I hope this helps and hasn’t been too negative or put you off, it hasn’t been written to scare anyone but I believe it’s important to get accurate info from someone who either knows or you can trust to tell you the truth. This isn’t just a PdS anomaly I’ve seen it in Lots of resorts/Countries. I hope that it may prove a useful resource when trying to plan yours or your partners day in the mountains, which piste colours are appropriate and which are not.

Also it is not an attack on the mountain; the companies that run the various resorts in the PdS do some fantastic work, in and out of the winter.

  • The actual piste-ing (manned, machines that flatten and groom the snow every night) is awesome
  • Re-grading the actual ground with diggers in the summer for one example
  • Up-grading lifts, improvements (as in the new covered magic carpet mentioned).

The rescue/paramedics (pistuers), Avalanche patrol, maintenance crews and lifties all deserve a round of applause

When researching this I had to look at piste maps – as ski/teaching professionals we have the map in our heads – I knew this but re-reading the description left me speechless:
Green – Tres Facile, very easy
Blue – Facile, easy
Red – Difficile, difficult
Black – Tres Difficile, very difficult
There are probably people out there thinking “what’s wrong with those descriptions?”. Well, very easy or easy in comparison to what?

I wonder how many people out there that remember being a beginner and who have been down some of the blue runs, just pick one, Prolays/Bleu de Arare/Campanule would describe them as easy?

Tip; when the weather or snow conditions change for the worse (white out or icy) every classification should change up the scale – blue run yesterday, red today. The same might be said the other way round but YOU make the decision not some person you’ve never met.
Another is timing; if you’re going to try a new run, do it after a good warm up run that has a steeper section on it and while the piste-ing is still in good condition, not 3pm when bumpy and tired. Pick a run that has the same aspect to it – faces the same direction – so the snow conditions are going to be similar. .
If any of this relates to your experience we at ALC can help you overcome your fears and problems with tactics and helpful lessons. Get in touch or read our blogs #ALCblogbook or website for more info. ATB Joe

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