How to Read a Piste Map

How to Read a Piste Map

Your first ski holiday can be daunting – you may have looked through loads of pictures, watched videos, browsed websites and read all the brochures – but you can’t really know what it’s like until you’re actually there.

One of the main things to learn is how to get around – and that means learning how to read a piste map.

What’s a Piste Map?

Well, firstly let’s go back a step. What’s a piste? ‘Piste’ is a French word for a groomed slope, and we’ve just taken that word into English. It just refers to the marked slopes on the mountains.

Likewise, off-piste refers to skiable, non-patrolled areas that aren’t on the groomed slopes. Best left to the experts…

Pistes are split into colours, according to their level of difficulty, steepness and general snow conditions. In Europe, the general rule is:

  • Green > Easy
  • Blue > Moderate
  • Red > Intermediate
  • Black > Difficult

It’s always worth checking before you head out though as this does sometimes vary from country to country and resort to resort.

Reading a Piste Map

How to read a piste map

A piste map will show you the different coloured pistes so you know which ones to head for according to your ability. All piste maps use similar symbols as well, so once you’ve learnt to read one, you’ll be able to read all of them.

As well as the pistes themselves, a piste map also shows ski lifts. There are four main types of ski lift:

  • Surface lifts, which pull you on your skis or snowboard along the surface of the snow
  • Chair lifts, which scoop you up and you sit on with your legs dangling until you jump off at the top (you will get used to this!)
  • Gondolas, which are cable cars you stand up in
  • Funiculars, which are mountain railways

And finally, a piste map will also show you extras such as:

  • Mountain restaurants and picnic areas (useful for planning your breaks)
  • Toilets
  • Ski area boundaries
  • Helipads
  • Floodlit sections
  • Luge tracks and fun parks
  • Ski patrol stations

It’s worth taking some time before you hit the slopes to read your piste map and get familiar with your location, the routes you want to take and where all the essential stopping places are.

You’ll soon get used to them, but if in doubt just ask!

Examples of Piste Maps

For more advice, information and to book your ski holiday, contact us and let’s chat.