All tours are graded in order to indicate the skills and level of fitness needed to participate in the tour. These are split into the three categories of Effort, Skiing Technique and Mountaineering Skills using a scale of 1 to 5.
The formal definition of these grades is given below. In addition, the following articles describe the grading system in a more narrative way:
How well must I ski?
How fit do I need to be?
||Easy Tour or Off-piste
- Off-piste skiing.
- Day tours with up to 900m of ascent requiring competent uphill technique.
- Guarded Hut Tours with up to 800m daily ascent requiring confident execution of uphill kick turns on moderately steep slopes.
||Normal Hut to Hut Tour
- Day Tours with over 900m ascent.
- Guarded Hut Tours with 800m to 1200m daily ascent, usually at a pace of 250m per hour or less.
- Confident and consistent kick-turning skills on steeper slopes, possibly over 25°, and in more difficult snow.
- Guarded Hut Tours with 1200m to 1600m daily ascent, usually at a pace of 300m per hour or more.
- Other tours carrying equipment for unguarded huts or additional mountaineering equipment.
- Fluent kick-turning skills in most snow conditions and/or steep slopes.
||Arduous Tour / Expedition
- Guarded Hut Tours with over 1600m daily ascent.
- Other tours carrying significant loads.
- Expeditions to remote regions, where significant equipment is needed, but airlifts or pulks ease the burden.
- Long duration expedition where pulks are impractical and all equipment must be carried.
Off-piste Ski Technique Required
||Beginner off-piste Skier
- Confident and controlled piste skier (black runs), just beginning to venture on to off-piste slopes of up to ‘red’ run angle (approx. 20 - 25°) in favourable snow conditions.
||Intermediate off-piste Skier
- Used to skiing off-piste with a pack in the majority of snow conditions and competent in the skills of of side-slipping, traversing and kick-turning.
- Able to ski in control on steeper slopes with short sections up to 30°
||Experienced off-piste Skier
- Able to link turns confidently and continuously in most snow and to control speed and follow a precise line in restricted terrain (e.g. crevasses, amongst trees, near gullies or in confined spaces).
- Able to link turns on longer slopes up to 35° in favourable snow.
||Advanced off-piste Skier
- Skis the fall-line on most slopes and in most conditions.
- Confident and controlled skiing on steep slopes up to 40°.
- Uses appropriate techniques to ski couloirs or restricted slopes safely and at a reasonable speed.
Expert off-piste Skier
- Able to ski long pitches with consistent and appropriate control of speed and line, skilfully and continuously linking turns on any terrain and in all types of snow.
- Accepts the challenge of very steep slopes of 45° or more using suitable techniques to ensure safe descents.
Mountaineering Skills Required
||No Mountaineering Experience Required
- No use of ice-axe, crampons or ropes.
||Limited Mountaineering Experience Required
- Previous experience of ice-axe and crampons is preferable. Participants should be able to tie into the rope.
- Tour may involve ascents and descents of short snow slopes (up to 40°) where skis need to be carried; or mixed snow and rock ridges where hands may be needed.
- Proficient with ice-axe and crampons and able to take in coils on the rope.
- Tour may include exposed pitches where the rope is needed, and where a fall would have serious consequences.
- Crevassed areas may be unavoidable, so knowledge of crevasse rescue techniques is desirable.
- Tour may include pitched climbing or abseils.
- Confident moving un-roped on steep snow (up to 50° - the normal limit for a single axe), ice or rock but able to deploy the rope quickly and efficiently when it is needed.
- Tour may have serious crevasse hazard - familiarity with crevasse rescue techniques is essential.
- Mountaineers with significant alpine and winter climbing experience.
The gradings will reflect the conditions expected by the leader, who should specify more detailed skill requirements in their tour information sheet. The actual conditions on the tour will depend on the prevailing weather and snow conditions, consequently they could be substantially different from those indicated.
The grades reflect the tour itself and not the equipment used, so there is no distinction in the tour grade for the use of alpine, freeheel or any other type of kit.
Comparison with Ski Club of Great Britain Grades
The following table gives a rough comparison with SCGB off-piste skiing grades.
||Silver – Purple
||Purple – Gold
||Gold – Gold Plus
The SCGB system only covers the skiing aspects of a tour.