Backcountry Skiing Rating System

Post by blogger | October 17, 2005      

The D System proposed by Andrew McLean and I has been flogged for months now. As a result it received numerous changes based on feedback from a wide variety of sources. Thanks everyone!

Andrew and I still like the D System and feel it gets past problems that other ski rating systems have, but whether it catches on or not is of course unknown. We gave it our best shot.

The biggest gripe people seem to have about the D System is that it doesn’t have categories. That’s by design. As a sport progresses any system with categories based on difficulty would end up with routes shifting from one category to another — unless the categories really mean nothing, in which case it’s just a linear scale like the D System. (Categories could be based on slope angle, but doing so makes the system effectively unworkable as a pure linear rating of difficulty, since some routes are harder even though their angle is not as steep.)

Another gripe I’ve heard more than once is that the D System has too many divisions. Baloney. Just look at the D System page rating examples and you’ll see that routes are easily spread over the span of ratings. The whole idea of the D System is to rate routes on a divided linear scale, with enough divisions to easily express which routes are harder or easier. More, the idea is to prevent lumping a bunch of obviously different routes in the same rating, which is what happens if you don’t have enough divisions.

And the final gripe is that the Toponeige system already exists in Europe, and using the D System would get in the way of standardizing ski ratings around the world. All I can say to that is if we’re going to pick a standardized system, it should be better than Topneige. It should be more cross-language friendly, not attempt to define categories, and be logical and linear so routes will NEVER have to be re-rated as the sport progresses. In my opinion the D System provides all this. More, is standardizing ratings all that important? It never happened with rock and climbers seem to do fine. We’ll see what happens with skiers.


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