New feature: Difficulty rating categories for ski tour routes

Posted on Apr 1, 2021
Posted on Apr 1, 2021
1 0
We've added a long overdue new feature to the site for ski tour routes - difficulty rating categories. These cover two main themes: strenuousness and technicality. Strenuousness includes the two sub-categories of vertical gain and total time ascending. Technicality includes sub-categories: highest altitude, hazards such as exposure to avalanche risk and consequential falls, and navigation difficulty. These categories are based on the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook's excellent system of route difficulty rating (p. 10). Each subcategory is weighted slightly differently, so read on to find out the fine details.


There’s nothing new under the sun, and this goes for our difficulty ratings. We’ve borrowed the system from the wildly popular Hokkaido ski touring guidebook (in Japanese). Here’s the details. As you’ll see, the points are heavily weighted in favor of effort required for the climb, but overall, the ratings are evenly split between strenuousness and technicality.

The first two difficulty rating categories refer to how strenuous a route is.

Vertical gain (40 possible points): How many meters one must climb on any given route is a good indication of how fit one needs to be to complete a route. This measure makes up 40% of the total possible ‘difficulty points’ a route can get.
Climbing time (10 possible points): The longer one spends climbing uphill, the more energy is used, so this is somewhat of a an ‘additive’ score to the vertical gain score above. Some climbs might be over quickly…some may carry on for an eternity. NOTE: This only applies to the ascent portion of a route, not the total time to complete a route.

The next three categories refer to how technical a route is.

Altitude (10 possible points): The higher one climbs, the colder and windier conditions one might encounter. Particularly when a route goes beyond the treeline, good skills and knowledge are required to travel safely.
Hazards (20 possible points): This rather subjective rating scale category particularly refers to objective hazards such as exposure to avalanche risk, consequential falls, and any climbs that may require equipment other than just skis and ski poles (e.g., boot crampons and/or ice axes).
Navigation (20 possible points): This is another subjective rating scale, but routes that score high on the navigation difficulty scale either cross complex and varied terrain, or involve travel across relatively featureless mountainous areas where low visibility would make navigation extremely difficult without the aid of a GPS.

STRENUOUSNESS Vertical gain D / 25 points
300m or less
C / 30 points
Up to 600m
B / 35 points
Up to 900m
A / 40 points
Over 900m
Time climbing D / 0 points
Up to 2hrs
C / 3 points
Up to 3.5hrs
B / 6 points
Up to 5hrs
A / 10 points
Over 5hrs
TECHNICALITY Altitude D / 0 points
Up to 700m
C / 3 points
Up to 900m
B / 6 points
Up to 1300m
A / 10 points
Over 1300m
Hazards D / 0 points
C / 6 points
B / 12 points
A / 20 points
Navigation D / 0 points
C / 6 points
B / 12 points
A / 20 points
Totals Each route gets a score on each category in this rubric, for a total score out of 100. This score is divided by 10 to get a 1-10 score. Decimal places are rounded to the nearest 0.5 (e.g., 7.2/10 is rounded to 7/10). Routes are then given the following overall difficulty categories.
Beginner: 0 - 5
Intermediate: 5.5 - 7
Advanced: 7.5 - 10

Overall difficulty ratings are part of each route’s stats/data on each route’s detailed route overview page.  Specific detailed difficulty ratings come in the form of a popup (when clicking on a difficulty rating icon or text), or they can be found in the Safety Notes sections of each ski touring route.

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Filter by location

About Filters

REGION: The general mountain/geographical region the route is in.

BEST MONTH(S): Time of year a route is suited to visiting. Some pop all season, some are more limited.

DIFFICULTY: How strenuous a route is, and how technical it is. Full details here.

FREERIDE/SKITOUR: Very subjective, but is a route more-of-a-walk-than-a-ski or the other way around? Some routes are all about the screaming downhill (freeride), some are more about the hunt for a peak or nice forest (ski-tour). Some are in between. 

MAIN ASPECT: Which cardinal direction the primary consequential slope is facing, that you might encounter on the route. More details here.

ROUTE TAGS: An eclectic picking of other categories that routes might belong to.

SEARCH BY LOCATION: You can find routes near your current location – just click on the crosshairs (). You may need to give permission to to know your GPS location (don’t worry, we won’t track you). Or, type in a destination, such as Niseko or Sapporo or Asahikawa etc.

Please let us know how we can make it easier to narrow down your search. Contact Rob at with your suggestions.

New feature: Difficulty rating categories for ski tour routes Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending















GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.