Adrenaline seekers; it’s time to wax up your skis, take a deep breath and head off into the abyss as we countdown our top 10 extreme ski runs (complete with video footage).
#10 Delerium Dive – Banff, Canada
Any run that requires pre-requisites such as a shovel and transceiver is strictly reserved for the hard-core. This particular challenge takes you into freeride territory, and requires some careful negotiation to avoid the hidden rocks and unstable snow, whilst heading down a 55 degree angle.
Once you’ve hit your rhythm, keep up the speed as the bowl widens out, or you’ll be faced with a sizeable walk to the nearest lift.
#9 Le Tunnel – Alpe d’Huez, France
Although Alpe d’Huez is home to the well-known longest black run in Europe (Sarenne), a trip to the top of the Pic Blanc cable-car (3330m) will also offer up Le Tunnel – a challenge for the best of skiers, especially on a cold day with icy conditions.
After negotiating a short mogul field, you enter the actual 60m tunnel through the rock face which only exacerbates the feeling of dread as you approach the daylight at the other end. What greets you is nasty angled narrow descent, which has to be judged correctly according to the conditions. If it’s icy beware catching an edge, or you could end up with a slide of several hundred metres!
#8 Black Hole – Smugglers Notch, US
Not content skiing US double-blacks? Well try out the only triple-black diamond run in the Eastern half of the US.
From the top of the Madonna 1 lift, you firstly follow the steep path of the lift back down (Upper Liftline run), before darting right into the trees for what will be a battle of nerves in avoiding the pines whilst navigating through the powder-fest. Several minutes of physical powder hopping will bring you out onto the blue Link run, just in time to cruise back to base.
#7 Kill The Banker – Revelstoke, Canada
As the name suggests, many a banker has tried and failed this tricky black. From the Mid-Mountain point you follow the lift track back down where you can then decide on your lesser of two evils.
Plump to follow the lift line and you’ll be faced with a waterfall to jump halfway, rock faces poking out galore, and huge moguls to throw you off. Alternatively dive for the trees, and you’ll have an exhilarating but nerve jangling ride through deep powder, whilst having to navigate the tightly packed conifers of Gnarnia Glades.
#6 Rambo – Crested Butte, US
At over 1000 vertical feet drop and a 55 degree angle, this gnarly encounter is the steepest man-made slope in North America.
You’ll be greeted with thick mounds of snow and shrubbery poking through, so make sure you pick your line carefully or it’s face-plant time.
#5 Harakiri – Mayrhofen, Austria
Harakiri (or Ritual Suicide in Japanese) is allegedly the steepest piste in Austria at 78 degrees, so get ready for some serious speed checks.
Most of the time it is sheet ice, meaning one slip and you’re in for a hell of a slide to the bottom.
#4 Le Chavanette (Swiss Wall) – Avoriaz, France
With a 50 degree angle and 1000 vertical feet in length, this may well be the most difficult run in the 650km Portes du Soleil. The ‘experts only’ sign at the top may deter the chancers, but for those wishing to conquer the fear, a moguls masterclass is required.
Not only is it steep, but there are bumps as far as the eye can see – prepare for some serious leg burn!
#3 Christmas Chute – Alyeska, Alaska
With soft powder cascading around you with every turn, this white-knuckle chute from the highest lift available at the Alyeska resort will see you smiling with glee at the end – should you manage to complete it whilst still standing!
Steep and narrow is the order of the day, so having the guts to keep your very short radius turns flowing all the way down is the key to success. One slip and you could see a lengthy and uncomfortable slide to the bottom.
#2 Corbet’s Couloir – Jackson Hole, US
Not for the faint-hearted, Corbet’s is firmly up there on the list of things for skiers to accomplish before they die. With a world-wide reputation this run is easily reached from the Tram Lift which whisks you up to over 3000m, although many having taken in the view retreat back down to base, tail between their legs!
For those who dare take the challenge the real adrenaline buzz is the start, where you quite simply have to leap of the edge to a sheer drop, throw yourself forward and then immediately turn to avoid a sharp rock that juts out from the edge. The nasty part doesn’t take long to negotiate, although whether you end up with your skis still attached is anyone’s guess.
#1 The Streif – Kitzbuhel, Austria
A stretch of piste so famous, that a film has been made of it – The Streif is the home of the Hannenkahm downhill race, and very much the jewel in the crown for the best skiers in the world. Once the race weekend is complete the public is allowed to take on such features as the Mausefalle (mousetrap), Steilhang, and Hausbergkante jump, although most at a fraction of the speed.
It’s only a matter of days before the bottom sections turn to huge mogul fields; this run really is a thrill to behold, and one to tell your friends you conquered!