If you’re looking for a way to separate the men from the boys (or the women from the girls), there is no better place than hardest ski runs in the world. With sheer drops, ice polished slopes and mogul pocked runs, do you have what it takes?
1. Corbet’s Couloir, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
The challenge of Jackson’s hole isn’t the piste itself but the lip onto the run, which is best described as a cliff face and requires a vertical drop of around four metres into rock (sharp turns required as you land). The better alternative is actually not much better, requiring a jump of at least six metres to avoid the rocks. If you’re nerves weren’t fraught enough, expect a good smattering of spectators as you make the leap.
2. Black Hole, Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont, USA
You’d be forgiven for thinking there is more glade forest than ski slope on this run. Those who attempt Black Hole find themselves picking their way through branches while sailing downhill at a pitch of 53 degrees. Excellent slalom skills are required as is a speedy ability to spot the white stuff from the trees – likely to be easier than it sounds when the world is blurring by.
3. Delirium Dive, Sunshine Village, Alberta, Canada
Only the committed and kitted (avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel) are allowed on this slope. Your best option is to take a deep breath and plunge to get over this vertical start as you’re not going to see what lies ahead regardless of how long you linger. Once you get the jump over with you can hit the powder and start skiing. At that point things should become clearer… provided visibility is on your side.
4. La Chavanette, Avoriaz, France
Known as the Swiss Wall for good reason, La Chavanette is ludicrously steep with a pitch over 50 degrees. At that angle you can expect a rapid descent and, with it, a challenge for control. Add ice formed from the wind shear and plenty of moguls for good measure. You certainly don’t want to fall on this run as you’re likely to keep on going all the way to the bottom, hitting every mogul on the way.
5. Harikiri Mayrhofen, Austria
Harakiri is aptly named after a Japanese ritual for committing suicide and sees as many skiers hurtling downhill on the seat of their pants than as their skis. This is one of the steepest groomed slopes in the world and the combination of 38 degrees and a nice, clean, long run of 400 metres promises little chance of stopping if your skis leave the snow and your body takes over.
6. La Grave, La Meije Glacier, France
Unpatrolled, unmarked and with vertical cliffs and crevices peaking at around 4,000 metres on the La Meije glacier, La Grave is definitely one of the hardest ski runs around. Taking to the slopes here is wild skiing in the extreme. You will need a mountain guide, ice crampons and a level of nerve not possessed by most to take it on. Loosely translates as ‘the real deal’, you’re unlikely to disagree.
7. Mount Everest, Nepal
This one is especially crazy, but needs to be added to the list. A Japanese alpinist, Yuichiro Miura, skied Everest in 1970. Eight people died during the ascent and not long after he set off he had to deploy a parachute to slow himself as he cut across ice. Yuichiro skied an impressive 2,000m in two minutes and 20 seconds before falling 400 metres off the Lhotse face. He eventually came to a complete stop only 75 metres from the edge of a crevasse.