There are seven of the world’s most challenging ski runs, to be exact. If you’re going on a ski vacation in France or one of the best ski resorts and want to let your inner explorer out, or you’re heading to North America to catch some air, these seven descents will either make you fearful or eager to go.
Though they aren’t the most dangerous (though some are undeniably dangerous), they include some extreme technological elements beyond recklessness and a can-do attitude. You’ll be justifiably proud if you survive all of these terrors, with nothing but views and an adrenaline rush as a reward.
The most challenging ski runs in the world are:
Corbet’s Couloir, Jackson Hole, in Wyoming, USA
La pas de Chavanette, Portes du Soleil, in France/ Switzerland
Delirium Dive, Banff, Alberta, in Canada
Grand Couloir, Courchevel, in France
The Fingers, Squaw Valley, in California, USA
Tortin, Verbier, in Switzerland
Paradise, Mad River Glen, in Vermont, USA
CORBET’S COULOIR, JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING, USA
A piste with a specific destination this single run is where many snow sports enthusiasts flock to prove themselves and their prowess if such a thing exists. Because of one single run’s fame, Jackson Hole is rarely mentioned without referencing Corbet’s couloir.
This is mainly due to the frightening initial descent; with no other alternative but to leap of faith, many people hover at the top and watch others collect their courage. It’s narrow, with rocky outcroppings and a tempting amount of powder. It’s no surprise that it’s ranked fourth on the list of things to do before you die for skiers.
LA PAS DE CHAVANETTE, PORTES DU SOLEIL, FRANCE/ SWITZERLAND
This run, known as the Swiss Wall, runs along the Swiss-French border and is daunting. It is one kilometre long and has a vertical drop of over 300 metres, earning it the colour orange.
All of this is hampered by moguls, which can rise to monstrous proportions with only a little bit of heavy snow. The first fifty metres are steep, narrow, and filled with huge moguls, but if your courage holds out and you continue on the direct route, it narrows, becomes rockier, and the moguls continue to add to the fun.
DELIRIUM DIVE, BANFF, ALBERTA, CANADA
This run’s difficulty is concentrated in the first minute, which also necessitates a torturous freefall to begin. This run is weather-dependent since it opens only when the weather permits and the avalanche risk is low enough. Even so, you can only ski if you have an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe with you.
The reward for your initial bravery is spectacular views of the Lake Louise resorts and a reasonably fast run after the bowl; the challenge is getting there.
GRAND COULOIR, COURCHEVEL, FRANCE
This is the simplest of the Courchevel Couloirs, but it is the only one on the piste map; the other two are likely to remain unofficial due to their complexity. Grand Couloir, however, is not without its challenges, with the initial run from the cable car to the entrance being steep and requiring profound snow plough technique. Between two boulders is the entrance. It isn’t the most vertical course on the list, but it does have some severe moguls. The course is manageable if it has recently snowed, but it can be challenging if there is a sign of frost.
THE FINGERS, SQUAW VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, USA
This one is for those powder days when there’s an unofficial sprint to the first lifts to get some fresh tracks. The fingers’ most significant obstacle is a sheer drop about halfway down, which is pretty much unavoidable, though craggy enough to allow you to choose the length of your freefall. Since the rock reef’s outcropping is visible from the rest of the resort, this is as much a spectator sport as an intense adventure.
Be sure to scope out your line on the lift because it will be blind while you’re on the run. The middle knuckle is a popular choice. The pace needed to compete in the powder race makes this challenging. The sheer number of people on the mountain, combined with a burning urge to be in the lead, makes coming across the knuckles the worst kind of surprise.
TORTIN, VERBIER, SWITZERLAND
Another European run with varying degrees of unpleasantness depending on the weather. This run is literally angelic, while a lavish blanket of powder surrounds Tortin. Many people are perplexed with moguls lurking under a good shield as to why this plunge is so terrifying. If you happen to travel through Tortin when it’s windy and icy, however, you’ll have a very different experience.
The moguls get nastier as you advance, and a kiss of ice will send you hurtling down a terrifyingly long slide that you can’t stop. When this is coupled with the initial steepness, you may find yourself at the bottom in desperate need of a stiff drink.
PARADISE, MAD RIVER GLEN, VERMONT, USA
Mad River Glen is tiny and runs in an old-fashioned way, with the tagline “Ski it if you can.” We can only presume the name is ironic. Many people would see this as a challenge, but it’s worth taking a closer look at the slopes on the lifts; some should be graded in more challenging colours.
Paradise is a black diamond (the United States has two black diamonds), but it is steep, narrow, and rocky. This may seem to be no more complicated than many others not on the list, but with unclear paths and a large forest to avoid, Paradise is anything but.