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What makes a mountain ideal can vary greatly from person to person. Some top ski resorts are perfect for families, offering bunny slopes and lots of easy runs, while others provide even the most adrenaline-seeking skiers and snowboarders just what they’re looking for. If you’re looking for the latter, you’ll find it at any of these outstanding resorts around the world.
Jackson Hole is renowned for having the hardest inbounds runs in the U.S. and it plays host to the infamous Corbet’s Couloir, a legendary chute that starts with a 30-foot drop. It also offers access to the gorgeous surrounding backcountry just a short tram ride away, as well as awesome double back diamonds with runs like Expert Chutes, Alta Chutes and Cheyenne Cliffs that feature steep, technical terrain.
Corbet’s Couloir is a definite highlight as a 10,450-foot-high, double-diamond ski run that’s been described as “America’s scariest slope.” Rendezvous Mountain features North America’s most extreme terrain, with a continuous vertical rise of 4,139 feet with endless steeps, powder-filled open bowls, chutes, gullies, cliffs, ridges and trees as an expert snow rider’s dream.
For those that have the cash and want steep slopes along with hopping nightlife, there are few better places than Verbier. One of the top places to ski in Switzerland, its tough slopes are considered to be among the best in the world. Verbier’s most legendary steep runs include Tortin with a nearly 2,300-foot vertical from the top to the bottom of the Chassoure gondola as well as Gentianes, a more than 2,950-foot vertical from just below the Col de Gentianes to the Gentianes cable car, covered with huge moguls, they’re some of the most popular runs here. While they’re marked, they aren’t groomed or avalanche-controlled. Many of the other steep runs here are similar, including Vallon d’Arby which runs down a secluded valley to the small resort of La Tzoumaz. Of the black runs, the steepest and most amazing is from Mont Fort, the highest point of the ski area at over 10,800 feet, accessible by cable car. You’ll find practically an endless number of other possibilities as well as heli-skiing too.
Known as one of the world’s best ski destinations, Whistler is massive, so it would be rather surprising if it didn’t feature lots of expert terrains. Its two mountains, Blackcomb and Whistler, are linked together by the Peak 2 Peak gondola and have long attracted skiers and snowboarders from across the globe. Whistler has a little more beginner terrain than Blackcomb, generally catering to more lower intermediates, while Blackcomb is best suited for strong intermediates and experts.
Blackcomb offers an extreme skier’s paradise with runs like Couloir Extreme, Pakalolo and Spanky’s Ladder as well as lots of bowl and glade action that can be found on both peaks. A “must-do” for those looking for a challenge on a nice day is Blackcomb Glacier. You can get easy access by using the Showcase T-Bar followed by a short hike. If that’s not enough, guides are available allowing visitors to experience its endless glorious backcountry.
Crested Butte is famous for its delightfully gnarly terrain and the kind of mountain you want to go to if jumping off cliffs sounds like the perfect way to spend your vacation. It has some of the very best steep terrains in the entire state of Colorado. Crested Butte is also home to the Extreme Freeskiing Championships and some of the most difficult inbounds terrain in the nation. In expert terrain there are no groomed runs to bail out if you lose your nerve – and, few signs or warnings. The trail names provide a clue as to what you’ll face, such as Body Bag and Dead End Chutes. You’ll encounter steeps in excess of 50 degrees, nasty trees, bowls, cliffs and narrow chutes.
Utah is famous for its ski resorts that typically get massive dumps of dry, powdery snow. Snowbird boasts an average of nearly 42 feet a year, twice as much as famous Alpine resorts like Chamonix, Tignes and St. Anton and 50 percent more than nearby Park City ski resorts. Double-back steeps like The Cirque dominate the upper terrain at Snowbird, making it a popular expert draw in the region, while neighboring Alta offers some great expert runs as well, although snowboarding is banned there. By taking the tram from the village to Hidden Peak, you’ll see the double black runs like Silver Fox, Great Scott and Upper Cirque. You can also access other steep options from the High Baldy Traverse. If that’s not enough, heli- and cat-skiing as well as backcountry tours are available too.
Squaw Valley is one of the resorts that gave birth to extreme skiing. It offers an outstanding experience to advanced snowboarders and skiers alike. The ridgeline features cliffs, couloirs, steep bowls and chutes that are sure to get your heart pounding. It’s been a home base to many of the best extreme skiers in the world, renowned with athletes, including the late Shane McConkey. Looming like a silent dare at the top of Squaw Valley’s famed KT-22 Mountain, McConkey’s run traverses an extreme 120 vertical feet on a 68-degree pitch, one of the steepest in the U.S. Other expert terrain options include Mosely’s Run and The Fingers, located of the KT-22 chairlift around mid-mountain is a favorite when the snow is falling.
Trail maps don’t make a distinction between advanced and expert here, perhaps because a good portion of the expert terrain is unmarked. Scout your own line over cornice and cliff, and ski with some of the greats.
It wasn’t all that long ago that you had to hop aboard a helicopter to access this area now known as Kicking Horse. Located in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, a full 60 percent of its 128 runs, including 85 inbound chutes, are considered advanced. Many say it’s the very best ski mountain on the planet: craggy, steep and intimating. It’s really mostly suited to experts with “super gnarly” terrain that ranges from wide-open bowls to multiple chutes and great tree runs. And if you still need more, you can get hooked up with a helicopter to enjoy a taste of the backcountry too.
Chamonix is considered one of the most legendary ski areas in Europe – it’s often been referred to as the “place where fantasies can become a reality” for expert skiers and snowboarders. Its extensive ski-touring and off-piste terrain draw huge numbers of experts, many of whom end up becoming addicted to this spot and ultimately call it their home. Be sure to get the “unlimited” pass so that you can access the famous Aiguille du Midi via the cable car as well as the area’s other ski resorts. Expert skiing is spread between the Grands Montets ski area and the Aiguille du Midi area with its practically endless off-piste terrain and glacier skiing. No matter what your abilities, getting a professional guide is highly recommended, especially if you plan to glacier ski. The Vallee Blanche route is a bucket-list run for experts that’s a must to experience, starting at the top of the two-stage Aiguille du Midi cable car from town.
Smugglers’ Notch is a great resort for families with members that have a variety of abilities, including adrenaline connoisseurs. SKI Magazine readers named it a top choice for families for 15 consecutive years due to its numerous off-slope winter activities that include everything from ice skating and zip line canopy tours to arcades, rope courses, nightly entertainment and more. It’s for this reason that many skiers who are looking for a challenge pass it over, but Smugglers’ Notch is actually home to the only triple black diamond run in New England, a 1,600-foot trail known as the Black Hole. It falls at a grade of more than 65 percent for its first 600 feet and features cliffs, bumps and tight trees as well. Only those with the utmost confidence should try this one out, otherwise, you’ll be faced with a rather frightening feat to accomplish.
Some say St Anton provides the very best off-piste skiing in the world. For many, it’s the Holy Grail of snow conditions. There are few other resorts in Austria that can match its après scene, and none can rival its ungroomed and exhilarating, steep slopes. The main local slopes are dominated by the high and wide Valluga bowl near the mountaintop, reached by a gondola from town followed by a quick chairlift or cable car ride. While there are several marked and avalanche-controlled ski routes down, it’s mostly a massive go-anywhere piste bowl. To get to the very top, you’ll take the tiny Valluga II cable car in which all snowboarders and skiers are required to be accompanied by a mountain guide. From there, you’ll enjoy an amazing run off the back which begins with a precipitous drop before leading all the way down to the neighboring resort of Zurs.
Sunshine Village is made up of three mountains in Banff National Park and includes some rather terrifying off-piste terrain. When ski patrol gives a thumps up, Delirium Dive, a freeride zone, opens up – only to skiers with a buddy and full avalanche gear. The drop averages a precarious 40 degrees for 2,000 vertical feet of cornice-and-cliff heaven. The Wild West is another expert option, even giving Delirium a run for its money – it’s also subject to the same backcountry regulations. Sunshine is close to the other Banff ski resorts, Lake Louise and Norquay. You can ride the three resorts on a tri-area lift ticket that includes transportation from the Banff and Lake Louise area.
This Colorado mining town-turned-destination resort truly offers something for everyone, including some of the best and most challenging chutes, bowls and steeps. Expert terrain comes in a variety of styles too, from the adventurous, steep and lightning-fast to bumpy technical and tight as well as deep and wide open – whatever kind of terrain you’re dreaming of, it’s sure to make you smile, and, it offers heli-skiing too. You might want to make out your will before hiking up Palmyra Peak for a choice of extreme drops into Palmyra Basin. Or you can soar down Gold Hill Chutes and the Black Iron Bowl. Check out the trail map where you’ll see the distinction between merely “expert” double black diamonds and “extreme” terrain.
You’ll find extreme terrain in every direction from the top of Lone Mountain, the singular peak in the heart of Big Sky. Before the tram, Big Sky Resort was known for its intermediate terrain, but its core riders were clamoring for the extreme, resulting in management installing the Lone Peak Tram that takes riders to the summit. It furthered Big Sky’s skiable terrain by more than 1,200 acres and increased the vertical to 4,350 feet, making it one of the top three ski resorts on the continent today. Moonlight Basin has become a first-class resort that offers plenty of elbow room and the chance to choose your own adventure. Plummet down the world-famous Big Couloir, try your luck on the A-Z Chutes, or plunge down your choice of insane fall lines at The Headwaters. All that and the terrain’s northerly exposure ensures that the over 400 inches of powder that falls every year remains light and dry.
This unspoiled area is nestled beneath the grand Monterosa massif, which soars for more than 14,300 feet, dividing Italy from Switzerland. Stretching over three valleys, the ski area features nearly 112 miles of piste skiing and incredible off-piste skiing in a stunning natural environment with minimal resort development. One small-scale resort can be found in each valley, Champoluc to the west, Alagna in the east and Gressoney at its center. Take the cable car to the high point of the area known as Punta Indren for a variety of off-piste options, though you’ll need to bring all the necessary avalanche gear with you, including a probe, shovel and transceiver. From here, descents lead toward Alagna or Gressoney, with Alagna offering the most challenging options, including runs of over 6,500 feet. The very toughest is the Malfatt couloir down to Alagna. It kicks off with a glacier crossing and a roped descent of a steep, narrow gorge, leading to couloirs with a 45 to 50-degree incline.
The high altitude resort of Les Arcs, France, has some of the best off-piste terrain in Europe. Advanced skiers and snowboarders are spoiled for choice here, with every type of terrain, from powder bowls to extreme steeps and fast groomed trails. For the deepest powder, head to the open bowl terrain just to the right of the Transarc Cable car in the Col D’Entreporte area, while those seeking one of Europe’s longest and most challenging mogul runs will want to head to the left of the TC DU Varet Gondola from Arc 2000. Most of the black runs are never groomed and become vast mogul fields. There are three to choose from, served by the Varet gondola from Arc 2000.
The Les Arcs Apocalypse Snow Park is on the left side of the Clair Blanc Lift, offering good size kickers, tabletops, rails and jumps. Halfpipes are built throughout the season for competitions and international events such as the Quiksilver Slopestyle Pro.
Some of California’s very best skiing and snowboarding can be found at Mammoth Mountain. Mammoth is an extreme sports junkie’s paradise. There is more than 3,500 acres of terrain for skiing and snowboarding as one of the state’s largest resorts, along with an extensive system of 28 lifts to get you up the mountain, including express 6-pack chair lifts, high speed quads and gondolas. It also has a great mix of terrain and both the advanced and expert riders will be rewarded with steep chutes, bowls, glades and mogul runs. There’s also lots of off-piste terrain too. Mammoth has more than seven terrain parks and two halfpipes, a number of which are award-winning.
This iconic ski and snowboard destination has developed a cult following due to its snow, extreme inbounds terrain and massive accessible backcountry. It receives an average of 701 inches of snowfall every season, much more than most other lift-serviced ski resorts in the world. The terrain is mostly below the treeline and very challenging, with the wild, off-piste terrain bringing skiers and boarders back season after season. The real reason to visit is the endless backcountry terrain, but you’ll want to be sure to watch the avalanche forecast, heed any warnings and bring your safety gear.