If you’re an expert skier, you’re probably not satisfied with the standard slopes, and you don’t have to be. To experience some of the most extreme skiing, head to one of these fantastic destinations around the world.
Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada (Hotel Prices & Photos)
For expert skiers who are looking for wild panoramic vistas along with challenging thrills, there are few better places on Earth than Banff. The town itself is located right inside the national park, offering lots to do after a day of play, along with hot springs for soothing sore muscles and historic hotels to get that much-needed rest so you can go back and do it all over again tomorrow. There are three ski areas within a 50-minute drive, and all can be skied using just a single ticket, but Sunshine Village offers the heart-poundingly steep, rugged terrain you’re craving, Delirium Dive in particular. The resort’s off-piste area, skiers can’t even enter without a buddy and avalanche gear. It has 55-degree gradient chutes, hidden rocks and unstable snow that make for an especially exhilarating trip down.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Jackson Hole is ideal for experts who are looking to enjoy happening nightlife too. Considered to be one of the birthplaces for extreme skiing in America, by taking the winter tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, advanced skiers will discover a dizzying array of bowls, chutes, cliff drops and glades. From here at what feels like the top of the world, you’ll see skilled skiers plummet into legendary Corbet’s Couloir. If you decide to join what’s been called “America’s Scariest Ski Run,” be aware that it requires a 20 foot drop off a cornice – and once you’ve jumped, there is no turning back. Watch out for the rocks!
Mayrhofen, Austria (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The sprawling village of Mayrhofen, located at the end of the long, flat Ziller Valley, boasts the steepest groomed slope in the world: Harakiri. While it’s short, it’s definitely not easy, standing vertical at 78 percent. It’s so icy, it’s taken a number of lives and was even named after the Japanese word for suicide. This black-rated run also attracts a large cheering section of skiers who prefer the watch the experts tackle it rather than risk their own lives. Samantha Berman, Senior Editor of Ski Magazine once noted, “The only thing crazier than skiing it is watching them break out the specialized equipment needed to groom the slope.”
If you go in early April, you can also attend the week-long Snowbombing festival, which features a whirlwind of top-notch international DJs and bands, in this idyllic alpine setting. Cutting-edge performances are hosted in unique venues, including everything from a towering igloo, to an enchanted forest clearing.
La Grave, France (Hotel Prices & Photos)
La Grave has been called the Most Extreme Ski Resort in the world, and after embarking on the 40-minute climb to the top of this imposing mountain via cable car, you’re likely to agree. The huge 30-gondola lift brings you 7,000 feet up the mountain, dropping you off completely on your own, above crevasses, glaciers, 1,000-foot cliffs, no fall zones and lots of extreme, rough terrain. There is no grooming, no ski runs, no signs or ropes, and no ski patrol. It’s called the grave for a reason – people die here, which means it’s only for the serious, experienced extreme skier – getting down on your own accord is everything from a challenge to absolutely terrifying.
Crested Butte, Colorado (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Crested Butte is a former mining town filled with Victorian-era buildings and surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery. It not only offers a more laid-back alternative to glitzier, somewhat pretentious Colorado ski areas, with eateries found in back-alley log cabins and its counterculture-type personality, it offers lots of fun for the more fearless skier, including the “Body Bag.” Once you reach the top, you might be a bit confused as there isn’t a slope in sight. At least not until you look down and notice the 275-foot vertical drop at 55 degrees. Called the “Steepest Cut Run in North America,” there are downed trees to negotiate and lots of snow sloughing off the top. There are no chain stores and only limited shopping options – bu you don’t go to Crested Butte to shop, you go to ski one of the most adventurous winter playgrounds in Colorado.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Located just a couple of hours south of Seattle, Crystal Mountain Ski Resort sits in the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park. The vast expanse of skiing terrain covers more than a half-dozen peaks and basins offering practically limitless variations, along with spectacular views of the Cascade range and Mount Rainier. The Silver King runs are the most challenging, and with names like “Lobotomy,” and “Pin Ball,” that’s pretty obvious. Lobotomy is surrounded by rock spines that crest over a peak, starting out narrow and remaining rocky. Pin Ball, of course, gets its name from the way one might bounce of walls – it has narrow, 8-foot-wide shoots and rock ups that are as much as 53 degrees steep. When you’re in need of a break, you can head to the Summit House restaurant which serves up tasty Northwest cuisine and gorgeous views.
Girdwood, Alaska (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This former gold mining town situated about 40 miles south of Anchorage was carved right out of the forest at the foot of the Chugach Mountains, and it’s become the state’s premier ski town. Life here revolves around the slopes, and visitors will discover a more laid-back, frontier-style of ambiance. Alyeska Resort offers six lifts, two magic carpets, and a 60-person tram that climbs the mountain’s steep north face with views to the ocean. While intermediate skiers typically choose Chair 4, a lift that goes halfway up the mountain, those who are looking for the biggest thrills opt for Chair 6. This one will bring you to the highest lift, at about 2,800 feet – and, just above the top, you’ll find the Christmas and New Year’s Chutes. If you’re looking to test your bravery, there are few better places than the 2,500-vertical-foot double black diamond run known as the Christmas Chute. It starts out narrow, and stays narrow, all the way through the chock until aproning out into the lower North Face, bringing shouts of ecstasy from skiers while they make high speed turn outs.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Whistler is massive, so of course, it also happens to provide plenty of expert terrain. Its two mountains, Blackcomb and Whistler, are linked together by the Peak 2 Peak gondola and have long attracted skiers (and boarders) from around the world. Blackcomb is the preferred pick for strong intermediates and experts. It 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. Surf’s Up is not for the faint-hearted. Its fall away prelude provides exposure to a band of cliffs which hold a firm “no return” policy, so they say. Once you manage to navigate the precarious entrance, you’ll see that it’s a classic couloir, with only enough room for one pair of sideways skis – so you’ll either chicken out, make your way down sideslip style, or gather up all of your courage and stomp out some jump turns. And it ain’t over yet. Enjoy the ride!