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Skiing and challenge go hand-in-hand, and let’s be honest, most of us sign up expressly for the challenge. While everyone’s idea of a challenge is different, it’s fair to say that seriously steep and gnarly terrain has a way of putting all of us in our place. If you’re an expert skier eager to test your moxie and prove yourself, add these crazy in-bounds runs to your to-do list.
Christmas Chute, Alyeska, Alaska
Framed by intimidating rock walls on both sides, the Christmas Chute is intended for expert skiers only. This run belongs to Alyeska Resort, the biggest ski resort in Alaska and one known for its harrowing lines. So reader be warned: Don’t underestimate this 1,000-foot-long double-black diamond chute; even experienced big mountain skiers get the willies on this run. It’s not often you find a 50-degree pitch in-bounds, and it takes standing at the top and staring down that angle to fully understand just how steep 50-degrees is.
Corbet’s Couloir, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyo.
If you’re not afraid of being watched while attempting something potentially stupid, head over to Corbet’s Couloir. This near vertical run can be seen by the tram that cruises right by, offering other riders a glimpse of the legendary run and all the fool-hardy skiers launching themselves into it. The entry is a mandatory air that drops about 20 feet. And the plunge itself may not even be the scariest part—depending on snow coverage, you may also need to worry about rocks in the run-out, a 50-degree pitch you’ll be coming into real hot.
Lake Chutes, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colo.
While Breck may not be known for steep terrain, that’s not to say there aren’t any steeps to be found here. You may just have to look harder. Crazy Ivan 2, for example, isn’t marked on any trail map—and that should tell you something. Located at 13,000 feet, the double-black diamond run features an impressive cornice, rock outcroppings and the infamous “Pyramid Cliff,” an obstacle most avoid and only the fearless seek out. If you’re set on scoping Crazy Ivan 2, you’ll need to buddy up with someone in the know who can tell you exactly how to get there. Hint: the 49-degree slope is high atop Peak 8, near the Zoot Chute.
The Goat, Stowe Mountain, Vt.
This uniquely named run came from a hiker who said only a mountain goat would be able to climb this treacherous trail. At 36-degrees, this slope may not be the steepest on our list, but East Coast skiers know the gnar and unfavorable conditions can be more challenging than a 50-degree chute brimming with powdery fluff. The Goat is one of the biggest challenges on Stowe Mountain, and rightly considered one of the most difficult runs in the Northeast: it’s narrow, full of moguls, rocks and the occasional stream. Think your legs can handle a gnarly mogul run? You better be sure, or the Goat will buck you off in a heartbeat.
Rambo, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colo.
You’d be smart to stop and think twice before skiing down Rambo, one of the steepest man-made runs in all of North America. With a 55-degree pitch from top to bottom, this slope will be sure to test your skills and wit. Once you commit, you’re in a no-fall zone for the rest of the run. And other challenges beside the intimidating angle await: in all but the best of snow years, knee-high trees, bushes, and copious sharp rocks dot the run, forcing skiers to be able to hop-turn and shut it down in a hurry.
Paradise, Mad River Glen, Vermont
Now just because the East doesn’t have the same elevation as the West, doesn’t mean they don’t have some serious terrain. Mad River Glen is known for being one tough mountain—after all, their motto is “Ski it if you can.” Of the challenging runs on this mountain, Paradise presents a true test to skiers of advanced and expert ability. The mountain ranks Paradise’s difficulty at a single black diamond, but if the run were at any other mountain, it would almost certainly get the double-diamond rating it deserves. The run starts with at least an eight-foot drop into a 38-degree pitch, and the rest doesn’t get any easier. The ungroomed slope is full of obstacles to dodge, from trees and stumps to the occasional downed skier. Be ready to also catch some air over a 4-foot frozen waterfall that spans the width of the trail. May the force be with you.
Great Scott, Snowbird, Utah
If you’re looking for one heck of a thrill ride, ski over to Great Scott to get your adrenaline pumping. The pitch is located at the highest point on the Cirque, directly beneath the tram, and drops about 1,000 feet at a 40-degree angle. The fear factor isn’t in the pitch or in the length of the run, however, but in what lies beneath the snow: This run contains hidden rocks, which at any moment can launch you into an unexpected air. So, be ready to combat any and all the obstacles this run may throw at you.
Kill the Banker, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, B.C.
Kill the Banker is one of the most challenging runs on this mountain, which is saying something, considering Revelstoke is known for its burly expert terrain. Located in North Bowl at 5,541 feet, Kill the Banker has a vertical drop of 2,864 feet and is about a mile in length. It’s filled with pillow lines and drops to give any expert skier a run for their money—perhaps that’s what’s behind the name. “It’s one of the longest sustained pitches I’ve ever found,” says pro skier Chris Rubens. “It’s pillows and steep trees the whole way down. In cold storms that snow to the base of Revy will blow your mind.”
Senior’s, Telluride Ski Resort, Colorado
Located at the summit of Telluride’s highest point, Palmyra Peak, at 13,320 feet, Senior’s run is not for the faint hearted. Not only is it high atop the mountain, but you also have to hike along a narrow ridgeline to get there, meaning the challenge begins before you even arrive at the run. Once you’ve navigated your way to the tippy top, be sure to catch your breath before catapulting yourself between rocks down a 52-degree gully. After you survived this steep run, you’ll end up back in the Black Iron Bowl with the rest of civilization. You might need a nap or a stiff drink after crossing this off your bucket list.