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Stand atop a near-vertical run, one that taunts you to descend, and you’ll start to tingle. Drop in and feel that supreme sensation of momentary weightlessness between turns. Toy with gravity. What you’re doing is something between skiing and falling. Next thing you know, you’re at the bottom, your heart pounding out a rap riff in your chest. These 10 resorts offer the best steep skiing in the country. Enter at your own risk.
1. WHISTLER/BLACKCOMB, British Columbia
Two mountains, twice the extreme. Pakalolo and Blowdown chutes at Blackcomb will put your stomach in your throat. And, of course, there’s the classic Couloir Extreme. At Whistler, double blacks off the Peak Chair — like The Couloir, Stefan’s Chute, and West Cirque — are doubly enticing.
2. SQUAW VALLEY, California
The Headwall Express lift leads up to the hike-to Palisades, where four primary chutes reach down a massive cliff band like wickedly crooked fingers. National is the “easiest” line; you’d be wise to leave Chimney — which requires straight-lining and major hucking — to the sickest of steep seekers. You can also get a good scare on KT-22 or Granite Chief peaks.
3. SNOWBIRD, Utah
If someone complained that the Bird has too many black diamonds and double blacks, they’d probably pull his ticket. With more than 40 percent of its terrain ranked advanced or tougher, Snowbird is no place for pansies, especially in free-fall-inducing spots like Gad Chutes, North Chute, and Great Scott, all accessible from the tram.
4. CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado
CB was the first resort to host an extreme skiing competition, and it’s not hard to understand why. Here’s where you’ll find reach-out-and-touch-the-slope-above-you runs like The Headwall, Teocalli Bowl, Banana, and Funnel, not to mention the unlimited hairiness of places like Phoenix and Spellbound bowls.
5. JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming
Jackson has 4,139 feet of continuous vertical — need we say more? Okay, Corbet’s Couloir. And if you like that, seek out Tower Three Chute, which doglegs under the Thunder quad, or any of the Alta Chutes — but be warned that a slide there will make you a spectacle for everyone on the Sublette quad.
6. ALTA, Utah
When they said “better than sex,” they were talking about Alta. It’s not only steep and deep, but the snow stays for days thanks to sheltering trees and gullies. High Rustler and the Eagle’s Nest area top the list of locals’ favorites, along with Gunsight, Devil’s Castle, and the chutes under the Supreme lift.
7. ASPEN HIGHLANDS, Colorado
Highland Bowl features slopes up to 48 degrees in pitch. But don’t overlook areas lower on the mountain. Check out Boomerang Woods for steep turns through aspen trees and Audacious and P-3 (in the P-Chutes), where you can do some near-vertical bushwacking in spots, off the Thunderbowl chair.
8. TAOS, New Mexico
Sometimes, you gotta work for the goods. A 20-minute trek along the West Basin or Highline Ridges poises you for shots like Hondo or Twin Trees. For hike-free steeps, hit Chairs 2 and 6 for some of the best double-black tree runs in the world. And if you’re wondering just how steep Taos can be, ask “Sid Slidewell,” the dummy that demonstrates a correct self-arrest pose under Chair 6.
9. BIG SKY, Montana
In the past six years, Big Sky’s steeps have gone from medium to mega-sick, thanks to the Lone Peak tram. Pucker-inducing lines include the gate-accessed Big Couloir and the hike-to A-Z Chutes — patrol will check that you have a transceiver, shovel, and partner before letting you through.
10. TELLURIDE, Colorado
Of course Telluride’s got sick steeps; this is, after all, where one infamous run is known simply as The Plunge (though it actually pales in pitch compared to Spiral Stairs). In the Gold Hill area, the super steep terrain includes the multiple lines of cliff-banded Dynamo and Little Rose. From the new Prospect chair, hike to Dihedral, Mountain Quail, or the shots in between — when open, they offer steeps from ribbon width on up.