There are few things quite as pleasurable as the heart-racing, thigh-burning sensation of skiing. And no, I don’t mean the cruising-down-a-nicely-groomed-piste-to-lunch experience that we Brits are oh too familiar with, I mean really skiing.
Sure, there are moments where you’ll question your sanity as you wobble at the top of a nasty looking run, or perhaps you’ve chosen the wrong slope by mistake, but as soon as you get that adrenalin rush flowing through your body you’ll be craving more.
Maybe you fancy a bit of amateur racing or a truly terrifying skeleton toboggan run… but if those don’t whet your appetite and you’re still aching for an exhilarating break from home life, keep reading.
I’ve put together a list of our favourite runs for you thrill seekers out there in search of that natural high. Reckon you can stomach them?
Notorious for its hardcore skiing, this resort invites you to ski at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps.
The Brevent side of the resort is showered with couloirs and Argentiere is probably one of the best playgrounds for the experts – it’s also great for one last blast in April. But if you visit Chamonix then the Vallee Blanche is a must for a truly great day out with changing terrain and unforgettable scenery. If dizzying heights are your thing, it would be a crime to miss this 17km descent. Watch out for the gaping crevasses either side and you’ll giddily pass seracs (ice towers) as tall as buildings. The start is particularly unnerving, involving a 2000m-drop either side as you wobble your way down steps carved from ice, cut into the spine of the ridge. This is an Alpine adventure not fit for the weak hearted. But it is brilliant.
The off-piste here is also fantastic (and challenging) and can involve plenty of risk-taking, so be sure to hire a guide before you set off to explore the powder.
The most notable run here is La Chavanette or ‘the Swiss Wall’. A well-known descent in Europe, it’s got to be one of the most intimidating runs in France.
One of our clients who recently tackled the Wall came back saying:
“The wall really isn’t that steep; maybe 55 degrees at the very top – comparable to the face at Grands Montets. It’s wide and safe, but it is heavily moguled. I have never, anywhere, seen moguls as large as they form on the Wall.”
Local mountain guide companies offer a drop-off/pick-up service for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, ideal for the skier who always wants more.
You’ll be sure to find challenging, quite frankly terrifying, terrain in this resort. Tucked away in the Swiss Alps with a reputation for luxury and a brilliant party scene, Verbier attracts the most serious and daring skiers.
If you’re prepared for intense, steep skiing, this is the place to go.
Tortin offers enormous moguls at an extreme gradient, worsening as you continue your descent. We’re talking waist-high bumps and unpredictable patches of hard snow. You’re sure to get the adrenalin pumping on this scary slope, particularly if the conditions are on the icy side.
Mont Fort is pretty frightening at first glance – as you shuffle out of the cable car most eyes widen as they take in the sheer height and gorgeous panorama. If you’re feeling extra brave and craving more, we recommend you get a guide and try the backside of Mont Fort: expect huge inclination and beware the avalanche risk!
St Anton, Austria
Many see this as the Austrian equivalent of Verbier. Again, this resort is renowned for its hardcore terrain as well as its party scene. St Anton offers moguls as big as houses, and absolutely the steepest skiing in Austria. This season is the first that it’s linked to Zürs and Lech expanding the already massive terrain.
The backside of the Valluga requires a lot of nerve on your part – just to get going. You need to be extra vigilant during the first bit to make sure you avoid a serious cliff, so you need to stay on your toes and not let the fear take over.
As well as breathtaking views of the beautiful Matterhorn, Zermatt has plenty of steep and incredibly deep skiing.
This place has it all – the world-famous Trifti moguls will get your heart beating fast. I guarantee your knees will turn to jelly as you attack this wonderful black run. If you feel like trying something new that will definitely scare you, check out the Fotofast airbag – that’s right, ski at full speed and attempt a flip (or just a jump) with maximum gravity.
Still hungry for more? If you’re still not satisfied, try heli-skiing on the glacier, experiencing the ultimate sensation of fresh tracks at the top of one of 38 peaks across 4000m.
La Grave, France
A top tip is to stay in Les Deux Alpes, and with a guide go over the top of the mountain to the ultimate of extreme skiing in Europe. Without one single piste and just one wobbly old lift, this is the place to go if you really want to test yourself and keep yourself on your toes.
You’ll rarely see another person as you explore this glacial terrain, surrounded by giant rocks. We’re talking bigger thrills than any other resort…
Picture razor-sharp peaks and potentially fatal falls below you.
For that extra bit of adventure (if you haven’t already got your fill), why not try snowkiting or kite skiing (see the video above) in Col du Lautaret – a truly unique experience of gliding on snow or ice with the wind.
Val d’Isère-Tignes, France
This ski area undoubtedly has some of the best lift-accessed off-piste skiing in the Alps.
There are some incredibly steep couloirs, such as the Couloir des Pisteurs. There’s plenty of exciting freeriding (with avalanche risk), as well as some of the best ski guides in France to help you find the most exhilarating routes.
This place really is a winter playground, with a massive ski area to explore, and it’s one of the best places in the Alps to go in April.
Head up the Grand Prix chair lift, where you’ll be greeted with warning signs of ‘Hors Piste’ and ‘Danger’. If you’re a true adrenalin junkie, that won’t put you off (when in doubt, take deep breaths). This is a fabulous backcountry run that I know you’ll adore. Kite skiing is also available here, if you’re in the mood.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Ok, I know it isn’t in Europe, but this is one resort that cannot be missed…
If you can bear the journey, you’ve absolutely got to hit up Jackson Hole. This is a place that must be on every single adrenalin-crazed skier’s bucket list.
There are just 13 lifts, but over 50% of the terrain is described as ‘very difficult’. I reckon it’s on a par with Verbier in terms of terrain and the limits that are pushed by skiers here.
Jackson Hole’s all about bowls – for example the Cheyenne Bowl. It’s quite a major gradient, but it’s avalanche-proofed, which enables you to relax a little bit more.
This resort’s skiing is mainly short, sharp, intense bursts, with plenty of hiking. This adds to the intensity of the whole ski experience here. You just can’t beat skiing in the Rockies.
Oh, and as far as I know, the President doesn’t ski, so you’re safe in this extreme-skiing haven! Trust me, it’s worth the journey…
So, hopefully I’ve given you a taste of the top adventure spots for the brave skiers of the world. None of the above is easy or gentle on the legs (or heart), but they sure are something brag-worthy if you dare to venture to one of them.
If you can’t quieten your adrenalin cravings, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Momentum team to start planning your tailor-made ski holiday!