Eight of the hairiest ski routes in the world

Like steeps? Then these pistes, ski routes and backcountry itineraries are for you…

1. Karrinne, Nordkette

From the top of the Hafelekar you have two options: Steep or steeper | Tom Bause

From the top of the Hafelekar you have two options: Steep or steeper | Tom Bause

Difficulty: 8/10
Type: Ski route

The Nordkette, a ski area directly above Innsbruck, might only comprise of two cable cars and two chairlifts, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in pure gnarliness. From the very top cable car, the Hafelekar, you can ski two couloirs so steep that they come complete with a hair-raising warning: “bei Sturz Lebensgefahr”. Translation? Falling can be fatal… The second chute, Karrinne, is said to be one of the steepest ski routes in all of Europe, with a gradient of 70%.

2. Escornacrabes, Baqueira-Beret

Difficulty: 7/10
Type: Ski route

Where Goats Go to Die. That’s the rough translation of Escornacrabes, the most notorious ski run in the Spanish resort of Baqueria-Beret. And it’s an apt name for this gully which starts at the Cap de Baqueria and extends down to the valley below. Steep, narrow and guarded by sheer rock walls, it’s not somewhere to practice your first-ever jump turn. Though judging by the video above, the biggest danger could be the sheer amount of gapers attempting it…

3. S+S Couloir, Jackson Hole

Difficulty: 9/10
Type: Off-piste

Think Jackson Hole’s calling card, Corbet’s Couloir is tough? Pa! It’s got nothing on neighbouring S+S, which isn’t even marked on the trail map and requires permission from Ski Patrol to enter. It starts off with a 30 foot drop into a rocky notch with a landing so tight you need to twist about 90º as you jump… If you don’t believe us check out the TGR guys attempt it in the video, above.

4. Sous le Télépherique, Courcheval


Difficulty: 7/10
Type: Ski route

One of Courcheval’s three famous chutes. Warm up on the wider Grand Couloir (see video, above), marked as a piste, before moving on to trickier Emile Allais and then the steepest, Sous le Télépherique, both itineraries. While it’s still not the trickiest on this list, poor conditions can see it shape into a testing field of ice-capped moguls.

5. North Face of Mont Fort, Verbier

Difficulty: 9/10
Type: Off-piste

Verbier is not short of testing runs – whether on or off-piste – but the North Face of Mont Fort has to be one of the toughest. It starts off with a rasping climb up the icy steps above Mont Fort’s lift station, before a don’t look down ridge walk. The entry is steep, windy and exposed. And once you’ve mustered up the courage it only gets steeper before easing off for the long, long descent down to Lac Cleuson.

6. La Chavanette, Avoriaz

|Fotolia.com

One of Europe’s scariest pistes|Fotolia.com

Difficulty: 6/10
Type: Black run

Not only does La Chavanette act as a border between the French and Swiss sectors of the Portes du Soleil, (hence its moniker, the Swiss Wall), it’s easily one of Europe’s scariest pistes… Classified as a black run, it kicks off with a narrow, 40° pass, which is followed by an overhang so you can’t see what lies below… Once over this, it widens out, but be warned, in busy weeks the moguls can be the size of minis.

7. The Black Hole, Smuggler’s Notch

Difficulty: 8/10
Type: Triple Black Diamond

The toughest run in the East Coast of the USA? Probably… It’s the only Triple Black Diamond at any rate. Steeps, cliffs and moguls combine to make it an expert-only trail. The top 600 feet of the Smuggler’s Notch trail are pitched at 65-70%, and the rest is dotted with unmarked obstacles that mean you need to have your wits about you at all times.

8. Delirium Dive, Sunshine

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Difficulty: 9/10
Type: Double Black Diamond (restricted)

Considered one of the toughest ski areas in North America, you can’t even take the lift up to Delirium Dive, Sunshine, without checking in with Ski Patrol and proving you have a transceiver, shovel, probe and ski buddy… After that it’s a choice between a dropping off a large cliff or climbing down some steps to the 50° slope below. Either way, you’ll earn big respect from us…

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