Breaking new terrain

The ski terrain that's grabbed Fall Line's attention for Winter 23/24

Top of Gaustatoppen, Norway, with a tall communications tower, pictured at dusk, with three people walking the ridgeline

Last season it was Glacier3000’s offbeat ski run – tunnelling through the glacier before reviving the 41°-pitch Pierre’s Pointes run that closed in 1999 – which piqued our interest for our ever-adapting to-ski list.

This year it’s word of Norway’s (not-new but under-wraps) mountain-tunnelling funicular to the headwall in Gausta, Telemark county, that’s got us gunning to explore. Known for its cruisey blues and greens, Gausta ups the ante with its secret access uplift to freeride hill Gaustatoppen.

Take two railways through the middle of the rock to 1,800m and access to the headwall, with its steeps and long apron (with 710m drop in elevation). In the late ’30s a World Cup downhill course was set from the top, but it never got to be, with the breakout of WW2. NATO then commandeered mountain and tunnel for half a decade as a Cold War communications facility.

In 2010 a stone hut at the top started serving waffles and later the marked, avy-safe Langefonn route (under 30°) made the mountain accessible for intermediate+ off-piste. The terrain Fall Line wants to make a break for is the bootable ridge-line to the 40°-52° east face and countless lappable lines. High for North Europe, the views are really something…

Steamboat’s Fish Creek Canyon

Across the pond

This winter in North America sees a serious amount of terrain expansions – we’re talking entire zones, not a few pistes here and there – mostly expert terrain.

Hero’s at Ajax (Aspen Mountain) adds 20% acreage to the mountain in 15 new trails and gladed areas above 3,000m, all north facing.

Also Colorado, Steamboat – a real family spot – adds 650 new acres of glades and bowls in Fish Creek Canyon and Mahogany Ridge for expert skiers (think chutes, trees, rock bands).

Colorado’s Keystone brings 550 acres of brand new high-alpine terrain for intermediates+, with lift-served access to Bergman and Erikson Bowls and 16 new runs.  

But biggest of all is Deer Valley’s doubling in size, with 16 new lifts serving 3,700 acres of terrain. Swallowing brand new resort Mayflower, built right on its doorstep, Deer Valley will add 137 runs to its already expansive trail map when it opens in spring 2024. [Snowboarders still NFI’d]. 

At Canada’s Whitewater in BC, a base-to-Silver King Ridge four-pack opens up 160+ acres of virgin terrain for steep, deep, gladed skiing (plus a few new groomers).  

Innerkrems ski touring haven, Carinthia


Fresh terrain, Alps-way, is found on a much smaller scale, with the trend more focussed on re-wilding (in the name of biodiversity).

Avoriaz is impressive in adding a new red run, while keeping in with its zero-expansion policy. Le Creux de la Neige in the Arare section is 1.5km long over 300m altitude, with all-natural snow cover that’s required little-to-no (toxic) development.  

The news in Europe is of resorts rationalising their offering as ghost ski mountains are reborn as ski touring havens.

Innerkrems in the Nockberge mountains of Carinthia is one: the lifts have been dismantled, meaning there’s minimal output, both financially and carbon-wise; With one of the best snow records in the Alps, there’s little need for snowmaking, and its mellow pitch reduces the need to carry out avalanche control work.

Puigmal in the French Pyrenees also reopened as a green-as-it-gets no-uplift ski area, and Italy’s Gaver offers 11 uphill routes for 9,000 acres of avy-controlled off-piste terrain (plus touring set-up rentals) – free to use.  

spiked ridge line covered in snow
©IG Tektoniarena Sardona | Photo, Ruedi Homberger

Winter ’24/25 

Eyes are on Laax’s upcoming extension of the brand new Flem Xpress – billed as the Uber-type cable car that’s not only self drive but that runs only on demand. For next season will see the lift-line extend beyond its current mid-mountain station at Startgels, reaching up to Cassons, unlocking access to the Tectonic Arena Sardona UNESCO World Heritage Site to snow shoes and skins, as well as serious off-piste terrain.  

And, of course, the much-anticipated mid-station at Chamonix’s Grands Montets reopening (easy) access to the legendary steeps at 3,275m, after the fire destroyed the old one at Lognan (1972m) in 2018.