Scout Picks: Go steep or go home

Go steep or go home

Jun 13, 2017

Most of the major resorts in the world have great, varied terrain – there’s usually enough to keep all levels happy. But there are some that stand out with enough challenging inbounds or out-of-bounds extreme steeps to keep the most advanced skier happy for days.

Jackson Hole is one of the best resorts in the world for access to steep and extreme terrain. The famous Corbet’s Couloir is on the bucket list of most advanced skiers. There are plenty of chutes, cliffs and bowls to play in (try the Alta chutes or Meet Your Maker to get the adrenaline pumping). The best part is that so much is accessed by the 9-minute ride up the Tram. However, there’s also some great hike-to terrain on Headwall and Casper Bowl. And the resort is planning a lift to the top of the Crags (currently hike-to) for the 15/16 season.

Skiing at Lake Tahoe is spectacular because of the stunning views of the indigo lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. But it’s also spectacular because of the gnarly terrain at Squaw Valley. On a powder day the extreme skiers head straight to KT-22 where the lift line has front-row seats to watch skiers hucking their way down The Nose and Fingers – Squaw’s famous cliff band. The rest of the resort has plenty of other steeps, cornices (try the Cornice Bowl) and trees for playing around in.

Don’t let the size or charm of Crested Butte fool you. There’s some pretty nasty steep skiing here - much more than appears on the map. The Butte shape of the mountain provides some diverse terrain, including bowls, chutes, and cliffs with some nice tree runs thrown in. The only downfall is that much of the extreme terrain requires a combination of lifts. But unlike other big resorts, this limitation, combined with lack of crowds, means it doesn’t get skied out as quickly on a powder day.

Even before these Alta and Snowbird resorts launched a combined ticket and opened gates to allow skiers to cross between them, they held a special place in the hearts of most advanced skiers. The fluffy, dry powder is plentiful and usually the best in the country. Added to that is some incredible lift-accessed and hike-to steep terrain and you have two resorts that are almost unmatched in their potential for providing heart-stopping runs. The famous Baldy Chutes can be accessed from either resort but are usually best left to the pros.

Telluride has been gaining in popularity with advanced skiers over the past decade thanks to new infrastructure and the opening of more terrain. There's some pretty gnarly stuff that's lift accessed, particularly in the Gold Hill Chutes from the top of Revelation lift (some of which requre a small hike). But it's the hike up to Palmyra Peak where you heart will really get pumping. Beyond the stairs there's some seriously scary hiking (sometimes it's a hands and knees job) but with the reward of some unbelievable chutes, shots, jumps and steeps.

Whistler Blackcomb is mammoth. And when you look at the black runs in size (2206ac; 893ha) rather than as a percentage it reminds you that the advanced terrain alone is bigger than most other ski resorts in their entirety. Most of the double-black diamonds are in the high alpine areas – head to the “Couloir Extreme” on Blackcomb for an adrenaline rush or the equally thrilling steeps of Whistler’s Peak chair or the Blackcomb Glacier via Spanky’s Ladder for some powder.

Revelstoke's recently found fame is the result of endless visions of skiers jumping down powder pillows or hucking off cliffs. It has the highest vertical descent in North America or 1,713 vertical meters/5,620 feet and when combined with the steeps and natural features there is enough terrain here to keep the thighs burning for days.

Steep skiing isn't something that Japan is famous for. Instead it's all about pow, pow and more pow. Yet Hakuba in Japan's Nagano region is quite the surprise package. Admittedly a lot of the resort terrain isn't steep, but with a bit of effort, the backcountry area around the valley has some of the steepest and best terrain in the country. In 2017 it was even host to a stop on the Freeride World Qualifiers.

If we had to pick one resort in the world as the best for steep skiing, Chamonix in the French Alps would be it. Situated at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, Chamonix has endless terrain in and out of the resorts for thrill seekers. Getting a guide here is essential as it isn't easy, nor is it safe due to the sheer drops and crevasses that can surprise and frighten even the most seasoned skier. 

For years Engelberg in Switzerland went under the radar, however thanks to the proliferation of Scandanivian proffessional freeriders that have made it their home, it's been elevated to cult status. The best terrain is accessed outside the resort boundaries and local guides should be used. Scout can attest that it is truly some of the best fun skiing we've had in a long time.

Verbier isn't the final stop of the Freeride World tour for no reason. This huge resort in the Swiss Alps has some of the best steep skiing within resort boundaries, and, of course, endless steep skiing outside the boundries too. Much of it takes little effort to get to, meaning that you can get a serious amount of vertical in each day. And the sheer size of the resort means there's enough heart pumping terrain to keep any great skier terrified ad satisfied for days and days.

St Anton in Austria might be famous for it's Apres, but one can make sure they truly deserve a beer by skiing some of the huge resort's huge terrain. Now connected to Lech and Zurs by lifts, there are endless opportunities to get the adreneline pumping.

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