America’s number one for steep and deep, this rugged mountain paradise is renowned for its scary chutes and challenging backcountry – expect big cliffs and vertigo-inducing couloirs. Corbet’s Couloir is on every expert’s bucket list but many only make it as far as inching their tips over the lip before shuffling back to safety. It can take several Jackson Hole ski trips before they feel ready to take the plunge – those that do face a 20-foot drop over vertical rock before their skis connect with the snow. For the rare few who make Corbet’s look easy, the 30-foot chasm of S&S Couloir sits around the corner, with access via Ski Patrol permission only.
Granite cliffs, heart-stopping chutes and relentless runs typify Squaw. A favourite spot for technical skiers, you’ll find 60-degree slopes and big drops which have led to the resort-wide mantra of ‘when in doubt, air it out.’ Squaw owes much of its reputation to The Palisades (a band of 9,000-foot cliffs) as well as the host of black diamond runs which descend from KT-22 – one of the best expert lifts in North America, KT-22 leads to legendary runs, including Fingers and McConkeys. And for those who just can’t get enough, there’s plenty more top-notch terrain here, including the big bowls and sheer cliffs of the Silverado lift area.
A Wild West ski area studded with accessible EX Trails (a step up from double black diamonds), Telluride is big with bump skiers and anyone who loves a challenge. Both in-resort and out of bounds, the skiing is some of the world’s steepest and scariest, with hike-to areas such as Palmyra Peak as gripping on the way up as during the descent – think fifty-degree chutes, mammoth drops and super-skinny couloirs. The variety of black diamond runs and backcountry terrain is astounding here, with places like Black Iron Bowl offering awesome inbound terrain.
Home to the longest verticals in North America, as well as challenging tree runs and extensive bowl skiing, experienced riders have plenty to smile about on Whistler ski holidays. The Peak Chair on Whistler Mountain gives access to some of North America’s most exciting inbound terrain, with steep gullies and fast chutes. Over on Blackcomb Mountain, the steeps get steeper, with runs like the 41-degree Couloir Extreme plunging towards Glacier Creek. Blackcomb’s best bowls are reached via the infamous Spanky’s Ladder – a short climb which leads to the Garner, Diamond and Sapphire bowls, where there’s little margin for error.
Home to some of Europe’s steepest descents, you need good knees to ski Verbier. A Swiss mecca for the more advanced, the terrain is tough, with around 40-percent of pistes considered ‘advanced’. Short hikes from the lifts give access to legendary off-piste routes, with Mont Fort at the epicentre of it all – the back-side of this 11,000-foot mountain is riddled with cliffs, couloirs and steep faces. Stairway to Heaven and Highway are other easily accessible routes but if you’re prepared to hike or ski-tour to earn your turns, you’ll discover that every inch of Verbier gets skied during the course of the season, whether it’s a huge powder field or a ski-wide chute.
A high altitude and snow sure ski area that caters for an advanced crowd, Engelberg is surrounded by sheer Alpine peaks. Expert skiers and boarders are in their element, with tough blacks, deliberately un-groomed terrain and plenty of off-piste challenge. The Titlis ski area is the place to start, with easy access to steep faces, cliffs and couloirs. The Laub route is one of the best known off-piste runs but for more challenge, add the ‘Big Five’ to your agenda – the five descents of Laub, Galtiberg, Steinberg, Steintal and Kleine und Große Sulz give a combined vertical drop of 32,808-feet, which can be skied in a single day.