What do you look for when you go skiing? How do you choose the ski resort? Many factors play a decisive role when choosing where to go for your next winter holiday, but what if the next time you are choosing your resort, you pick a place that will give you a real adrenaline rush.
With this in mind, we have decided to give you the top 7 toughest slopes in Europe, using information gathered from our large community of ski and snowboard instructors. Pack your bags and your courage and get ready for some thrilling rides!
La Chavanette a.k.a The Swiss Wall, Switzerland
Sitting on the border between France and Switzerland is the Swiss Wall, which you can reach from both Avoriaz in France or Les Crosets and Champéry in Switzerland. The name is already pretty suggestive of what you’ll be up against if you’re thinking about taking on this challenge. With an inclination of 32º, this piste has been classified as “orange” which pretty much means it’s just too difficult to be put into one of the regular difficulty categories (red, blue, black, or green), the run is 1km long with a 331m drop.
The piste starts with a narrow passage which then opens up to a slightly bigger area covered with moguls throughout. Under extreme weather conditions, the piste can get either very icy, in which case you really would be just gliding down with very little control, or after heavy snowfalls, you will find yourself facing moguls which can reach the size of a small car. Whichever way you look at it, this piste is a must for anybody daring to face such a challenge.
Whoever named this slope had a dark sense of humour but it almost makes you want to ride it even more, “Harakiri” is known as the honourable method of taking one's own life practiced by men of the samurai (military) class in feudal Japan. Now, are you scared or intrigued? Located in the ski resort of Mayrhofen Ski Zillertal 3000 in Austria, this is known as one of the toughest slopes not only in Europe but in the world. Its inclination is 37º and the piste runs for 1.5km with a vertical drop of 375m.
The weather conditions make little difference with how difficult this piste can be, but if you are looking for a great adrenaline rush then look no further because we’re pretty sure this is as good as it gets. Just keep in mind if you fall you might as well lay back and enjoy the slide down because the icy terrain and the steepness will make it almost impossible for you to stand back up.
Grand Couloir, France
In Courchevel, you will find one of the toughest pistes, not only because of its 35º steepness but mostly because it is totally ungroomed terrain, so after a fresh snowfall, being one of the first ones up there can also help you in making the run easier. The piste has a drop of 340m and is 630m long in total which makes it a shorter but definitely no less intense experience.
Let’s not forget about the path skiers and snowboarders go through to get there too. Be prepared to ride on a quite narrow and undulating passage, marked by previous skiers and with quite impressive drops on either side of you. Going to the Grand Couloir will be a full experience from the very beginning, as you are getting to the drop, to riding the slope, surely a must for anyone looking to ski the toughest slopes.
In Verbier 4 Valles, you will find a piste marked as an Itinerary Route, meaning the run is not groomed at all, the conditions in which you will find the piste depend on whatever mother nature felt like the night before. Sometimes you will even find a very reassuring sign at the top that says, “Good Skiers Only”, which is exactly the boost in confidence everyone needs before going against what is considered one of the toughest slopes out there right?
The ride is about 1.3km long and you start at an incredible height of 3,330m, it’s also important to always keep in mind that because the piste in facing north and tends to be in the shade most of the time, the terrain is very icy for most of the day, and especially in the morning. The good thing is that if you get up there and decide you’re not quite up for such a challenge, just pretend you’re there for the view since it is considered one of the best viewpoints in the Alps, allowing you to see from the Matterhorn all the way to Mont-Blanc, take in the view, turn around and get back in the cable car. If instead, you’re going for it, then enjoy the ride!
At the top of Alpe d’Huez, you will find the Tunnel, to reach this you will have to go all the way up to Pic Blanc and ski down the first part of another famous tough slope, La Sarenne, known as the longest black slope (18km long!), from La Sarenne you will then reach Tunnel which as the name suggest is really a tunnel through which you will have to ski.
In order to reach the top of the slope, you will go through a 200m tunnel and once you come out on the other side you will be face to face with the vertical drop to the piste, and at this point, there is really just one way down and it’s right in front of you. Start your run with plenty of moguls of all sizes with a gradient of 35º one of France’s steepest mogul fields. Once you reach the bottom take a deep breath and let the satisfaction of what you just accomplished fill you.
Aiguille Rouge, France
In the ski resort of Les Arcs at an altitude of 3,227m above sea level, you will find Aiguille Rouge (the Red Needle). First of all, even if you are not an advanced skier please go all the way up for the view, when you get to the top you will get a 360º view of all the Alps, and there’s even a sky bridge which will give you the feeling of being suspended over the mountains... great place for that winter picture.
Once you’ve taken in the views get ready for the ride. The whole experience is pretty long since the ride is 9km and it takes even the most skilled skiers a good 20-30 minutes to complete the 2026m vertical drop, only 4 other pistes in Europe have a greater vertical drop, Dôme de la Lauze to Mont de Lans; Pic Blanc to l'Enversin d'Oz; Klein Matterhorn; Davos Weifluhjoch to Kublis. This run will challenge you in the best of ways and it’s definitely one to add to your bucket list.
La Face de Bellvarde, France
Known as just “La Face” to locals of Val d’Isere, this is the last piste on our list, and it’s known as one of the most iconic black runs of the Alps, and the men’s downhill run during the Olympics of 1992. What makes this piste a challenge is not only the gradient at 32º, which by now is not as bad as the previous ones we have seen, but you also have to really get the timing right with this piste.
The mornings are just too icy making it just a slip and slide and don’t even think about giving it a try after 3 pm as it will just be a mush of bumpy snow, so you really have to get the ride in between 12 - 2 pm. This doesn’t mean it will be easy at that time, it just means it will be less complicated. You are still facing a drop of 959m and a whole piste of around 3 km filled with icy moguls to really challenge you.
With this list, we hope to have given you plenty of ideas for your next vacation spot and inspired you to take on new challenges if you feel up to the task. We guarantee all these rides will give you an incredible adrenaline rush, a memorable experience, and a great story to tell.
Always make sure you feel confident when heading for one of these tough slopes and remember you are never too late to turn around and get back on the ski lift, unless you started your descent already, in which case just believe in yourself and turn and stop, turn and stop, turn and stop...until you get to the bottom.
If after reading this you are itching to ride one of these slopes but you don’t feel quite ready yet, you can always book a couple of lessons with an expert instructor and have them go with you to guide your run, or improve your skills with them for a couple of days and then head on over to conquer a challenging run.
Whatever you decide, the instructors on Maison Sport are always ready and eager to teach and see you accomplish your goals, so don’t hesitate to book them on your next trip.
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