Have you skied all of these infamous slopes in the Alps? From the vertigo-inducing moguls of the Swiss Wall to steep FIS World Cup pistes and the sheer dropoffs at La Grave, these imposing pistes in Austria, France, Switzerland, Italy and France offer expert skiers and snowboarders something to sink their teeth into. Requiring expert skill, impeccable technique and more than a dash of courage, they’re not for the faint of heart. But, apart from the adrenaline rush, the reward is knowing that you’ve conquered some of the most difficult mountain terrain in Europe. Go on out there and get skiing!
The Harakiri at Mayrhofen has made a name for itself as the steepest groomed piste in Austria and is for experienced skiers only! It’s not unusual to see skiers and snowboarders sliding a few hundred metres down the mountain after they fall. The Harakiri photo shoot lets you record your ride for eternity, and once you successfully conquer this piste you can buy a t-shirt for the bragging rights. Mayrhofen is part of the Zillertal ski area, which offers 190km of pistes for all skill levels.
The eastern side of Le Pas de Chavanatte, aka the “Swiss Wall”, is so steep that it can’t be groomed by a pistenbully, even with the help of a winch. This causes moguls of over 2 metres, making it a devilishly challenging descent. The Swiss Wall is located in Les Portes du Soleil, one of the largest ski areas in Europe with 580km of pistes.
Kitzbühel's Streif is considered one of the most dangerous downhill tracks in the FIS World Cup. Professional skiers reach speeds of up to 140km/h here, often flying 60m before touching the ground again. A visit to the annual Hahnenkamm Races is an unforgettable experience. We mere mortals can also attempt the Streif, but have to contend with slower speeds and keep in mind there will be some ungroomed parts. The KitzSki area offers around 170km of slopes.
Situated in the Garmisch Classic ski area near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Kandahar is one of the steepest and longest slopes in the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup. The “free fall” section reaches a gradient of 92%, and the pros hit speeds of up to 130km/h here. To tackle this piste you must be not only brave but also fit: it’s 3km long! The Zugspitze ski area offers 70km of pistes and guaranteed snow thanks to the glacier pistes.
The Gamsleiten II can be considered the Swiss Wall of Austria. Just the sight of the steep pitch and towering moguls should already spike your adrenaline levels – the gradient reaches as high as 100% (45°)! The Obertauern ski area in Salzburg has a vast offering of 100km of slopes for every ability. Après-ski fiends can visit the Edelweissalm or the Lürzer Alm.
The Piculin slope at Kronplatz, South Tyrol is one of the steepest pistes in Italy. Although slightly overshadowed by the neighbouring Sylvester, Hernegg, Pre da Peres and Erta slopes at Kronplatz, the Piculin’s importance comes from its role as a connector to Alta Badia and the 1200km of pistes at the huge Dolomiti Superski area. Beginners and families, however, will have a fine time with the 120km of slopes at Kronplatz.
La Grave is a small mountaineering village near the French ski resort of Les Deux Alpes. Just one cable car at La Grave takes skiers and snowboarders up to an altitude of over 3500m, dropping you in off-piste paradise. 2000 vertical metres of epic freeride terrain plunges back down to the valley. La Grave - La Meije is for true powder hounds only – ski at your own risk!
Diabolo: 70% gradient at Montafon
Langer Zug: 80% gradient at Lech Zürs
Direttissima: 70% gradient at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
Planai: 65% gradient at Schladming-Dachstein
Bernhard Russi Run: 65% gradient at Andermatt
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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