Is it a cliff? Is it a ski jump? No, it’s the Harakiri piste in Mayrhofen ski resort, renowned for being Austria’s steepest slope adventure and a must-do for every serious skier or snowboarder. With a vertical drop of 375m over a kilometre and a half, the Harakiri reaches an inclination of up to 78%. Fall here and it’s a long way down! Snowplaza has tested the piste and come back with some techniques with which to conquer this infamous Penken legend. Plan your Mayrhofen ski holiday and see it for yourself!
A Japanese term referring to the ritual suicide performed by a samurai, the name “Harakiri” might just foreshadow the fate of those brave but not technically qualified enough to attempt skiing it. What makes the Harakiri special is the fact that it’s groomed - a feat only possible since recently (Harakiri opened in the 2003-2004 season). The piste is so steep that weeks before opening, layers of artificial snow must be pressed daily onto the piste. Only when the piste is about to open do the groomers smooth out the snow; but they continue to add more snow all season long to avoid a mini-avalanche.
Video: Mark Burley
We need hardly point out the importance of having good equipment before you even think of tackling this - well-tuned skis or snowboard with sharp edges and a helmet are a must, not to mention a high level of fitness and excellent technique. It’s wise to approach the Harakiri via Piste No. 12 (the “Devil’s Run”) - only successful survivors should dare to go on to the Harakiri. Make good use of your poles and concentrate on balancing your weight mostly on your outer ski, keeping your skis slightly spaced apart. If you survive the beginning, the worst is behind you.
There are plenty of options for taking home a well-earned memento of your Harakiri descent. Photos from the free photo shoot every Friday from 1pm to 3pm can be downloaded here free of charge. Harakiri t-shirts are also available from the Mayrhofner mountain railways and the Harakiri bar, or online. The Harakiri is not only one of the steepest, but also one of the most marketed slopes in the Alps!
It’s finally time for some well-earned après-ski, the most important part of the day! To cap off the Harakiri experience try the Harakiri Bar, which calls itself the “steepest bar in the Zillertal.” Other options abound as well: the Pilzbar, the Ice Bar, the Yeti Bar, the Brückenstadl and the many nightclubs are all purveyors of the legendary Mayrhofen après-ski scene.
The Harakiri in Mayrhofen is a great steep piste for ambitious skiers, and it is a great feeling to carve out your mark on its slopes. Unfortunately, the fun is over much too soon - especially for those who slide the whole way down on their bottoms! And there’s no shortage of this kind of casualties, thanks to the massive marketing campaign around Harakiri and the ensuing floods of brave skiers and snowboarders. All in all, perhaps the Harakiri marketing campaign has made a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak... Nevertheless, it is an obligatory bucket-list item, and Mayrhofen’s great selection of pistes, parks and après-ski are a nice way to round off your skiing holiday in the Ski Zillertal 3000. Snowplaza Rating: 4 of 5 Stars.
Harakiri Facts & Figures
|Length: 1500m||Vertical drop: 376m|
|Difficulty: Expert||Lift: Knorren|
|Highest point: 2018m||Maximum gradient: 78%|
|Ski resort: Penken||Snowplaza rating: 4 stars|
Mayrhofen’s Harakiri is one of the steepest groomed pistes in Austria. Check out some other steep pistes in the ski resorts of the Alps:
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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