The World's 13 Most Dangerous Ski Runs

From free falls and ice walls to 250-foot jumps and 100 mph flats, The Daily Beast polls the world’s top ski experts to reveal the 13 most death-defying (or death-causing) ski runs on Earth.

Enricokamasa / Wiki Commons

Enricokamasa / Wiki Commons

Corbet’s Couloir—Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Located at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and named after renowned local ski instructor and Everest conqueror Barry Corbet, this 10,450 foot high, double-diamond ski run has been described as “America’s scariest ski slope.” The entrance to Couloir is a huge test for skiers since it involves dropping off a cornice with a free fall of anywhere between 10 and 30 feet, followed by a 60-degree slope. “It’s steep and you do not want to fall as you may go all the way to the bottom,” according to extreme skiing champion Chris Anthony.

Getty Images

La Grave, France

After taking a 40-minute climb to the top of this imposing 10,500-foot mountain via Téléphérique cable car, you are met with the harsh realization that you’re completely on your own; there are no designated ski runs, no grooming, and no ski patrol. Many visitors opt for a mountain guide, and the more extreme skiers can choose from about 7,000 feet of various vertical drops. “La Grave is named the grave for a reason,” said ski blogger Rachel Oakes-Ash. “People die here and a lot of the terrain requires a rope and harness to rappel down unskiable terrain to get to the good stuff. This is serious skiing for expert skiers. Depending on your ability runs will range from challenging to down right terrifying.”

John Johnston / Flickr

Delirium Dive—Sunshine Village, Banff, Canada

With much of the pitch angled at 50 degrees, and the top of the mountain consisting of a near-vertical drop off a horizontal collection of rocks that feeds you into a tight chute, this run is incredibly avalanche-prone – so much so that you have to actually pass through an avalanche beacon gate in order to ski this terrifying run. “It’s so intimidating to skiers that the ski school offers Delirium Sundays, which are full-day clinics—transceivers and shovels included—aimed at conquering this beast,” says Samantha Berman, Senior Editor of Ski Magazine. “Skiers trying it on their own have to come equipped with avy gear to even gain access through the gate.”

Crested Butte Mountain

Body Bag—Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Crested Butte, Colorado

Once you reach the top of the run, the slope is nowhere in sight—that is, until you look down and see a 275-foot vertical drop at 55 degrees. Fortunately, for the more fearless skier, this run is a merciful 700 vertical feet, but it’s still arguably “the steepest cut run in North America with a consistent 45-degree pitch,” according to Samantha Berman, Senior Editor of Ski Magazine. “Throw in some downed trees to negotiate and snow that sloughs off the top, and it’s clear how Body Bag got its name.”

Johhny B / Creative Commons

Harakiri—Mayrhofen, Austria

With an average incline of 78 percent, the Harakiri is the steepest slope in Austria -- so legendary that it draws a large cheering section of ski enthusiasts who watch the more extreme skiers tackle the run from the comfortable six-person chairlift, Knorren, where many often tumble down the length of the run. Named after the Japanese ritual of suicide by samurai, Harakiri is “the world’s steepest groomed slope, with a pitch of 38 degrees,” according to Samantha Berman, Senior Editor of Ski Magazine. “The only thing crazier than skiing it is watching them break out the specialized equipment needed to groom the slope.”

Colorado Al / Flickr

Silver King Runs—Crystal Mountain Ski Resort, Pierce County, Washington

Housed in the largest alpine ski area in Washington with 2,300 acres of lift-serviced terrain, the Silver King summit stands over 7,000 feet high, with runs so that a proposal for a dedicated lift to the top was quickly rejected by the Forest Service. With names like “Pin Ball,” “Brain Damage,” and “Lobotomy,” it’s easy to see why. “Pin Ball” consists of a narrow, eight-foot-wide shoot with rock walls up to 53 degrees steep, and “the name comes from the way you can bounce off the walls,” according to championship freestyle skier Dave Valenti. “Brain Damage” has a “cornice along the top, so you can either navigate around that to drop in or air into the run off the cornice,” while “Lobotomy” is surrounded by “rock spines that crest over a peak, and starts narrow and stays rocky, with no fall line,” says Valenti.  

UnofficialSquaw.com / Flickr

El Colorado, Chile

Located in the central region of Chile, this plus-sized resort offers skiers an awe-inspiring 2,971 feet of vertical descent and 77 ski trails, for both intermediate and advanced skiers. However, the most extreme skiers, like championship freestyle skier Dave Valenti, embark on a seven-lift journey required to get to the top or El Colorado. “These mountains are so big that the dimensions mess with your head. You don’t get a perspective of where you are and where you’re going,” says Valenti. “We dropped into this bowl doing ridiculously deep powder turns side by side, talking as we went. The bottom wasn’t getting any closer and our legs were burning, so we decided to turn out. We traversed over to another bowl and when we looked back at the bowl we just did, we counted 136 turns we had done on the first bowl. From there we skied the other bowl and dropped down through this chute that comes out of this cliff line, and then had to hike and traverse for a mile or so back over to civilization.”

mmacieli / photobucket

Christmas Chute—Alyeska Resort, Girdwood, Alaska

Located 27 miles from Anchorage, this ski resort is the biggest in Alaska. Though intermediate skiers will opt for Chair 4, a lift that goes halfway up the mountain, the more extreme skiers will go for Chair 6, which takes you to the highest lift served point at about 2,800 feet. There, just above the top of the lift, are the infamous Christmas and New Year’s Chutes, which are “very steep with narrow spots,” according to extreme skier Chris Anthony. “I have watched two people fall the full length of this.” You can check out this first-person video of the Christmas Chute at Alyeska and see just how steep – and frightening – it is.

Kyle Gradinger / Flickr

The Streif—Kitzbühel, Tyrol, Austria

Take a lift to the summit of what bills itself as “the world's most spectacular ski run,” and you’ll find yourself about 5,462 feet in the air, staring at one of the most terrifying downhill runs in the world. The Streif’s average gradient is 27 percent, and racers can reach 90 miles per hour. Making matters worse, the course ends with the Mausefalle – a final jump that can throw you over 250 feet further down the hill. “Look no further than the accident reports for the annual Hahnenkamm Downhill,” hosted at The Streif, says Hank McKee, Senior Editor of Ski Racing Magazine. In 2008, pro Scott McCartney was injured for the season, and in 2009, pro Daniel Albrecht was left comatose after suffering a massive head injury,. “And those pale in comparison to when they open the course to spectators immediately following the race,” says McKee.

karlschranz.com

The Lauberhorn—Wengen, Switzerland

With a 8,110 foot summit, this downhill course, which hosts the famous Lauberhorn race, is the longest in the world, at 2.77 miles. The run takes pro skiers an average of about two and a half minutes to complete and skiers reach 100 mph, the fastest on the World Cup circuit. The course features a number of challenging arrangements, most notably the Hundschopf – a 130-foot jump over a rock nose. “The course offers its most difficult challenge at the end when racers are exhausted,” says Hank McKee, Senior Editor of Ski Racing Magazine. “Austrian racer Gernot Reinstadler bled to death in 1991 when his ski hung up in the protective fencing at that point and ripped his leg out of joint.”

gunnsteinlye / Flickr

Olympiabakken—Kvitfjell, Ringebu, Norway

Best known for hosting the downhill and Super G at the 1994 Winter Olympics, Kvitfjell boasts 2,801 feet of vertical descent. The most challenging course on the mountain is the Olympiabakken, stretching almost two miles, with drops as high as 64 percent. Austrian racer Matthias Lanzinger had his left leg amputated after a crash on this course in 2008.

Francesco Paroni Sterbini / Flickr

The Saslong—Val Gardena, Italy

The Saslong, created in 1970, features a set of jumps – the Camel bumps – that hurdles racers 262 feet. “Seems like every season some racer winds up with a season-ending injury at Val Gardena,” says Hank McKee, Senior Editor of Ski Racing Magazine. “The Camels are three successive bumps and the best skiers try to clear the middle jump by launching off the first,” but, adds McKee, “miscalculations are costly.”

Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

Racer’s Edge—Hunter Mountain, Hunter, New York

With a top elevation of only 3,200 ft. – covered mostly in ice – Hunter Mountain doesn’t offer the most challenging of skiing terrain. The double black diamond run Racer’s Edge is the most formidable on the mountain, with steep, straight lines wide enough to host a bevy of skiers—many of whom, unfortunately, don’t really know what they’re doing. “Never been so scared on a ski hill in my life,” says Hank McKee, Senior Editor of Ski Racing Magazine. “The slopes are jam packed on a weekend day and everybody seems completely out of control. Stopping behind a lift tower was the only safe way to avoid being run into.”