13 Hardest Ski Runs in the World For Expert Skiers To Conquer (Some Are Even Groomed!)
It’s no secret that there are some truly terrifying ski runs all over the world. There are runs that are so hard that even the experts should think long and hard before hitting them. These are runs are dramatic to watch let alone experience.
The hardest ski runs are spread throughout the world. America and Europe are home to some of the most recognizably difficult runs worldwide. Colorado’s Rambo run is most likely the most difficult run purely due to its steepness. Harakiri in Austria beats it out as the steepest in the world.
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Top Hardest Ski Runs Across the World
There are a lot of ways to class a ski run as hard. There are things like the skill required to nail the run and then there are factors like the risk of harm and the overall danger of the run.
For this list, we’ll try to find some runs that combine all of these to find the hardest.
1. Harakiri at Mayrhofen, Austria
While it may not live up to its namesake entirely (“Harakiri” was a form of samurai suicide in Japanese culture), Harakiri is certainly one tough run. This groomed run is found at Mayrhofen in Austria.
Well, Harakiri boasts a maximum gradient of a truly insane 78 degrees! This makes it the steepest groomed run in the world.
It takes the best of the best to be able to tackle this monster without succumbing to the immense speeds that accompany it.
Even worse, if you fall, you’re going to be sliding down the slopes at equally crazy speeds - not exactly pleasant stuff. Especially when considering the 1.5 km length of the run.
2. Rambo at Crested Butte Moutain, Colorado
With a name like Rambo, you know it means serious business. Found at Crested Butte Mountain, this run follows suit with the insanely steep Harakiri.
Rambo is often considered to be one of the toughest runs in North America. A large part of this is due to the 55-degree gradient throughout the run.
The 200-meter run is a speedster’s dream as it allows for serious velocity. If it was just a very fast run, it might not make it onto this list. That’s where the moguls come in.
There aren’t always moguls on Rambo, but under the right conditions, they certainly can ramp up the difficulty of this already tough run.
Perhaps there are steeper gradients to be found in the States, but the wide open, tree-free setup found at Rambo means this is the meanest and fastest.
3. Grand Couloir at Courchevel, France
One of the most intense and infamous runs in all of Europe, Grande Couloir is no joke. This ungroomed, off-piste run is found at the top of the Saulire and is very accessible from multiple resorts.
The hardest part of this run is the very beginning. There is a very narrow path that snakes from the top of the Saulire gondola to the start of the actual run.
The path is sandwiched between two incredibly steep drops, making it a nail-biting experience right off the bat. This is made even worse if someone in front of you falls as you’ll have nearly no way to avoid them if you can’t stop in time.
There’s a brief respite as you traverse some smaller moguls between the entrance to the Couloir and the gondola path.
From there, you face a 900-meter run that features a 350-meter descent and is absolutely littered with moguls. And these moguls definitely aren’t small.
What makes the Grand Couloir difficult is the sheer amount of intense moguls covering an already steep descent. A lot of skiers report their legs just being too tired to carry on.
4. Delirium Dive at Banff Sunshine, Canada
Banff Sunshine is home to an intense run known as Delirium Dive. This is an interesting one because it isn’t one specific run, but a whole freeride area found on Lookout Mountain.
There are special mandatory requirements to ride Delirium Dive before you ever set foot on the snow. All prospective skiers must have a partner, as well as avalanche gear or the staff won’t let you go.
Starting out is already tricky as there is a very rocky section leading from the lift to the start of Delirium Dive. Oh, and this area is incredibly narrow. This is the first real challenge skiers face and it’s almost immediately. Some skiers even take their skis off and walk to easier terrain.
After this gnarly section comes a bit of choice. There are multiple entry approaches for Delirium Dive, all with their own level of difficulty. While the main entrance used by most people is nothing to scoff at, it pales in comparison to some of the others that require skiers to nail a substantial drop.
There are rocks, cornices, and some cliffs littered throughout the very steep bowl below, but there is also usually powder galore, which is the whole reason skiers face this behemoth run.
5. Corbet’s Couloir at Jackon Hole, Wyoming
Corbet’s Couloir is small, but it is mighty. This simple chute has made its name a thing of legend amongst the American skiing community over the years.
Corbet’s Couloir is found near the top of Rendezvous Mountain at Jackson Hole and can be seen from the aerial tram on the way up.
What makes this chute so legendary is the sheer difficulty of getting on the wall successfully. To do so, skiers must face a cornice drop that sits at about at least 10 feet high and can sometimes be bigger depending on conditions.
After the drop, it’s a steep ride down a fairly narrow chute.
There are two ways to attack the cornice, confident speed or steady caution. That being said, the verticality of the wall means that either one of these approaches can lead to a nasty crash followed by a long tumble.
Because of the fame of Corbet’s Couloir, it’s become a sort of test for riders to try to conquer. This has made for some epic stories of victory and defeat (but mostly defeat).
6. La Chavanette at Avoriaz, France
With a name like the Swiss Wall, it comes as no surprise that La Chavenette is insanely steep. Not only does it have a very steep angle, but the run itself is also made entirely of moguls. There are literally moguls the entire way down.
And these moguls are intense, to say the very least. The combination of heavy snowfall and the popularity of this run means there are deep paths carved throughout the moguls, all of which make the experience harder.
This is all made worse by the verticality of the slope, which is about a 300-meter descent. Another factor is just how icy or scraped the slope can get, making slipping a real issue.
La Chavanette really is a battle of endurance. Because of just how heavily moguled the slope is, skiing the Swiss Wall requires immense physical fitness, particularly in the legs and core.
All of this leads to skiers often catching their skis and finding themselves in a tumble down the one-kilometer run.
7. Les Tufs at Tigne Le Lac, France
The Fingers are found right outside Tignes, just above Lac de Tignes. Similar to The Fingers over in America, Les Tufs features a number of deep couloirs that are all packed closely together.
What makes Les Tufs harder than its American counterpart is its increased length and verticality.
There are several approaches one can take, all with their own different difficulty rating. The easiest runs are those closer to the town itself.
The steepness of the runs nicely increases the further from the town you enter Les Tufs.
The most difficult runs in Les Tufs are those where you simply cannot reach the bottom of the run without hitting a few hefty jumps whilst navigating the narrow corridors.
There’s a pretty high level of skill required to traverse the incredibly narrow couloirs while avoiding the jagged rocks on either side.
8. Tortin at Verbier, Switzerland
One of the toughest runs in Verbier, Tortin is another mogul monster - depending on the snowfall. Quite ironically, you could say Tortin is the Swiss version of “the Swiss Wall” over in France.
In good conditions, you have a fairly steep run that is made up entirely of bumpy moguls.
In poor conditions, like when it hasn’t snowed in a while or there are a lot of people using the run, these somewhat innocent moguls turn into a truly savage ride.
This is all because Tortin is classed as an itinerary run, meaning it is never groomed.
The run itself is both very long and very steep. Factoring in the moguls in poor conditions can make for a long roll down the slopes, with plenty of knocks from the oftentimes hard, scraped bumps.
As with any run that features a lot of moguls, your fitness will be tested, particularly your leg’s endurance levels.
If you aren’t fit enough, don’t expect to get to the bottom of the run without either collapsing or at the very least suffering some serious lactic acid buildup in the quads.
9. Christmas Chute at Alyeska Resort, Alaska
Up in Alaska is the somewhat poorly named Christmas Chute. Don’t be fooled - there isn’t anything festive about this hectic run at Alaska’s largest ski resort, Alyeska.
The Christmas Chute is found just off to the side of the Upper Tram Terminal within the resort boundaries.
The run starts off with a small bowl that quickly narrows to a tight chute with rocks on either side. In fact, the chute itself continues to shrink down to only a few meters wide.
Other than that, the Christmas Chute features at least a 45-degree gradient at most points throughout, making it both high-speed and sketchy.
All of this makes for an intense experience as you zip, or snowplow, through the narrow couloir.
Once free from the actual chute, there are several relatively small cliff jumps any skier needs to tackle before finally getting to the relatively calmer stuff near the bottom of the run.
10. La Grave, France
La Grave is one of the sketchiest, most difficult ski areas in the world. Its name speaks for itself.
Similar to Delirium Dive, La Grave isn’t a single run on its own, but rather a freeride ski area.
What makes La Grave so special to a huge portion of the expert skiing community is that it is essentially a slice of serious backcountry skiing, but accessible by a single lift.
This makes La Grave uniquely challenging, there is only one way up and one way down.
This is also what makes La Grave so hard to ski. There isn’t a boundary rope in sight and it has never been groomed. It really is completely wild terrain. Taking a wrong turn can lead skiers into some seriously tough terrain.
La Grave is also completely unpatrolled and very susceptible to avalanches. While this doesn’t make it a harder ski run in the traditional sense, it certainly means it’s only good for much higher skilled skiers than at your average resort.
Throw in the fact that there is some glacier skiing involved, La Grave becomes not only difficult but very dangerous.
11. The Streif at Kitzbühel, Austria
With most of this list comprising of off-piste and backcountry runs, the Streif stands out. This is a full-blown downhill race run found at Kitzbühel. It’s also possibly the hardest race run in the whole world.
This 3,312-meter run is insanely fast and bumpy. It really is a test for even the most highly skilled professional skiers.
The high technicality of the run means skiers face astronomical G forces with every turn, battling just to stay on the track itself.
You know a run is difficult if even the pros are falling.
12. Asian P**** at Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
A name so crass, we’ll leave it to your own research. What we will say is that this run in the side country of Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most dangerous runs found at any ski resort in the world.
Asian P**** (or AP) is one of the penultimate no fall zone experiences. This is all due to the fact that if you fall, you will most likely die. And that’s being generous.
AP is an insanely steep no-fall zone that is festering with rocks and cliffs on either side of a tight run.
The path is pretty easily identifiable as you’re skiing, but one wrong turn can send you on a very long fall. And it might just be the last fall you ever take.
And again, even one slip on the path and you’ll find yourself tumbling off of the narrow path over the edge. Because of the verticality of the slope, there’s no way to stop yourself if you lose control.
13. Kiwi Flats at Mammoth Mountain, California
Mammoth Mountain has some serious terrain for expert skiers, and this one definitely epitomizes this fact. Kiwi Flats make for another short, yet terrifying ski run.
The name Kiwi Flats is almost ironic, as the only flat section is the entrance of the run before you drop in.
The drop-in is almost completely vertical and only mellows out near the bottom of the run.
Because of the sheer verticality combined with the narrowness of the chute, you will be absolutely flying down the run. There really isn’t anywhere to turn and slow yourself down.
To make things harder, there are plenty of rocks throughout the run, including right at the drop. This is particularly true if it hasn’t snowed recently or there are a lot of riders.
All of this makes for one hair-raising experience for anyone brave enough to drop in.
What Is the Hardest Level of Skiing?
Ski run ratings vary depending on the region. Each country and region has its own version of easy and extreme runs.
Australia, New Zealand & North America
These countries all share the same ski levels, with double black diamond being the hardest skiable run you can find. There are more difficult runs, but these are almost always off-piste or backcountry runs that ski resorts haven’t graded.
In many places in Europe, the most difficult run is typically some version of a black diamond run. There are both double and triple black diamonds, depending on which resort you’re at.
From there, some places even have orange runs which are truly extreme runs. There are also yellow runs, which indicate a black diamond run that hasn’t been groomed or patrolled.
Similar to most of the world outside of Europe, Japan’s most difficult runs are simply marked as black. They are typically slightly easier than most of their Western counterparts, but they are still the most difficult runs found in Japan.
Where is the Steepest Run?
The honor of the steepest groomed ski run in the world belongs to Harakiri in Mayrhofen, Austria. As we mentioned above, this slope is seriously no joke.
Harakiri features a mind-blowing max gradient of 78 degrees.
Over the years, skiers and snowboarders have continued to push the envelope in terms of how steep of a run they will tackle. There are surely steeper runs out in the various backcountry spots that people have tackled.
These uncharted spots might even become groomed runs one day, dethroning Harakiri as the steepest groomed run in the world.
That being said, this Austrian slope remains the steepest groomed run in the world.
What is the Hardest Ski Run in Europe?
There is a lot of variety when it comes to skiing in Europe. There are certainly some extremely difficult runs to be found in almost every Alpine country.
Our top pick for the hardest run would probably have to go to Harakiri in Mayrhofen. There isn’t really anything that can compare to a gradient of 78 degrees. The speed at which skiers can reach means just staying upright becomes incredibly tough.
For the professionals, The Streif is definitely known as the hardest competition run in Europe.
What is the Hardest Ski Run in America?
Rambo at Crested Butte is arguably the hardest run found in the States. That being said, the USA is home to some immensely challenging runs.
If steepness isn’t your idea of a fun challenge, there are plenty of other runs that feature more technical aspects like tight chutes and big vertical drops.
One of the most notable runs that didn’t quite make the cut for this list is the Pipeline Couloir at Snowbird over in Utah.
For some skiers, it’s all about pushing the limits and venturing onto extremely challenging terrain. Thankfully for them, the skiing world is more than happy to accommodate them.
The runs on this list are some of the most iconically hard runs, but there are plenty out there, especially for those willing to head into the backcountry.
If your skills are good enough and you’re brave enough, be sure to check out any of these runs if possible. Just be warned - they made it onto this list for a reason!
While you’re here, check out the 6 Steepest Ski Runs in the World.