The 10 Scariest Ski Runs in North America
"If you’re not scared, you’re not shredding." – Someone at the ski bar
Every skier knows it helps to get a few butterflies in your stomach to up your game, build confidence, and maybe earn bragging rights.
We love testing our limits on classic lines known to make skiers shake in their boots. We’ve assembled a check-list of inbounds runs we love for this very reason. This list only touches on U.S./Canada runs—if we were to include places like the Alps, this would be a much longer article.
By no means is this a comprehensive list of every jitter-inducing inbounds run on the continent. Many you’ll have to go scout out for yourself. Some runs remain hidden, known to a handful of resort employees who keep their cards close to their chests. But rest assured, each run on this list is worthy of its pulse-racing reputation.
To ski any of the runs on this list, you need to be a seasoned, better-than-advanced skier. With that caveat in place, here are our ten favorite rowdy runs you can find inbounds in North America.
1. Corbet’s Couloir
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming
We’ll start with Corbet’s, since it embodies the kind of scary run that is hard to resist. It’s highly visible from the tram, so riders going up the mountain have the chance to press their faces to the glass and imagine the thrill of dropping in.
There’s a brazen cornice jump to enter the couloir, with the option to go small or go huge depending on what edge you enter from. Once you’ve gotten below the cornice, you have to keep your game tight and manage your speed. As the chute narrows, skiers must commit with confidence to finish the line to the safety of the apron below.
2. Crazy Ivan 2
Breckenridge’s Lake Chutes area offers some shimmy-shimmy descents, but Crazy Ivan 2 happens to dial up the steepness to the max. You won’t find it marked on the resort trail map, but ski patrol will show you the way if you ask—and look like you know what you’re getting into.
Launch off a cornice at the top landing on a 49-degree face, then make precise turns between rock outcroppings, opening the throttle once you get to the flats below.
3. Great Scott
Snowbird is known for its heart-pumping terrain and Great Scott is one of the best ways to test your mettle in full view of tram riders. Use your tram ride to carefully scope your line. This is just one of the white-knuckle lines along the Cirque area ridge.
Locate the Great Scott entry point, point your sticks, and pick your way through the rock-studded top to make your way to the open swaths below.
Mad River Glen, Vermont
East coast skiing comes with its own challenging conditions. But the Paradise run at Mad River Glen compounds that with some truly tricky terrain. It’s a hallmark run of the region, punctuated by ice, rocky outcroppings, drop-offs, tight trees, bumps, and variable snow.
Add in the fact that the run maintains a nice, steep pitch throughout the madness and you’ll find it takes a truly controlled skier to descend with any grace whatsoever.
This old-school run is another east-coast gnar highlight. It doesn’t go light on length, either: for 2,600 feet, you’ll navigate a steep glade of tight trees, bumps, soft patches, stumps, and rock bands.
Rumble gets your quads burning like none other. It’s a proving ground for anyone who wants to validate themselves by skiing a truly complex line with speed and smoothness. **
6. East Wall
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
Pay a visit to A-Basin and you can’t help but notice a towering ridgeline capping the resort’s upper reaches. The East Wall isn’t a simple ski-lift drop-off. You have to bootpack and earn the right to ski its lofty face—itself a challenge, as you’ll be hoofing it to an elevation of 13,050’, often times into the teeth of ferocious winds.
There are several options for your exact line of descent. We love the Snorkel route, which you access by bootpacking up Willie’s Wide staircase, heading left, and dropping in.
Squaw Valley, California
This section of the Palisades area of Squaw has been ridden by countless original gangsters of freeskiing, each with their own signature style. The Chimney line is particularly spicy, with a cornice-hop entry, narrow ramps, and multiple mandatory airs you’ll hit at speed.
This area is actually closed on busy weekends because the runout below is dangerously full of skiers and onlookers who risk being plowed down by a straight-lining McConkey wannabe. Aim for a weekday decent and consult patrol on ski conditions—if you’re lucky enough to let ‘er rip, do the greats proud.
8. Christmas Tree
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
How do you like your tree skiing? Extra steep and tight? Perfect. Christmas Tree Bowl at Steamboat will truly keep you on your toes. Once you drop in, you’re quite committed to ski a famously vertical, tree-filled section set away from the main bustle of the resort. (You have to descend into the Morningside Park area, ride the Morningside lift up, then drop back down the front side of the resort to get there, so you’re not going to just stumble into the area.)
The one saving grace is that this run is relatively short, but the descent packs in some precise navigational demands. Make your turns thoughtfully if you don’t want to arrive at the village in a ski patrol sled.
9. Spanky’s Ladder
Blackcomb, British Columbia
We could write volumes about the terrain at Blackcomb, but if you’re looking for one fun test of mettle (and by "fun" we mean “really hard”), make your way to Spanky’s Ladder via a short bootpack from the top of the Glacier Express Quad.
From there it’s a long way down, parsing your way through cliff bands, tight spaces, and bowls below. Don’t go over any blind rollovers or corners hastily—sticking to the intended line is the name of the game.
10. Christmas Chute
All you want for Christmas is an Alaskan ski vacation. Yeah, us too. If you manage it and don’t spend your inheritance heli-skiing, Alyeska boasts some insane terrain. And one pinnacle of that terrain is the narrow, thousand-foot-long, 50-degree Christmas Chute.
The resort’s Glacier Bowl Express drops you off high on the mountain’s North Face area. From there, point yourself in the direction of Christmas Chute and hop-turn like there’s no tomorrow.
Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.
Featured image: Fred Marmsater, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort