What do you do when you’ve perfected the piste, mastered the moguls and powder is a pleasure?

Black runs, red runs, whatever… These are the resorts that laugh in the face of health and safety, throw caution to the wind and push the envelope of what’s considered skiable… the question is, will you lick the stamp?

La Grave

Marketing itself as ‘The Freeride Village’, La Grave sits deep in the valley below the imposing La Meije mountain, its ancient stone buildings a far cry from the glitz of modern purpose-built ski resorts. If you are coming to La Grave it isn’t for comfort, but in fact to be out of your comfort zone. A 30-minute ride on the old (and only) lift from the town up to 3,200m and you will be among some of the most extreme terrain you can imagine, vast glacial slopes, steep couloirs and ‘must commit’ lines that will test the limit of your abilities.

There isn’t a piste map as such, more a danger map showing the lift line and warnings for seracs, cliffs and glacier crevasses. Needless to say, unless you are extremely experienced (and even if you are…) you should hire a guide to show you around and don’t oversell your skill level, La Grave has claimed the lives of some of the best extreme skiers over the years.

Explore La Grave with fully qualified Mountain Guides on our Freshtracks trips, bookable here.

Revelstoke

Until 2007 there wasn’t actually any ski lifts in Revelstoke, but that didn’t stop the locals enjoying their secret stash of huge terrain and deep powder using snowmobiles and helicopters to access the goods. Fast forward to 2018 and there are now 3 lifts with a 4th due next year and over 40 marked runs, 8 of which are Black Diamond rated. The resort still retains its backcountry credentials, with two steep ridges dropping into glades of powder before leading into some fantastic tree skiing. For those that want to get away from the crowds both cat-skiing and heliskiing are available, the surrounding terrain has almost endless possibilities, as well as a solid snow record throughout the season.

The one downside of Revelstoke is that it’s almost perfectly positioned between Calgary and Vancouver, meaning transfers to resort take around 5-6 hours, the alternative is to fly to Kelowna from either of the bigger airports but that’s still a 2-hour drive.

Chamonix

If there is one resort that deserves the ‘Extreme’ crown it is undoubtedly Chamonix, in fact, the term ‘extreme skiing’ was probably coined here with the exploits of Glen Plake, Scott Schmidt and Sylvain Saudan before them. In Chamonix there aren’t really boundaries, if you are crazy enough to do it, no one will stop you. From the well-skied tourist routes of the Vallee Blanche to the gut-wrenching drop down the north face of the Aiguille du Midi there are challenging routes for everyone competent enough to try them. Chamonix is also home to literally hundreds of mountain guides that know the area like the back of their hand and love showing it off to fellow alpine enthusiasts, whatever you do though, be humble, they have probably ‘out-extreme’d’ most of the Freeride World Tour athletes and then some. This is not the best place to be ‘all the gear and no idea’, it could get you killed.

One of the best things about Chamonix is how easy it is to get to, just an hour from Geneva Airport by car and there’s also a train station in the town centre for more eco-friendly travellers.

The Ski Club of Great Britain run Instructor-led Guiding services in Chamonix, bookable here, as well as Freshtracks Off Piste & Touring courses which you can read more about here.

Alyeska

Alaska’s only ski resort, Alyeska, may not be the biggest ski area on our list, or the most challenging, but the backcountry access to the Chugach range, via helicopter or tracked cat is world famous. If you’ve ever watched a ski movie and the athletes are charging down some Alaskan face that seems impossibly deep in powder despite being incredibly steep, chances are it was filmed in the Chugach range.  Since helicopters are somewhat weather dependent, and Alaskan weather is not the most dependable, having Alyeska resort (and the cat skiing option) for down days means an Alaskan adventure won’t get spoiled if the weather doesn’t play nice.

The resort itself has over 40 double black diamond runs, despite only having 5 lifts, so it’s perfect terrain to warm yourself up for big days out in the wilderness. Unlike most Alaskan ‘frontier’ accommodation, Alyeska has several rather luxurious hotels with big fireplaces, spa facilities and excellent restaurants.

Getting there is relatively easy, most major US airports have flights to Anchorage, which is less than an hour’s drive away.

Jackson Hole

One look at Jackson Hole’s iconic Rendezvous Mountain and surrounding Grand Teton range and you know that there is some serious terrain to be skied. The infamous Corbet’s couloir features in many viral videos, from pro riders dropping flips into the steep chute to Jerry of the Day clips of someone riding it on their face. Jackson Hole is a ‘go big or go home’ type of resort. A good example of the types of run the resort considers ‘in bounds’ is the S&S couloir, getting to it is an adventure in itself, you have to notify ski patrol that you are doing it. Then your next challenge is dropping into the chute from up to 40ft high (depending on snowpack) whilst twisting 90deg to the right to avoid smashing straight into the rock wall. Once you’ve survived that it’s another 90deg to the left to avoid the other side, followed by a fantastic steep and deep run out as an award for your bravery.

Getting to Jackson is, unfortunately, a bit of a mission, either you have to fly to the local airport from one of 12 major US airports or it’s a 4 ½ hour drive from Salt Lake City, though at least that keeps the powder a little more exclusive!

 

Make the most of your trip to Jackson Hole, ski with Ski Club Leaders and find the best snow in the resort - book here or book on to our Ultimate Ski trip to Jackson here.