Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, to some extent, fame is too. What qualifies a ski run to be one of “the world’s most famous” largely depends on where you are in the world and what you consider “fame.” If you live in North America, you’ll have a different list from people living in Europe—and even living in a particular state or province will give you a differing perspective.
Below is a list of some of the most famous ski runs around the world. Go ahead and add some (or all!) of these to your bucket list, tweaking it to include your personal preferences too:
1. Streif, Kitzbuhel, Austria
You may think you don’t know the Streif run, but it is the piste that has hosted the largest ski race in the world every January for around 80 years. Named the Hahnenkamm, it’s in fact the biggest sporting event in Austria each year. Every great ski racer in history has wanted to win it, and while you may not want to complete the two-mile long course in the two minutes that the pros do, it’s still your duty to go there and pay homage at least once in your life.
2. Corbet’s Couloir, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
Corbet’s is one of the world’s “rites of passage” ski runs. It begins with an infamous three-nine metre freefall drop in, depending on your route, on to a slope pitching at more than 50%. But those who pluck up courage to jump in nonchalantly say afterwards, “skied it, done it,” and report that it’s actually quite easy.
Named after one of the original surveyors of the resort, Barry Corbet predicted it would one day be skied when he first saw it in 1963. Four years later in 1967, local ski patroller Lonnie Ball was the first person to do it.
3. Hidden Valley, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
A remarkable blue/red run of about 8km (5 miles) in length from Cortina’s Lagazuoi (2,750m) peak. (In Europe, blue indicates an easy trail and red indicates an intermediate trail.)
After the 360 degree views from the terrace of the Lagazuoi mountain restaurant at the top, the trail carves its way through vast and towering Dolomitic structures, passing frozen waterfalls that somehow give it a secret, private feel—hence the name, Hidden Valley. It’s rare that you’ll come across more than a handful of other skiers on the run.
4. The Wall, Portes du Soleil, France / Switzerland
The Wall—also known as The Swiss Wall, or, if you are actually Swiss, “le Mur Suisse” or “Le Pas de Chavanette”—is a precipitous mogul field that straddles the border of France and Switzerland. It is located in the heart of a vast ski area called the Portes du Soleil, which links a dozen ski resorts in both countries under one lift pass offering a total of about 650km/400 miles of runs.
As with many runs, how difficult it is to ski The Wall comes down, in most part, to the conditions on any given day. If it’s cold and it has not snowed in weeks, those massive moguls will be icy, and the likelihood of a long bumpy slide if you lose an edge is high. It can be milder sometimes though.
5. Gunbarrel, Heavenly, California, USA
Arguably the world’s best known bumps run, Gunbarrel plummets 610 vertical metres of continuous moguls down The Face, the mountainside above Heavenly’s California Base Lodge. The fall line is fairly constant and it is basically a case of bend your knees and go. (And go. And go.) The main variable is the size of the moguls and/or the quality of the snow. If you can risk looking up for a moment, there are magnificent views of Lake Tahoe.
The run, which has played host to the U.S. Freestyle Championships, is normally groomed only once at the start of the season. At this point, the run is briefly a great high speed, steep cruiser, but the moguls grow and grow as the season progresses and more people ski it.
View Heavenly lift tickets.
6. Pista Ventina, Zermatt, Switzerland to Cervinia, Italy
Pista Ventina has many names, but it is essentially a magnificent intermediate standard piste that’s open for snowsports 365 days a year. It begins at Europe’s highest lift-served point, on the nearly 3,900m high top lift station of Zermatt’s glacier ski area (across from the mighty Matterhorn), and carves its way over the border in to Italy and down to the resort of Cervinia.
The run is 11.5km (7 miles) long through incredible scenery and descends nearly 1,800 vertical metres, making it an absolutely stunning descent.
7. Goat, Stowe, Vermont, USA
Goat is famed for its “classic New England” terrain—particularly the “Front Four” double black diamond runs that carve down the steep slopes of Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont (1,339 metres). With the first recorded ski descent taken here 101 years ago, Stowe is one of those special destinations in world skiing.
It’s hard to decide which of The Front Four to choose but Goat seems to be the closest to perfection with steepness, narrowness and a tough fall line.
View Stowe lift tickets.
8. La Vallée Blanche, Chamonix, France
La Vallée Blanche is the longest lift-served vertical descent (some 2800m/9200 feet). It begins with a vertigo-inducing shuffle down a snowy arête (sharp ridge) from the upper tram station of the Aiguille du Midi lift above Chamonix, in your ski boots, carrying your skis.
From the top of the run, it’s a 22km (14 mile) descent through stunning scenery, with a guide essential to safely negotiate the glacial terrain. The run can be heavenly if the snow is fresh, but less so if it’s wind swept slab all the way down.