We all have those dreams—skiing forever, down a run that just goes on and on (and on), without having to get on that lift back up.
Thanks to some very high lifts, the ability to hike, and the ability to take a helicopter up, there are a few places in the world where you can achieve this feeling.
Longest Ski Runs: The Small Print
There are ‘issues’ with some of the runs that say they’re amongst the world’s longest. A common one is that, assuming you have the stamina, you can actually go all the way from top to bottom in one go. Most require hike arounds or a short lift ride back out to complete the full descent.
Another factor can be the weather. To ski the longest verticals, you need to keep going lower and lower towards sea level, in most cases making it less and less likely that you’ll find snow the lower you go. You’ll need to time your visit well with a cold, snowy day.
And of course, you can make a very, very long descent by making wide, near horizontal crossings of any mountain face going hundreds of feet for every few feet of descent, but we’re not counting those in our list.
All that being understood, here they are…
The Main Contenders
1. The Vallee Blanche (Chamonix, France): 22km/14 miles
Popularly agreed to be the world’s longest route, especially one that is lift served, the Valle Blanche is accessed via a precipitous arette (snowy ridge) from the safety of the Aiguille du Midi lift station.
The full descent is around 20km (13 miles) long and descends some 2700 vertical metres (almost double the lift-served vertical at Whistler Blackcomb). However, it is all off-piste and through potentially dangerous terrain – sometimes avalanches, sometimes crevasses – so it’s unwise to attempt without a guide. If the snow is old and wind blown, it’s quite a long haul too. You need to remove your skis usually towards the bottom to cross the moraine at the base of the glacier.
2. Zermatt to Valtournenche (Switzerland & Italy): 20km/13 miles
The world’s longest on-piste run is (arguably) the descent from Europe’s highest lift. It starts at the top of one (of two) of the world’s year-round snow centres, nearly 3,900m up above Zermatt in Switzerland. You descend mostly moderate-grade pistes over the border into Italy and down to the village of Valtournenche, some 2,300 vertical metres below.
This is a spectacular run but it is one where you normally need to take a short lift half way down to make the full descent. So, like the Vallee Blanche, it’s not totally straightforward.
3. Sarenne (Alpe d’Huez, France): 16km / 10 miles
Billed as the world’s longest black run, the Sarenne descent is completely on-piste and descends more than 2,000 vertical metres. It’s especially challenging in parts with glaciated slopes at the top. This winter, there’s new snowmaking and floodlighting atop most of the slope, promising amazing evening descents.
4. The Last Spike (Revelstoke, Canada): 15km / 9.5 miles
The home of North America’s biggest lift-served vertical, it’s no surprise that Revelstoke is home to one of its longest runs. The Last Spike zig zags beautifully down the mountain through the trees for miles (and miles) and can be tackled by skiers of all levels. View Revelstoke lift tickets.
5. Mount Saint Elias (US Alaskan/Canadian border): 5.5km / 3.4 miles
As far as I’m aware, no one has actually measured the length of the descent down Mount Saint Elias, but it does have the greatest potential lift-served vertical at 5,489m from summit to sea level. Assuming you traverse some of the precipitously steep sections, it seems likely that hiking or taking a helicopter up this could offer one of longest run on the planet.
The conditions are so extreme though that the number of people to have tried it so far can be counted with the fingers on two hands. Sadly, some of them are still on the mountain today having not completed their run.
To this day, no one has skied the full 5,489m in one go. Extreme skiers Peter Ressman and Axel Naglich did ski it in 2007, but did so in two stages, several months apart, because of the conditions.
Other areas claiming runs of similar length (15-16km/9-10 miles) include: Bad Gastein and Solden in Austria; La Plagne and Samoens in France; and Laax, Murren and Verbier in Switzerland. Most have around 2,000 (or more) lift-served vertical metres.
Juggernaut, Killington, Vermont: 10km/6.6 miles
Juggernaut is proudly boasted as the longest in Eastern North America. It is a very gentle affair and great for beginners to tackle and enjoy their achievement. View Killington lift tickets.