Looking to tick the best black runs off your bucket list? Check out our pick of some of the most challenging pistes in Europe…
The Swiss Wall, Avoriaz, France
You’ll find the Swiss Wall (called Le Pas de Chavanette on the piste map) on the French/Swiss border. With a difficulty rating that’s literally off the charts – it’s technically classed as orange – it’s more demanding than most black slopes. Though only 1km long, the wide run drops 331m. It’s great fun after fresh snowfall, but if you’re late to the party you might have to conquer car-sized moguls.
Harakiri, Mayrhofen, Austria
Named after an ancient samurai practice, the Harakiri is infamous as Austria’s steepest ski slope – so steep it needs a custom-built piste basher. The run is just 2km long but throws you in right at the deep end, with a 78% incline. And with few moguls and often icy conditions, you’ll need some good technique to get down. Celebrate your victory with an ‘I survived Harakiri’ t-shirt and a drink in the Harakiri bar.
Grand Couloir, Courchevel, France
Accessed from the Saulire cable car, some say that traversing the narrow track at the top – with a sheer drop on both sides – is the most difficult part of the Grand Couloir. For others, it’s saving face as they make their way down the moguls, watched by skiers on the piste below.
Lauberhorn, Wengen, Switzerland
The longest, and arguably toughest, course on the World Cup circuit, the Lauberhorn is not to be taken on lightly. That said, confident intermediates can conquer its 4.5km length – just avoid it straight after January’s race day, unless you love skiing on sheet ice. The Eiger and Jungfrau are your backdrop and the most famous parts of the run are well signposted – essential for your social media captions and location tags later on.
La Face de Bellevarde, Val d’Isère, France
La Face, a ski bucket list favourite since the 1992 Winter Olympics, looks deceptively easy from the top. But don’t be fooled – it’s seriously steep. Take it on mid-morning once the snow has softened, but don’t leave it too late or the icy patches will have morphed into moguls. You’ll get a buzz when you reach the bottom and look back up at what you’ve conquered.
Saslong, Selva Val Gardena, Italy
Used for the annual men’s downhill race in December, the Saslong is kept in racing condition for most of the season. This is one to take at speed. Enjoy the 3.5km of corduroy and camel humps that can send you soaring. And watch out for the Ciaslat meadow section – four sharp turns in quick succession that can catch out even the pros.