Not many things are as gratifying as the adrenaline-fueled, thigh-burning sensation of skiing. Not just a step up from the gentle cruising around nicely pisted slopes, but by amping up your experience tenfold, you can experience the true meaning of the extreme sport.
While there can be dodgy moments along the way: catching a lip at high speed or your legs screaming at the 200th mogul: you will be flying high on the buzz that will keep you coming back for more.
If you want to take on the most challenging ski slopes in Europe, then bring Powster's best ski goggles, ski glasses, snow pants, snow jacket together and come on an adventure if you dare! Do you think you can take it?
Verbier is widely viewed as one of Europe's most challenging ski resorts due to its steep off-piste terrain and a whopping 103km of black pistes! Verbier is famous for its off-piste powder and long mogul fields. Most runs that would be black in many resorts are classed as ‘itineraries’ here, meaning they’re marked but not maintained or controlled. For those wanting to tick the most challenging significant itinerary off their buck list, head to Chassoure Gondola and tackle ‘Tortin’. This north-facing bowl is exceptionally shaded, with well-formed giant moguls… not for the nervous intermediate! Beyond the 410km of world-class terrain, Verbier is one of Europe’s major heli-skiing. Petit Combin, Rosablanche, Trient glacier or Pigne d’Arolla are some of the heliskiing landing zones around Verbier which allow long unforgettable runs far away from the crowds.
Test your bravery on these infamous runs::
- Rock ‘n Roll
- Backside of Mont-Fort
- Front-side of Mont Gele
- Turtle Back
Val d’Isere is up there with the most popular ski resorts in the world, many are lured in by the bouncing party atmosphere, but some are enhanced by the most challenging terrain on the planet. While Val d'Isère might not attract the same type of gnarly skier as Chamonix — the kind who won't go out without ropes, ice axe and crampons — it is, without doubt, one of the most incredible places for experts to ski in the world. With World Cup pistes, open powder fields, freeride terrain, fantastic itineraries, couloirs and plenty of lift-served off-piste, Val d'Isère offers a massive range of terrain. There will be enough to keep you interested for several weeks if not months.
Top tip: If you want an off-piste challenge, head to the steep couloirs around the La Grande Balme. Remember to bring the best snow helmet, always protect their safety
Avoriaz - La Chavanette
Avoriaz is an excellent choice for expert skiers and snowboarders as it has the most black runs in the Portes du Soleil. The Hauts Forts sector is the place to head, with three long blacks of around 1000m vertical and many off-piste variants. With legendary ‘car-sized’ moguls and a thrilling 76% incline that inspires its name, The Swiss Wall makes it to the Most Challenging Resort Hall of Fame! You will find it on the border between Switzerland and France, accessed by Avoriaz or Les Crosets and Champery.
The infamous “Swiss Wall” may get all the publicity, but if you like long black mogul runs, you should try the Combe du Machon in the Les Hauts Forts area, which is at least as challenging and often has the better snow.
Chamonix has dominated the game for the world’s best skiers and riders for over a century. It has 41km of black runs, with endless and varied freeride opportunities. Home to a World Cup downhill course with lots of challenging off-piste terrain, Chamonix is truly a top contender for testing your skills. You can test your limits in the Vallée Blanche or try the off-piste on the Grands Montets glacier. Or try the Mer de Glace, a fantastic, 12-mile-plus off-piste run from the top of 12,599ft Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix. Strong intermediates can tackle this, while the experts will be sliding down 40-degree-plus slopes such as the Couloir du Dru and Rectiligne.
Although St Anton is notorious for its après scene, it is also one of Europe's most challenging ski resorts. It held the World Alpine Ski Championships in 2001 and still stages World Cup races. You will find 30 Herculean black runs to challenge yourself on, and the off-piste terrain will surely keep you busy too. The great powder drop-ins off Valluga and down towards Zürs are a fantastic experience on a powder day. C
Expert skiers on a Courchevel ski trip are privy to an overwhelming amount of terrain possibilities. The daring skiing in the Three Vallees will leave challenge-seekers wanting more and more. From steep, thrilling black pistes to daring off-piste challenges, there is an abundance of fun to be had for the top skiers and snowboarders. Undoubtedly, Courchevel's Grand Couloir is the steepest black run in the 3 Valleys! After navigating the steep track, grit your teeth and launch into the most challenging run in the 3 Valleys: 692m long, 350m altitude drop and an 85% maximum gradient.
As an expert hungry for the next bigger and better challenge, Mayrhofen will prove up to the task of taking your ego down a notch. Mayrhofen is home to Austria's steepest slope, the 78% Harakiri run, which rightly has a reputation as a very steep and challenging run. The blacks are much less intimidating elsewhere, but there is some tremendous off-piste in the area following fresh snowfall. Advanced skiers will want to clock up the miles by visiting as many other resorts in the Zillertal as possible – but note that none offer serious challenges for experts. So you will want to head to the northern slopes of Knorren Mountain for a nail-biting experience.
Even accomplished winter athletes will not get bored in Alpe d'Huez. The long, black runs surrounding the Pic Blanc and a lot of open terrain for freeriding offer challenges for all ability levels. A real advantage for professionals: most high-altitude glacier runs are marked as black runs, with good reason. The advanced skiers, therefore, have the best snow for themselves. The Grand Domaine ski area has plenty of long and challenging pistes for those searching for a thigh-burning run; there are 27 red and 17 black pistes.
'Le Tunnel' run beneath the Pic Blanc cable car has a standard 'black' level steepness, and is not for the faint-hearted. The snow can be tough in the mornings because it only gets late afternoon sun, which results in super-mogully in the afternoons. Those who realise they may have bitten off more than they can chew can 'escape' onto the cat track for a less challenging route down. Remember that this piste can be subject to several last-minute closures due to condition changes.
Andermatt has a vast 29km of black pistes and a boundless amount of challenging off-piste terrain. This makes it one of the most sought-after ski resorts for expert skiers and snowboarders. For the best freeride skiing, why not give the Gemsstock Mountain the good ol' college try? There are many steep descents and verticals to explore with a local mountain guide. You will find that the black runs towards Sedrun are also a good challenge. Once you have tackled these, you can proudly say you have skied one of the most difficult Swiss ski resorts around.
Known for the iconic view of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is also one of the hardest ski resorts in Europe. It has 64km of black runs to test yourself on, and the off-piste terrain is incredible. The skiing in Zermatt is incredibly vast, with the combined ski areas of Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia amounting to 360km of marked pistes, an advanced skier’s heaven. The resort has an excellent snow record due to many north-facing slopes and an altitude of 1,620m-3,820m. The best lift-served off-piste is off the Klein Matterhorn into the main town.
The Stockhorn and Gant areas are exceptional, too, if you book a local mountain guide. Zermatt has everything you need for a memorable ski holiday with some of the longest pistes in the world with notable vertical drops, spectacular views, and superb mountain restaurants for those well-earned breaks, and you will find yourself coming back year after year like so many others who have fallen for the spell that the Matterhorn casts.
With these resorts on your bucket list, you will surely satisfy that tickle for more. So once you've got those bad boys out of your system, what else can you turn your skis and snowboards to?