Colorado’s ski resorts are brimming with awesome terrain for any level of skier. But for those powder-hounds who are craving something more challenging than your average run, you have to search a bit harder if you want to get the goods. If you’re looking to shred some spine tingling, heart stopping lines this season, then these ten trails might just have what you’re looking for!
As a reminder – these trails are for experienced skiers! Know and respect your limits.
There is expert terrain. There is double black diamond terrain. And then there is Rambo. Rambo is the steepest lift-serviced, cut run in North America. While most notorious steep runs flatten out after the first few turns, Rambo maintains a pitch of 55 degrees from top to bottom. In fact, the run is so vertical that snow tends to roll downhill, leaving the top a bit rocky. Your ski tips will dangle over the edge and you’ll need to be fully committed to every turn. The entire run is a no-fall zone. Thankfully the Rambo is just 300 meters long.
There is no doubt that Telluride is home to some of the best hike-to terrain in the world. It’s also known for its box canyon vistas, Chair 9 bumps, and steep piste. Dihedral Chute, and the adjacent Dihedral Face, are in the Black Iron Bowl. Which is a signature area for in-bounds powder skiing where skiers can enjoy 1000 vertical feet in a number of couliors. Dihedral Chute offers classic San Juan extreme skiing terrain if you’re willing to hike the 15 – 20 minutes it takes to get there. This run is steep and rocky but provides opportunities to catch some air or to play it safe. And Dihedral Face has a north eastern aspect that keeps the snow at high quality.
Breckenridge is home to the highest chairlift in North American sitting at 12,998 feet above sea level. The Lake Chutes on Peak 9 and the majority of Peak 6 provide skiers with some more technical, extreme terrain. The Six Senses is an above-tree line area of hike-to terrain between Peak 6 and 7, but the trudge is well worth it. It’s a wide-open face with lots of cliffs and chutes where skiers careen through narrow gulches and around rocky outcroppings. The Six Senses offers a lot of variation allowing skiers to create the own adventure on the way down.
A-Basin is home to some of the steepest terrain in Central Colorado. In the 2017/18 season they opened the Steep Gullies as part of their back country. These new steeps will be the most challenging skiing on the mountain. These steep, narrow chutes vary in pitch and width, and are rated double-black. A smattering of trees and boulders, and a lack of options put the Steep Gullies on the edge of reason. It’s also designated as “hike back” meaning you’ll need to hike 15 – 30 minutes back to the Pali chair after your run. The Steep Gullies are an expert skier’s dream. The kind of run you could ski every day, if you’re up for the challenge.
While Vail’s Back Bowls steal most of the attention on the mountain, some of the best expert terrain lives on the front side. There are cliffs, cornices, moguls, and varied terrain features scattered all over. Of those, the Prima Cornice is arguably the most challenging and steepest run on the mountain and should top the list of most-ski runs. The ridge-line provides a short vertical slope that can be a thrilling place for advanced skiers to score some deep powder.
The name, Body Bag, should really tell you everything you need to know about this run. But for those of you with morbid curiosity, Body Bag Glades drop 275 feet at 55 degrees. From the top, you can only see a horizon line, where the slope drops out of sight. There is no easy way down. And be sure you can stick the landing when you drop the mandatory 10-foot air at the bottom. It’s part of the resort’s “Extreme Limits” terrain that rightfully should be considered out-of-bounds, but this is Crested Butte.
From I-70, Loveland’s terrain can appear tame. But don’t let that vantage point fool you. Loveland boasts a decent serving of extreme terrain hidden off Chair 9, which tops out on the Continental Divide at 12,700 feet. Wild Child surpasses 50 degrees and will give any sane person butterflies while perched on top of the mega-cornice that forms above the right side. Wild Child requires about a 10 minutes hike, which usually deters the masses, so the snow stays soft longer. This run is short and sweet, mellowing as it descends.
Senior’s is big mountain terrain like you rarely find inbound in Colorado, and it’s not for the faint of heart. This hair-raising couloir drops off the summit of Telluride’s high point, 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak. The hike to get there is two hours up a boot pack that can feel precariously steep. Once you reach the top, the only way down is through a shoot wedged between two rocks on a slope measuring 52 degrees.
When thinking about Colorado’s extreme ski terrain, humble Sunlight Mountain isn’t often top of mind. But don’t brush it off until you’ve managed to tame this 52 degree slope off Sunlight’s East Ridge. The first 100 yards start off at a gentle decline. But after that, you’ll either need to commit to your turns or take a tumble. The Heathen is also known as a secret stash among locals.
High life is considered by many to be one of the most intimidating and extreme inbound zones in the state. It’s located off the North Face Lift with a mandatory hike along a ridge marked with 150-foot cliffs and aggressive lines. When you reach the entrance, the views may leave you wondering what in the world you were thinking. You’ll be forced to choose an entry point. The first entry requires some stealthy moves through the cliff band. The second requires a side step down to a 100-foot cliff, with no clear path through until you reach the absolute edge of the cliff. Even the easiest option requires an extremely awkward mandatory air, with no option of turning around once you’re there.