By Allison Cohn
Colorado is a mountain playland for adrenaline junkies seeking vertigo-inducing terrain that would make snowsports newbies to quiver in their Hot Chillys. The double black diamond runs and out-of-bounds gates beckon to those with balls of steel and expert ninja skills. Here are some of Colorado’s most terrifying—ahem, exciting—expert only runs, including the most gnarly chutes, epic cornices, rocky cliffs and dense trees.
Disclaimer: But seriously, these runs are no joke. Find a friendly local to show you the ropes, ask ski patrol for advice, make sure you’ve got appropriate/required avalanche gear, research the current snow conditions and make sure your skills are super sharp before attempting any of this terrain.
Winter Park Steep Skiing: Hole-in-the-Wall Awe Chute to Trestle Trees
Photo: Winter Park Resort
Take Mary Jane's Challenger Lift to the "Expert Only Out-of-Bounds Area" and you’ll find this short, tight chute. Locals refer to it was “Worth the Walk,” because it takes some skillful navigating to access (snowboarders, be prepared to carry your board for a ways). If you don’t choose to opt out at one of several opportunities along the way (Baldy’s or Awe Chute), you’ll be faced with a classic hourglass that will shoot you out towards the bottom of Trestle, leading to Trestle Trees (look for the entry point on skier’s right, about a third of the way down Trestle). Trestle Trees are some of the steepest and rockiest glades on the mountain, both narrow and super technical. Unless your jump turns are on totally fleek, we don’t recommend risking this terrain.
Breckenridge Steep Skiing: Crazy Ivan 2
Photo: Courtesy of Breckenridge Ski Resort Facebook page
Located stealthily in Breckenridge’s Lake Chute Area, Crazy Ivan 2 won’t be marked on a trail map. This in-the-know-only, 49-degree slope is high atop Peak 8, about a fifteen minute hike off of the Imperial Express Superchair at a whopping elevation of nearly 13,000 feet. Look for the Zoot Chute trail on the map and Crazy Ivan 2 will be just off to the right. Clue: Look for the steepest line and follow that. You basically take a leap off of the cornice and expertly weave between rock outcroppings, before the trail eventually flattens out, following the ridgeline back down to 9 Lives. Godspeed, young grasshopper.
Aspen Steep Skiing: Highland Bowl
Photo: Aspen Snowmass
Simply glancing over the trail map for Aspen Highlands is enough to make your stomach drop. Especially the Highland Bowl, where the pitch of each run ranges from 38 to 48 degrees and is aptly detailed on said map, so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. To hike to the top of Highland Bowl may take you between 30 and 40 minutes, its elevation towering around 12,000 feet. Soak up the crazy view and resist the temptation to drop into the more accessible south facing runs (unless it’s one of those glorious spring days) — the best snow is on the north facing runs. It’ll be well worth the work, when you’re ripping down the hill through that pristine fluffy pow. Fun fact: The lift that takes you to the Highland Bowl is called Deep Temerity, which translates to “reckless boldness.” (Thanks for pointing that out, Buzzfeed!)
Telluride Steep Skiing: Senior’s
Photo: Brett Schreckengost/Telluride Ski Resort
This run is not for the faint hearted. To even access Senior’s, first you’ve got to hike to the summit of Telluride’s highest point, Palmyra Peak (elev. 13,320 feet), which might take up to two grueling hours at seriously high altitude. To access, ride Chair 12 to the top (11,815 feet), hang a left and start trekking upwards (most of the hike allegedly takes place along a narrow ridgeline, adding to the excitement). Once you’ve arrived at the tippy top, catch your breath and prepare to catapult yourself between rocks and down a 52 degree gully. Once you’ve expertly navigated your way between rocky cliffs, you’ll end up back in Black Iron Bowl with the rest of the pleebs (and will probably ready for a nap and/or a stiff drink).
Beaver Creek Steep Skiing: Birds of Prey
Built specifically for the 1999 World Cup Championship, Beaver Creek's Birds of Prey run drops dramatically 2,470 feet in 1.71 miles, with a 45 percent pitch somewhere towards the middle. This bad boy is considered one of the most challenging downhill courses in the world. It’s also easily accessible and, therefore, not-to-be-missed.
Crested Butte Steep Skiing: Rambo
Photo: Chris Segal/CBMR
It’s common knowledge that Crested Butte is notorious for its 542 acres of inbounds Double Black Diamond terrain. The High Lift and North Face T-Bars all lead to runs that could easily fall into the “extreme AF” category. But Rambo takes the cake: it’s the steepest cut ski run in the Lower 48. The pitch is a sharp 55 degrees, dropping nearly 1,000 vertical feet in less than .2 miles. (Pro tip: Hit The Glades before you drop into Rambo). (Photo/Avery Stonich) travelcrestedbutte.com Bonus: If you’re feeling especially ballsy, try Crested Butte’s Banana Chute run. (But not before checking conditions with ski patrol!) It’s located in a Class A Avalanche Zone, drops 3,000 vertical feet and funnels to a point that is only about two skis wide.
About the Author, Allison Cohn
Allison Cohn loves gold spray paint and nonsense. She also has a very difficult time sitting still and keeping quiet. She can often be found dancing like a fool when she isn’t hiding out in her mountain lair or gallivanting around the globe.