- 1 The Swiss Wall in Avoriaz, Les Portes du Soleil (France)
- 2 The Tunnel, Alpe d'Huez (France)
- 3 La Sarenne, Alpe d'Huez (France)
- 4 Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs (France)
- 5 Harakiri, Mayrhofen Zillertal (Austria)
- 6 Àliga, Grandvalira (Andorra)
- 7 Descenso Veleta, Sierra Nevada (Spain)
- 8 Infierno, Formigal (Spain)
- 9 Grand Couloir, Courchevel (France)
- 10 Face de Bellevarde, Val d'Isere (France)
Adrenaline junkies, this article is for you advanced skiers and black slopes enthusiasts. Austria, Spain, Andorra, France. We have selected the most challenging slopes in Europe, you simply have to try.
While not all of these runs are the most dangerous ones, they all combine technically demanding elements with a level of difficulty that has made them legendary. If you can conquer any of these slopes, stunning views and an adrenaline rush will be your reward and you'll feel rightly proud of your accomplishment.
The Swiss Wall in Avoriaz, Les Portes du Soleil (France)
Let's start our list in one of the skiing hotspots, France. Or was it Switzerland? No one really seems to know which country is home to this slope, but right on the border between France and Switzerland, in the ski resort of Avoriaz in Portes du Soleil, we find Le Pas de Chavanette, a ski slope better known as the Swiss Wall.
The Swiss Wall is not a black slope but an orange one, offering a length of about 1 km and a vertical drop of 330 metres with an inclination of 32º. What is an orange ski slope, you ask? Well, it pretty much means it’s just too difficult to be put into one of the regular difficulty categories (green, blue, red, or black). The slope has moguls throughout and should only be taken by very experienced skiers and riders wearing protective gear such as a helmet and a back protector
The Tunnel, Alpe d'Huez (France)
While not the most renowned run in Alpe d'Huez, Le Tunnel boasts a stellar reputation in the Alps. If you're seeking something out of the ordinary, this is the slope for you. Located at an altitude of 3300 meters, the run begins with a long tunnel that feels like a cave carved into the mountain, which you must navigate before reaching the heart of the trail.
In order to reach the Tunnel, you will have to go all the way up to Pic Blanc and ski down the first part of another famous tough slope, La Sarenne. Once you come out on the other side you will be face to face with the vertical drop to the slope, and at this point, there is really just one way down, and it’s right in front of you.
The scenery is breathtaking and the degree of difficulty varies depending on the weather conditions. In powdery snow and in the warmth of the sun on the way down, The Tunnel is quite enjoyable. However, when it is cold and the tunnel exit is icy, it takes on a more sinister character with steep slopes, icy conditions, and a multitude of moguls. This trail is an absolute must-do for adrenaline junkies seeking a thrilling challenge!
La Sarenne, Alpe d'Huez (France)
Yup, Alpe d'Huez again. Remember how we said the Tunnel was probably not the most difficult slope in this French ski resort? Well, la Sarenne probably is. In fact, it's the heart and soul of Alpe d'Huez. With its 16 km of continuous descent and 2,000 m of vertical drop, it's considered the longest slope in the world.
It is a ten-kilometre black run with steep slopes, while the next six kilometres are much gentler. It takes more than an hour to reach the end, and there are no climbs at all on the entire route. It's certainly the resort's biggest attraction, attracting skiers and snowboarders from all over the world for more than 30 years;
Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs (France)
At an altitude of 3,226 m above sea level in Les Arcs ski resort, lies Aiguille Rouge, also known as the Red Needle. Even if you're not an advanced skier, it's worth ascending to the top for the breathtaking view. Upon reaching the summit, you'll be rewarded with a 360º panorama of the entire Alpine range, and the sky bridge offers a unique vantage point to capture your winter memories.
After taking in the magnificent scenery, it's time to prepare for the descent. The 9 km ride down Aiguille Rouge is a lengthy and exhilarating experience, taking even the most skilled skiers 20–30 minutes to complete the 2026 m vertical drop.
Harakiri, Mayrhofen Zillertal (Austria)
Whoever named this slope had a dark sense of humour but strangely enough, it only intensifies the desire to ski it. Just as a reminder, the word "Harakiri" refers to the act of taking one's own life, practised by samurai men. Does this fact frighten or intrigue you?
This slope is located in Mayrhofen Ski Zillertal 3000, Austria, and is renowned as one of the most challenging slopes not only in Europe but in the world. With a gradient of 37º and a 1.5 km piste length, this slope boasts a vertical drop of 375 m. If you are looking for a great adrenaline rush then look no further because we’re pretty sure this is as good as it gets.
Àliga, Grandvalira (Andorra)
In the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, Grandvalira, we find a slope that has just recently attracted worldwide recognition as an iconic slope, after hosting the Ladies' Alpine Skiing World Cup in February 2016. The Àliga slope was created in 2000 as an extension to the El Tarter ski area.
Technically speaking, Àliga starts off easy but shortly after becomes much more difficult, and you have to let your skis run a lot more until the next sharp right-hand bend. The slope is very varied, with several jumps in the course, exciting turns and changes in gradient, commercially it is a long and very attractive slope.
Descenso Veleta, Sierra Nevada (Spain)
Spain, yes Spain, you read that right. In this country of coastlines with fantastic beaches, we also have mountains and snow, and in fact, Spain is quite a mountainous country with some legendary ski slopes. Sierra Nevada, Europe's southernmost ski resort, is perhaps Spain's most internationally renowned snow resort. All thanks to the fact that one day, some people came up with the idea of holding an Alpine skiing world cup in this Andalusian region in 1996.
The slope does not give you any rest, the beginning is very steep with a maximum gradient of up to 48%, there are no big and long curves and its average gradient is 25%, therefore the speed is very high and constant until the finish line. Nowadays, it is made up of different slopes, although it is not identical to the World Cup downhill, there are some small variations, but it is possible to do almost the same 4 kilometres in one go.
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Infierno, Formigal (Spain)
Formigal is a ski resort located in the Aragonese Pyrenees, very close to the border with France, therefore, you will find a multitude of expert skiers from both countries, enjoying some of the best slopes in the area. The location of this ski resort means that many of the slopes are only suitable for expert skiers.
This is the case with El Infierno slope, which literally translates as hell, a slope with good snow quality and a very steep slope that will allow you to descend the Portalet hill at full speed and with very steep turns. This slope can be reached by chairlift, but if you want even more excitement, you can ask the Ski Ratrack, a kind of snow truck, to drop you off at different starting points to discover new descents.
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Grand Couloir, Courchevel (France)
The Grand Couloir in Courchevel is renowned as one of the most challenging pistes due to its steepness of 35º and the fact of not being groomed. To make the run more manageable, it is recommended to hit it early after fresh snowfall. Despite being only 630 m long, it boasts a vertical drop of 340 m, making for an intense experience. The path to get there is also noteworthy, as skiers and snowboarders must navigate a narrow and undulating passage marked by previous riders with steep drops on either side.
Once you get past the first section you reach the steepest part, 85%, the steepest maximum gradient for a slope in Europe, rivalling that of Harakiri (Mayrhofen), which is 78%. Grand Couloir, however, apart from being steep, has scary rock walls on both sides. From start to finish, skiing the Grand Couloir is a full-fledged adventure that any thrill-seeker should experience.
Face de Bellevarde, Val d'Isere (France)
Val d'Isere's "La Face" is the most iconic slope in Val d'Isere, known for being the men's downhill run during the 1992 Olympics. Designed by Swiss ski champion Bernhard Russi, this fearsome slope has an impressive 65% gradient at its peak point, finishing with a demanding wall at arrival.
Timing is key to conquering this challenging piste. It's best avoided in the morning when the snow is too icy or after 3 pm when it becomes a bumpy mush. Don't miss your chance to tackle this famous slope on your next Alps skiing adventure.
We hope to have given you plenty of ideas for your next ski holiday and inspired you to take on new challenges if you feel up to the task. We are sure that all these rides will give you an incredible adrenaline rush, a memorable experience, and a great story to tell!