Black runs are the most difficult runs on any given mountain and should only be attempted by confident advanced skiers. It is always best to check with your resort how they classify a black run as this can vary from resort to resort and also between different countries. Strictly speaking a black run is steep and usually has a gradient of 40% and above, in addition it may not be groomed.
In recent years resorts have reclassified some of their best runs as ‘yellow’ runs which are un-groomed and unpatrolled ski routes that are technically off-piste skiing in a marked area so that the ski resorts can absolve responsibility of skier safety on these runs.
Below are our top five black runs for the 2013 ski season.
La Chavanette, Avoriaz, France
More commonly known as The Swiss Wall this run has the ability to scare skiers just at the mention of its name. It is an exceptionally hard run which is re-enforced at the top with a sign that says ‘Danger, for experts only’. This near vertical run is so severe at the beginning that you can hardly see what is to come. It runs for a massive 1000m and boasts a vertical drop of 331 metres as well as plenty of moguls for skiers to navigate around. The run is extremely exposed leaving it open to winds which can quickly turn the snow to ice, proving hazardous for those who are not sure how to cope with icy conditions. However, the biggest danger is having an out of control skier tumbling into you. Skiers will boarder hop as they head down La Chavanette, starting in Avioraz, France the run finishes near Les Crosets in Switzerland.
Corbets Couloir, Jackson Hole, USA
The Corbets Couloir in Jackson Hole is a run that every hard-core skier must attempt at least once in their life-time, although even the most advanced skiers can take a while just plucking up the courage to leap. A lot of skiers take the trip up the mountain just to view this world-renowned run. There is an ‘easy’ way of getting on to the piste, to the left side of the run there is a vertical jump which becomes a more controlled slide if a lot of snow has accumulated on it. However the usual way of tackling this hugely reputable run is by jumping three or four metres and barely having time to compose yourself before you have to throw your weight to the left and turn sharply in order to avoid hitting a rock. Once you’ve done the leap the run opens up into a comfortable wide run which doesn’t exceed 40 degrees, fairly average for an expert run. It really does just take that one leap of faith. There are some fantastic luxury ski chalets that you can stay in that overlook the mountain from the outside hot tubs!
Tortin, Verbier, Switzerland
Not for the faint-hearted, Tortin in Verbier is an extremely steep run. The run itself may look tame but it should not be underestimated and skiers will have to have full concentration when heading down the trail as the terrain gets increasingly difficult and if your turns aren’t sharp enough you could end up finishing your ski season.
Le Tunnel, Alpe d’Huez, France
Although Alpe d’Huez is home to the longest black run in Europe, the 16km Sareene, it is Le Tunnel which really provides thrills and extreme skiing. The gradient and general difficultly of Le Tunnel is typical of a black run although getting onto the slope can be awkward and the conditions are often better in the afternoon than in the morning because it gets the afternoon sun. You can either approach the piste via a black mogul field on the back face, alternatively for those less daring you can skirt the edge until you reach the path which leads to the 60m tunnel. After emerging from the tunnel you get the real experience, the slope feels as though it is falling away at a vertical angle providing a real adrenaline rush for skiers.
Triftji, Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is a must go ski destination for expert skier and is home to the Triftji run. This world-famous bump run is regarded as one of the toughest and longest runs in the world. You have to have a faultless bump technique in order to get to the bottom of the slope safely. Triftji attracts plenty of international competitive skiers to its end of season bump bash.