Chamonix is known as the 'death sport capital of the world'. On any given day you’ll see ice-climbers, paragliders and extreme skiers defying death in the shadows of Mont Blanc, which looms large over the resort. Chamonix is one of Europe’s tallest resorts so the snow is more consistent and there’s over 170km of piste. There’s also more ski guides here than anywhere else on earth ready to help you down backcountry chutes.
Revelstoke is the world’s epi-centre of backcountry skiing and heli-skiing was pioneered near here in the 1960s. Now there’s five heli-ski companies based in or around the town and 95% of the world’s heli-skiing happens in British Colombia. There is over 12m of dry snow falling each season and when your heli-skiing’s over, Revelstoke is home to the steepest slopes in North America!
Verbier is the home of extreme skiing in the Alps and it's not hard to find backcountry terrain around the resort. Just take a cable car up the mountain and take a short hike and you’re set to take on Europe’s most famous off-piste stomach-churning runs. If you’re interested in improving your skills the resort has the best clinic for expert skiers in Europe.
Canada’s Powder Highway is one of the world’s most under-rated ski areas. This series of roads wraps around nine of Canada’s most extreme ski resorts. 60% of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is designated ‘experts only’. With its extreme ski bowls and chutes Kicking Horse has won every hard-core ski accolade awarded by North American ski magazines.
With a name like La Grave, it’s not surprising the resort is known as ‘Death Mountain’. There’s just one cable car at La Grave and no groomed terrain or ski patrols. Head up to 3,200m where there’s only two marked pistes on the glacier, the rest is entirely up to you to get down. With 2,000m of vertical drop and runs that tilt beyond 50 degrees La Grave is the most extreme backcountry ski mountain in the world.
If you don’t like steep ski runs, don’t even consider Jackson Hole - it's North America’s most extreme ski mountain and has some of the steepest backcountry ski runs in the world. But with plenty of groomed runs still suitable for intermediates, Jackson Hole is one of the best mountains for skiers to hone their skills. You can work towards areas like Corbet's Couloir - where you’ll need to take a six metre drop just to enter this 40 degree-pitched slope.
Niseko is the world’s snowiest ski resort. Each season it receives over 15m of the world’s driest snow and there's often a metre of snow overnight in January or February. If you arrive between late December and mid-February you’re virtually guaranteed waist-deep powder. Unlike many other resorts in Japan, you’re permitted to ski between the trees, offering more deep snow thrills. But be warned, take a tumble and you might not get up (always ride with a buddy). Stay on your feet and you’ll ski the deepest runs of your life.
There is no more historic backcountry in European skiing than Kitzbühel – the site of one of the first alpine ski descents in Europe. Kitzbühel is home to challenging pistes and 200km/sq of treacherous backcountry skiings. The resort plays host to the world’s most famous downhill ski race – the Streif. The best skiers on the planet travel at up to 150 km/h across jumps, bumps and extreme steeps. Kitzbühel is so steep it’s where the Austrian ski team chooses to practice!
Heli-skiing is banned in many European countries but the best place to access the terrain is from the Valais valley in Switzerland. You’ll be picked up from either Zermatt or Verbier and taken to designated landing zones across Italy and Switzerland. The advantage of heli-skiing in Europe over America is that you can ski in more than one country in the same day. You’ll also access long glaciers, huge deep bowls and more tree runs than you will in North America.
Mayrhofen has one of the world’s top snowboard parks. The Burton Park has huge table-top jumps that attract Europe’s biggest names in skiing and snowboarding. Mayrhofen also is home to the world’s steepest groomed slope – Harakiri Piste, named after the Japanese ritual of suicide by Samurai sword. If that’s not enough thrills for you, there’s always Europe’s steepest glacier runs, Hintertux, just 19km away.