Top 15 Hardest Ski Runs In North America
From the steepest ski run in North America to the hardest ski runs in the US, this list brings together the steep, deep, and enchanting world of the most challenging runs.
Rambo at Crested Butte is the steepest human-made run in North America, with a pitch of 55 degrees. An experience unlike any other, dropping down at the Rambo is no easy feat for even the most seasoned skier. The run's steepness is sustained for 300 yards, with moguls and trees along the way. It’s safe to say that hop turns are a necessity. As you look back on the terrain after you've finished, the sense of awe and accomplishment is also sustained.
#2 Mcconkey’s / Eagle’s Nest
Named after the “Godfather of Freestyle Skiing and Ski-Base Jumping”, Shane McConkey, this slope lives up to the term ‘legendary’. Once you’re off the KT-22 chair lift, you arrive at the McConkey’s Slopes after giving the McConkey memorial a pat and a 15-minute hike. Three routes carry you down this riveting slope. The Center Route is the World’s Steepest Lift Accessible Slope with a 68-degree pitch at its steepest division. The McConkey’s Slope and Olympic Resort, Palisades Tahoe, is seen as a freestyle skier’s heaven, so if you are an expert freestyle skier up for a game of G.N.A.R. put this run on your list.
#3 Senior’s Run / Palmyra Peak
Located at 13,320 feet at the summit of Telluride, Senior’s Run at Palmyra Peak is one of the most demanding slopes in North America. The hike is challenging, for sure. You have to hike along a very narrow ridge line with your skis and backcountry equipment to reach the beginning of this thrilling line. With a 52 degrees pitch, the occasional rocks along the way present the opportunity of catching some air and doing some aerials for our freestyle riders out there.
#4 Corbet’s Couloir
Every skier has dreamed of this run. Corbet’s Couloir’s chute in Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is the double black diamond slope with an immediate 10 to 20 feet drop. At Corbet Couloir, what the mountain demands from you are courage, exquisite technique, and nerves of steel. This high-speed run now welcomes skiers and snowboarders from around the world at RedBull’s “no-holds-barred freeride contest” Kings and Queens of Corbet’s. Pitched at 50 degrees Corbet’s Couloir is at the top of every skier’s/rider’s bucket list.
#5 Christmas Chute
With 40 feet-wide rock walls on either side, the 1,500-foot-vertical at a narrow chute pitched at 50 degrees takes a lot of guts. Once completed, it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. Taking Chair 6, the “Glacier Bowl Express”, atop this chute will be just enough to get your adrenaline going. A video is worth a million words when it comes to this run. One of the hardest in North America, the Christmas Chute run is another bucket list slope for a skier.
#6 Lake Chutes
Lake Chutes are the hidden gem of the Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado. The double black diamond runs are located near the Zoot Chute at Peak 8 with a 49-degree pitch. The run begins at 13,000 feet with a drop and surprises free riders with Pyramid Cliffs great for catching some air time and attempting flips for experience freestyle skiers.
#7 Delirium Dive
Stunning views, a powder that will haunt your dreams, and an unforgettable experience… Delirium Dive takes any expert skier who attempts to drop down on a wild ride, but first, you must be prepared and learn all the safety regulations. Due to the terrain’s susceptibility to avalanches, and the resort’s sensible approach to risks, the skiers/riders should be fully equipped with avalanche gear and always attempt this drop with a buddy. Another reason Delirium Dive is one of the hardest runs in North America is its 45-degree pitch, rocks, and unmarked cliffs along the way. Controlling your speed, checking with your buddy or group, and routing the mountain as you go are essential. If the weather is suitable, you have a buddy, and all your safety gear Delirium Dive will welcome you to one of the most challenging and thrilling rides of your life.
#8 Brain Damage
Also known as the Silver King, Crystal Mountain Resort’s Brain Damage run is one of the hardest ski runs in the US. Its rocky initial drop makes the run a no-fall zone. Dropping down this line requires a combination of confidence, skill, and caution. Avalanche and backcountry gear are also recommended for this ride as well. Unlike the Delirium Dive, the feedback is that there is minimal avalanche control at this run.
#9 Great Scott
Great Scott is the line where John Cusack takes a tumble in his 1985 movie “Better Off Dead.” It’s fitting that this run is Hollywood famous for its ability to throw inexperienced or distracted skiers off balance. As if a 40-degree pitch and 1,000 feet drops aren’t enough, the run is paved with rocks hidden in the powder. Already a rocky ride becomes a rocky ride with surprises which earns Great Scott a place on the Hardest Ski Runs in North America list.
What makes this run one of the hardest is the dense trees, the 8-foot drop, and the 38 degrees pitch on a terrain filled with moguls and frozen waterfalls. As the wind adds itself to this equation, navigating this terrain with common sense and good technique becomes a priority.
#11 The Goat
A double diamond with a pitch of 36 degrees… The Goat is among North America’s hardest and most extreme lines. The local story is that a hiker saw this line and said only a goat could overcome such a steep trail, and thus the run acquired its name. Now skiers conquer the Goat with the right technique and control. Boulders, streams, and moguls are among the challenges you’ll face skiing this run. So, make sure you’re ready for this run before trying it.
#12 Kill The Banker
Sensational views and a breathtaking adventure in a run filled with moguls and cliffs. The 6,500 feet run takes skiers on a challenging ride at a 35 degrees pitch. Revelstoke local and skier Chris Rubens frequents this run and denominates it to have the longest sustained pitch in a run. Challenging with a sustained pitch and strenuous terrain, Kill the Banker offers a unique experience to anyone who attempts it.
#13 Dj’s Tramline
DJ’s Tramline is a line that was “never meant to be skied.” After the Cannon Mountain tram line was closed in 1980, this area was utilized as a slope. As its terrain is filled with rocks and the slope’s 34-degree pitch makes it a challenge to maneuver according to what this slope throws in your way, DJ’s Tramline is among the hardest runs in North America.
#14 Paranoid 4
Mammoth Mountain’s Ski Area is home to the Paranoid 4, each of these four runs are double black diamonds with cliffs, tricky terrain, and harsh weather conditions: like the Hurricane Force Winds. Although each run has the possibility of providing you with a fresh track, avalanche risks and visibility issues are higher in these runs.
#15 White Nitro
White Nitro run of Sugarloaf Mountain captivates expert skiers with its 43-degree pitch and open-bowl experience. This icy and steep double diamond is ready to challenge any skier/rider who dares take the leap.
What Makes A Ski Run Difficult?
The difficulty of a ski run is decided by evaluating the percentage of its pitch. There is a slope gradient created to categorize the difficulty rating of a slope. The colors and symbols differ in North America, New Zealand, Australia; Europe, Japan, and Scandinavia. Although comparing the pitches of all the slopes at a resort is the prominent factor in deciding the official difficulty, external factors also play a big role.
The resort’s grooming policies and human use on the slopes during the day are the social factors contributing to a run's difficulty. Another external factor is the agency of nature; the conditions on the mountain can change in an instant. Harsh winds, heavy snowfall, and fog are all instantaneous factors that can alter our experience on the slopes.
What counts is that as responsible skiers/riders, we respect the circumstances of the mountain; be prepared and educated against any unfavorable situation.