Double black diamonds ahead! Canada’s most extreme runs can give even the experts pause for thought. Bronwen Gora straps on her skis for these ultimate challenges.
The run might be called Hawaii Five-0, but this is no relaxing stroll along the sand.
Think more along the lines of an adrenaline-charged run so steep, it does not appear skiable, with a you-fall-you-die section just to keep things really interesting.
More terrifying than the renowned Couloir Extreme to its right, Hawaii Five-O is unskiable for a good portion of the season when it isn’t holding enough snow.
You reach Hawaii Five-O via a heinously steep drop called False Face and then hooking left before hitting Couloir Extreme.
Traverse above a massive cliff face (that’s the you-fall-you-die bit) and then you’re in the chute. Easy! Once recovered from a near-death drop, the next little hiccup skiers face is a mandatory (yep, it’s the only way down) metre-plus-long air over rocks between two cliff faces, a tad shy of two metres apart. Ready? You first.
You’ll need to take a leap of faith in more ways than one when taking on The Couloir, which requires a skilful jump to enter.
The tricky threshold means snow conditions need to be optimal for The Couloir to be accessed.
Tour operators will not take clients there unless weather permits, because this is the kind of place where if you fall, you will tumble all the way to the bottom.
If your repertoire of moves does not include cliff-jumping, then beware this infamous helicopter-accessed ski run offered by Canadian Mountain Holidays, Canada’s largest and longest-established heliskiing company.
First of all, Hanging Gardens has three cliff bands that are virtually impossible to avoid. (This writer had more than a few heart-stopping moments, unexpectedly finding herself in the air.)
Coupled with a precipitous pitch, Hanging Gardens easily ranks as one of the best steep tree-skiing runs that CMH accesses from its 11 luxury mountain lodges.
Fortunately this snowy delight, found in the tenure of CMH Galena Lodge, is almost always blanketed in deep powder, making landings beautifully soft and forgiving.
Fanatics of this soaring monolith of a skifield – and there are many – swear by the steep pockets hidden among the trees and rocks on Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Unlimited Assets on the front side of North Bowl.
RMR fans also swear a lot more, generally, as this is one monster field that bubbles over with butt-kicking steeps on which to drop in, turn on and get cliffed out.
Like any super scary run, Unlimited Assets intimidates from the get-go, thanks to a precipitous entrance.
Get through that, and then you can pound down its powdery mass for what feels like miles. If you really want a wild ride, though, head for the real madness in the trees.
Here, the chutes and drops are far steeper than the bowl itself. Particularly notable is the 170-centimetre-wide, rock-jammed chute in between Unlimited Assets and Meet The Neighbours.
Like Goldilocks’ porridge, ER 5 and ER 6 must be juuust right before ski patrol deign to open them to the public.
ER6 – also encouragingly known as Fallen Angel – is filled with what non-skiers call cracks and those in the know call chokes – barely wide-enough chutes that need good snowfall to be skiable.
Found in Eagle Ridge, ER 6 is at a sharp right of the Paradise Chair. ER 5, further along to the right, is a pyramid-shaped rocky outcrop so sketchy, it takes a perfect snow year to open.
Little wonder these gems of Lake Louise, located 40 minutes’ drive from Banff, are favourite extreme skiing competition sites.
‘Terrifying’ is among the more popular (and G-rated) words used to describe Delirium Dive, considered Canada’s most extreme resort terrain. Sound like fun?
Then go find it on the flanks of Sunshine skifield, a 15-minute drive from Banff. Simply accessing Delirium Dive requires mountain goat-like skill, as your welcome mat is a six-metre long cliff band.
There is also the optional set of stairs alongside, but bear in mind both entrances lead to the same place: a minefield of chutes, rocks and cliff bands with an average gradient of 40 degrees plus.
Once past the threshold, local knowledge is the only currency that buys safe passage through its rocky chutes, along with commando-like courage to clear any unexpected cliffs.
To start planning your extreme Canadian winter holiday, contact one of these leading Australian operators.
Travelplan; 1300 754 754
SkiMax; 1300 136 997
Ski Travel Company; 02 9810 1000
Mogul Ski World; 1800 335 724