As any keen skier will know, there are few things better in life than a long ski run. Giving you the chance to build up speed without worrying when you are going to hit the bottom sends many snow fanatics off in to a daydream. This got me pondering as to where in the world is the longest ski run?
This is a long debated and greatly considered question. My mind instantly leapt to the big Alpine resorts I have skied when wondering about this… and then I reconsidered thinking of the huge resorts of North America. Hmmm… I couldn’t think of an obvious answer off the top of my head.
After further investigation, my conundrum is not that surprising, as it appears there are a few different answers, depending on your definition of ‘longest’.
Firstly, I will apply this to downhill skiing only; to consider cross-country ski trails would be an infinite list of back-country trails! In terms of downhill, many will consider it to be the furthest distance travelled, but is this only on pisted mountain, or taking off-piste in to consideration? Others may count it as the greatest vertical drop (which could also be calculated for both on- and off-piste).
Alpe d’Huez, France
In terms of pisted slope, The Sarenne in Alpe d’Huez is the longest in the world. The exact length does vary depending on whether you go by the length as stated on the piste map of 19km or the Alpe d’Huez homepage which states 16km. Either way, it’s punishing 2,000m vertical drop of black status slope requires staggering endurance as it takes about an hour and a half to complete.
The Sarenne isn’t without its rewards though; at the 3,330m peak of Pic Blanc the jaw-dropping views look down over miles and miles of snowy peaks for miles. The cliff-top start and welcoming steep mogul field of The Sarenne hints at what is in store for those who dare!
The Vallée Blanche; from the summit of the Aiguille du Midi down to Chamonix is an off-piste route of 22km. As this is not an official, marked, or tended route, a guide should be used to ski this route.
From the top of the Aiguille du Midi at 3,842m you can see an incredible three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. The mind-boggling length of this route takes you along a series of glaciers beneath the looming Mont Blanc.
Once on your way, the mountainside isn’t too scary; intermediates with some off-piste experience should manage it as it’s not too steep. The snow is obviously un-groomed though, so patchy snow should be expected. There is also some hiking to get up out of the valley to ski the last section down to Chamonix. In places the route will take you through narrow crevasses which make fantastic pictures.
The backdrop of peaks at over 4,000m and seemingly never-ending snow fields is something to behold! The route runs down to Chamonix, one of the worlds most famous ski resorts since hosting the world’s first ever Winter Olympic Games in 1924.
Greatest Vertical Drop
Once again Chamonix in France wins! Vertical drop is the difference between the highest altitude reached by lifts and that at the bottom. That is, assuming you’re looking at pisted slopes. In which case, Chamonix comes out on top with a whopping 2,738 m vertical drop. The table below should help put that in to context.
|Country||Resort/Ski Area||Vertical Drop|
|Switzerland & Italy||Matterhorn||2,279m|
So, interestingly, regardless of your definition of ‘longest’ ski run, the answer will be on French soil. While Europe manages to hold the title(s) for longest ski run, many of the North American resorts manage some impressive claims to fame themselves.
- Jackson Hole ski resort in Wyoming has the longest downhill ski run in North America; the vertical drop is 1,262m down Rendezvous Peak.
- The resort of Killington in Vermont is the largest ski resort in eastern North America and home to the ‘Juggernaut’ run; a tiring 16km long!
- Revelstoke resort in British Columbia has the most continuous lift served vertical drop in North America at 1,713m.
Crystal Ski offer ski holidays to all of these destinations.
This post is by Tess Bowles from the Crystal Ski team.