As any keen skier will know, there are few things better in life than a long ski run. The chance to build up speed without worrying when you are going to hit the bottom sends many snow fanatics off into a daydream. This got us wondering – where in the world is the longest ski run?
This is a long debated and greatly considered question. Our minds instantly leaped to the big Alpine resorts… and then we reconsidered: North America has some huge resorts. There is no obvious answer.
After further investigation, the conundrum is not that surprising. There are a few different answers, depending on your definition of ‘longest’.
Firstly, let’s consider downhill skiing only; to consider cross-country ski trails would no doubt provide us an infinite list of back-country trails. In terms of downhill, many will consider it to be the furthest distance traveled, but is this only on pisted mountain, or are we taking off-piste into consideration too? 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 varies depending on whether you go by the length as stated on the piste map of 19km or the Alpe d’Huez website, which states 16km. Either way, the punishing 2000m vertical drop of black status slope requires staggering endurance, taking 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 views look down over miles and miles of jaw-dropping vistas. The cliff-top start and welcoming, steep mogul field of The Sarenne hint 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 intimidating; intermediates with some off-piste experience should manage as it’s not too steep. The snow is obviously un-groomed though, so some patchiness should be expected. There is also some hiking to get up out of the valley to ski the last section down to Chamonix.
The backdrop of peaks at over 4,000m and seemingly never-ending snow fields is something to behold. This seriously photogenic route runs down to Chamonix, one of the world’s most famous ski resorts since it hosted the first ever Winter Olympic Games in 1924.
Greatest Vertical Drop
Once again, Chamonix, France is the winner! Vertical drop is the difference between the highest altitude reached by lifts and that at the bottom. Assuming you’re looking at pisted slopes, 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|
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.