Expert skiers and snowboarders are always seeking new challenges -- and inbounds backcountry-style experiences are tops on their lists. Some North American resorts have nicknamed this type of extreme terrain "backcountry lite," but don't venture into these steeps and glades unless you're sure you have the skills to handle the terrain. Many resorts offer clinics to teach adventurous snow sliders ways to handle ungroomed terrain.
Local expert skiers at some of these resorts volunteered inside tips to ski these extreme chunks of inbound terrain.
Photo credit: Dan Bayer
Highland Bowl's glades and chutes -- many 40- to 45-degrees or steeper -- are just a portion of the extreme terrain that expert skiers and riders gravitate to while exploring Aspen Highlands. The Temerity lift accesses 1,700 vertical feet of equally steep terrain including South Castle, Kessler Bowl and Soddbuster. Aspen Highlands is just one of four mountains owned by the Aspen Skiing Company and the same lift pass also lets you also explore Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Buttermilk.
Get the scoop on some of the steepest inbounds terrain in North America from a Canadian guide whose skills you can see in Warren Millers film "Children of Winter."
Colorado's Steamboat Resort is famous for its champagne powder, and for skiing in the glades and tightly treed areas. Johnny Sawyer, the Ski Patrol’s supervisor who has worked at the mountain for more than 30 years, offers his take and tips for skiing in the inbounds extreme and treed terrain at Steamboat.
You can look down some of the long groomed runs at Heavenly Resort, which encompasses 4,800 acres of terrain in Nevada and California, and see Lake Tahoe far below. But looking into Mott Canyon or Killebrew Canyon you'll only see tight trees and chutes so steep that an advanced skier would hesitate to lean over the edge to take a look. To quote the resort's website about Killebrew: "Only venture here if you have a change of underwear."
Extreme skiers and snowboarders love Winter Park's above treeline chutes in the Vasquez Cirque and the tight glades around the Eagle Wind lift.
At Park City Mountain Resort, in Park City, Utah, the East Face of Jupiter Peak, Pinecone Ridge, and all the terrain served by the Jupiter Chair are are rated entirely "double-black diamond" expert terrain. "There is no regular grooming up here aside from access and egress routes and certainly no "easy way down." says Mark Saurer, the resort's assistant safety supervisor. Some of these slopes are hike-to terrain. For his tips on skiing Pinecone and Jupiter visit Inbounds Extreme Terrain
at Park City Mountain.
When you're willing (and able) to challenge double diamond steeps, hike to Ruby's, one of the Gemstone Bowls flanking the Blackcomb Glacier. You can reach it from the top of the Glacier Express Lift by traversing below the ridge to Spanky's Ladder, a steep slot you'll need to hike up. At the top traverse along the ridgeline until you reach the steep chute that flows into Ruby's seductive 2,000 vertical feet of steep terrain.
Salt Lake City resident Josh Madsen, a member of The Canyons Freeride Team who favors telemark skiing, says The Canyons, boasts 3,700 skiable acres including tons of great inbound lines that are steep, deep, and technical." If you want to learn how he explores the stashes around his local mountain visit Inbounds Extreme Terrain
at The Canyons.
The gates to the Hobacks in Jackson Hole, Wyo., aren't always open, but skiers and riders hustle to these long, steep and often moguled stretches of terrain when they get the word. Cheyenne Bowl is another choice for extreme terrain with a variety of challenges. Courbet's Couloir is arguably the most famous chute in the U.S. You have to jump 10-20 feet into the couloir before landing on the snow, which has a 50plus -degree pitch. Jackson Hole has a variety of multi-day Steep and Deep Camps to teach you how to handle extreme terrain.
Independence Bowl tops out right near the Continental Divide, ensuring spectacular views of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Here, you can hitch a ride up to the peak via snowcat, to explore the open fields and gladed terrain. Duke Bradford, head guide for Keystone Adventure Tours, which runs the snowcat tours, says that "Indy Bowl"
is a powder trap.
The hottest small ski area in the country is Silverton Mountain, climbing above a tiny historic mining town in southwestern Colorado. Expert skiers and riders vie for the limited number of spaces each day that let backcountry enthusiasts take the single chairlift up or join the groups, led by a guide, who are hiking to some of the steepest and most exciting powder terrain in the West.
on ungroomed and unmarked terrain outside ski-area boundaries is only for people knowledgeable about avalanche