Continuing our theme of the most difficult skiing runs in the Alps, we move on to Austria for a look at the most challenging pistes and powder – with an emphasis on runs which are fun to ski, too! Here’s a few of our favourites for you to get your boards and blades into.
The Harakiri, Mayrhofen
Well, what better way to start than with Austria’s steepest piste, at a gradient of 78%? Welcome to the Harakiri in Austria’s Mayrhofen resort, cheerfully named after the rather singular ritualised suicide process of Japan. But don’t let that, or the skull and crossbones sign at the top, put you off! The Harakiri is indeed horribly steep, but it’s fairly wide, so as long as you’re a decent skier and can take it slow, you should be able to manage this wall of death. The problems that arise with the Harakiri are the snow conditions and the control. The run is in the shade for much of the day, and the snow can be icy or hard. And if you fall, it’s hard to stop, and it’s a long way to the bottom. The key is to watch out for other people and to keep an eye on routes down the slope that people are taking while you’re going up the cable car. For an idea of how slow some people take it, and also for a good look at the run itself, check this out:
Mayrhofen is about an hour’s drive from Innsbruck and is known for both hosting the annual Snowbombing music and snowsports festival, and for having the gondola with the biggest cable cars in Austria, taking up to 160 people.
FIS Slalom Run, Schladming
Here’s your chance to get your race on: the FIS (International Ski Federation) runs a couple of high profile racing events through the ski season, and the dedicated slalom run which is used is great for testing your precision and your skill… and for racing your friends. If you’re particularly interested, visit www.thenightrace.at for details about the races – see if you’d like to enter. For recreational purposes, however, the top is particularly steep – well, it wouldn’t be any fun without being able to get a little speed up to begin with, would it? – and the end of the run is very short, so do try not to crash into the barriers. Outside of the racing events, the piste can get quite icy, especially when there hasn’t been a fresh snow dump for a couple of days, and bear in mind that instructors often send their pupils down it at the end of the day – be careful of the newbies! To see the run in all its glory being skied by legend Didier Cuche – his last race ever, on wooden skis and full traditional costume, no less – check this out:
Schladming is a fantastic resort, with lots of tree-lined runs and plenty of great bars and restaurants on the slopes, and its summer season is packed with activities as well. Schladming will also be hosting the Alpine World Ski Championships in 2013.
Trassabfahrt, Zell am See
Zell am See is known, along with its sister town Kaprun, for having something for everyone – runs of all levels of difficulty and a good variety of skiing. However, it also has one rather challenging favourite: the Trassabfahrt, widely acknowledged as being both pleasant and the most fun you can have on a black run in the region. Take the TrassXpress gondola up to the top of the Schmittenhöhe mountain and Trassabfahrt is run number 14, to the right. It’s steep in many places and can be quite icy, but it’s often pretty quiet which gives you a good run. The run is nearly 4km long and has a vertical drop of 1000m, so brace your legs!
For a cracking (but long) video of the blue run Panorama followed by the black Trassabfahrt, complete with brilliant soundtrack and even more brilliant crash, fall and slide, check this out: