This is a lighthearted look at five of the most extreme and dangerous ski runs in Europe. Many have tried and many have failed. Brave or brainless, depending on which side of the fence you sit, you canʼt deny the nerve and skill of the skiers who attempt to get to the end of these terrifying runs unscathed and still in one piece. Harakiri-Mayrhofen, Austria With an average incline of 78%, and that’s almost vertical, the Harakiri is the steepest slope in Austria and that’s probably why there are no luxury chalets built here. The slope is legendary, it draws huge flocks of vultures waiting to pick the bones of the pile of deceased skiers at the bottom. A large, bloodthirsty, cheering section of ski enthusiasts (sadists) watch the more extreme skiers tackle the run. Luckily for the participants the run is only 150m long. Many make the journey all the way to the bottom on their derriere, or via a series of high impact tumbles. Named after the Japanese ritual of suicide by samurai, Harakiri is the world’s steepest groomed slope. The machinery used to groom the slope has to be seen to be believed. La Grave, France A 40-minute cable car ride to the summit of this 3,000m beast and you’re either relishing returning to the bottom in a fraction of the time or you’re wishing you’d worn your brown salopettes. You’re completely on your own now, no turning back. I hope you payed attention in ski school. There are no designated ski runs, no ski patrol. The insane or more extreme skiers can choose from 2,000m plus of various vertical drops. It’s no accident La Grave is named the grave.A lot of the terrain requires a rope and harness to descend the un-skiable sections. This is serious skiing for serious skiers. The Lauberhorn-Wengen, Switzerland With a 2,500m summit, this downhill course, which hosts the famous Lauberhorn race, is the longest in the world at 4.5kms. The run takes pro skiers an average of about two and a half minutes to complete, quicker than it takes most skiers to put their gloves on. Skiers reach 160km per hour, fast enough for G forces to displace cheeks several inches backwards. This monster is the fastest on the World Cup circuit. The course features a number of challenging arrangements, most notably the Hundschopf – a 130-foot jump over a rock nose, which launches skiers into space, most return to earth, some are never seen again. The course offers its most difficult challenge at the end when racers are exhausted. In 1991 Austrian racer Gernot Reinstadler lost a leg when his ski hung up in the protective fencing and ripped it out of the joint. He also lost his life. Not one for the fainthearted. The Gloria Gaynor hit is popular on this run… “first I was afraid, then I was petrified2”. The Saslong-Val Gardena, Italy Ever since man first strapped two planks to his feet and threw himself downhill, he’s been looking for longer, steeper, faster. Then some crazy man who was thinking outside the box thought why not bumpier? Hence ‘The Camels’. The Saslong, created in 1970, features a set of three jumps. The most daring skiers try to clear the middle lump by launching off the first and indeed it can be done but alas it can also be undone as many skiers find out to their cost. The Streif-Kitzbühel, Tyrol, Austria Take a lift to the summit and as the tension mounts you begin to question the wisdom of what you are about to attempt. Soon enough you’ll find yourself about 1.500m feet in the air, staring in awe at one of the most terrifying downhill runs in the world. The run bills itself as “the world’s most spectacular ski run”. This is probably where the now familiar term was first coined. The Streif’s average gradient is 27% and pro racers can reach 145km per hour. Making matters worse, there’s a sting in the tail, the course ends with the Mausefalle – a final jump that can hurl you close to 100m feet further down the hill, and I do mean hurl. The accident reports for the annual Hahnenkamm Downhill hosted at The Streif makes for pretty grim reading. When they open the course to spectators immediately following the race, the report becomes a horror story. Don’t be a fool; don’t become a chapter in this gruesome novel. You have been warned. Rebecca Taylor is Director at SkiBoutique. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.
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