Nowhere else are there so many different types of slopes, events and family…
Five Legendary Ski Runs
1. The Run that went down in History
In 1976, Franz Klammer had the weight of a nation on his shoulder as he embarked on his unforgettable journey down the slopes of Patscherkofel. There were over 60,000 spectators lining the course and surrounding the finish line, all urging him to win Olympic gold on home territory. Klammer careened down the mountainside in his bright yellow ski suit, wildly waving his arms and ski poles to stay vertical. He leapt, he bounced, and he bumped. His skis flew out at odd angles. He teetered perpetually on the edge of disaster. At times he seemed to be falling more than skiing. At the Bäreneck (literally “Bear’s Corner”) part of the course he instinctively took a very high turn – almost brushing the crowd. Behind at the split, he recovered to win by 0.33 seconds. One of the defining moments not just of downhill skiing, but also of the history of the Winter Olympic Games! That moment went down in sports history and built global reputation for Patscherkofel, the mountain in Innsbruck’s backyard.
Photo Credit: TVB Innsbruck / Christian Vorhofer
2. The Most Treacherous
The ultimate aim of any skier coming to St. Anton is to take on the steep faces of the Valluga Mountain on a powder day. However, this run down the north face of Valluga is serious business. This experts-only, ungroomed terrain at St. Anton Ski Resort is tricky, with a steep descent of the mountain’s north face. Valluga North is essentially a “no fall zone”, as it is circled by cliffs. When conditions are deemed suitable, the 2,809-meter peak, the highest mountain of Arlberg Area, can be accessed by the tiny Valluga II lift, which inches its way up from the Valluga I cable car. Valluga II opens up some seriously extreme terrain. So serious in fact that you are not allowed to enter the gondola with skis or board unless you are accompanied by a qualified guide. Those without skis or board can soak in sweeping views from the dramatic panorama platform that perches over the steep slopes that fall away on all sides.
3. The Longest
Schwarze Schneid in Sölden is a tiring and leg-burning run that requires staggering endurance. Running from top to bottom over a total distance of 15 kilometers, this is the longest groomed downhill ski run in Austria. Starting from the top of Rettenbachferner Glacier, it has an impressive vertical drop of 2,000 meters over its leg-jellying descent to the base of Gaislachkogelbahn Gondola. Moreover, Schwarze Schneid tops out at the highest elevation you can reach by gondola in Ötztal Valley. Another nationwide bragging right: The backdrop of peaks at over 3,000 meters is something to behold and Sölden Ski Resort boasts three (!) lift-served Three-Thousanders—this is a real mountain experience with plenty of adventure on tap.
Photo Credit: Ötztal Tourismus / Philipp Horak
4. The Most (In)Famous
Each January, the Hahnenkamm World Cup Races are watched by 260 million TV viewers worldwide, and a further 90,000 pour into Kitzbühel to see the most celebrated event on the ski racing calendar. No ski race is bathed in such glamour and mortal danger as the infamous “Streif”, this wicked, twisting, insane snake of a run. Jumps up to 80 metres. Gradients of 85 per cent. This slick, steep, twisty track propels the skiers up to speeds as fast as 140kph and averages of over 100kph, and has played host to more than its fair share of devastating crashes over the years. The combination of steepness, iciness and demanding technical turns make this the most frightening and challenging run on the World Cup circuit. The Streif is open to the public for the rest of the season – anyone can tackle this beast of a run. If they dare, of course…
5. The Steepest
Looking for white-knuckle verticals? The thrilling double black Harakiri Trail in Mayrhofen rakes in hard-core honours for being Austria’s steepest downhill run. “Only for well trained skiers,” says the sign at the top. If that’s not enough to instill a sense of dread, the angle of descent will – with a 78 percent grade (translation: very steep), this is a no-fear zone for expert skiers and boarders only. A Japanese term referring to the ritual suicide performed by a samurai, the name “Harakiri” might just foreshadow the fate of those brave but not technically qualified enough to attempt skiing it. Fall here and it’s a long way down! For those looking for something less challenging, there are also less steeper runs, such as “Devil’s Run, which doesn’t turn into double blacks.