Who wouldn’t love a long ski run?! Ski aficionados know to appreciate the pleasures of a run where perfect turns follow each other endlessly, even though the thighs are screaming for oxygen and the mind is telling the heart and soul to end the agony.
Despite the late season some of these runs are still doable, such as the Vallée Blanche in Chamonix Mont Blanc. For others, the winter season is just starting, such as Gulmarg in India.
We went on a quest to find the ski runs with the greatest vertical drop for you. But it turned out that there are various ways of defining long or high when it comes to skiing...
Our list features the highlights of the different categories:
1. Off-piste, lift-served: The Vallée Blanche, Chamonix, France
The vertical drop of the legendary off-piste favourite Vallée Blanche (or the White Valley) in Chamonix Mont Blanc is recorded at 2,755m. Starting at the altitude of 3,790m at the cable car of Aiguille du Midi, it finishes at the Montenevers rail station at 1,035m. What’s more, the longest of many off-piste alternatives through the glacier valley is measured at 22km. That is why the Vallée merits the title of the longest descent in the world over the highest lift-served vertical.
A word of caution: We are talking high-altitude glacier terrain with associated weather risks and crevasse dangers here, so only attempt the Vallée Blanche with an experienced guide!
2. On-piste, lift-served: Matterhorn/Zermatt, Switzerland and Italy
In terms of on-piste top vertical, Matterhorn is the spot. Starting from the Klein Matterhorn cable car at 3,820m, the 13km of on-piste pleasure lead down 2,269m of altitude to the town of Zermatt. And you do have the option of veering left near the top and skiing down the Italian side of the epic peak – known as Cervino in Italian – to Valtournenche.
3. Longest on-piste run: Alpe d’Huez, France
If you just want long, but do not need absolute record vertical, you might try the Sarenne in Alpe d’Huez. The descent features the longest on-piste routes from 16-19km in length and the 2,000m vertical drop will still make you breathe heavily.
4. Most on-piste, lift-served vertical in North America: Revelstoke, Canada
There is obviously some epic skiing in North America, too. Among the Canadian peaks, Revelstoke in British Columbia sports the most vertical with 1,713m; from a start at 2,495m down to 782m. There are challenging on and off-piste options to select at the gondola, but even relative newcomers to the sport might venture on the easiest on-piste variant of a 15.2km perfectly-groomed slope.
5. Highest cable car access: Mount Elbrus, Russia (opening soon)
If these are not doing it for you because you are searching for more vertical, the news is just in that Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria region, will have a new gondola reaching 3,847m. Scheduled to launch this season, it will be higher than Aiguille du Midi.
6. Highest ski resort: Gulmarg, India
As another option, you might want to try the world’s highest lift-served ski resort in Gulmarg, India where a top lift reaches 3,979m. Be prepared for retro sledding, monkeys in snowy trees and and an all-round magical ski experience.