Self-respecting skiers and snowboards owe it to themselves to dig their edges into the best slopes before they reach that big resort in the sky, and we're not talking about Montana. Add these epic runs to your bucket list now because you only get so many trips up the mountain.
Corbett's Couloir, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming
Stop futzing with your GoPro, hero, and drop into the ten-foot-wide 50-degree sluiceway directly beneath Jackson’s tram. Blackcomb’s corniced Climax Chute might be harrier and the cliffs of Squaw might have bigger airs, but leaping into Corbett’s is the right of passage for serious skiers, in part thanks to the opportunity for public humiliation.
The Back Bowls of Mt. Annupuri, Niseko, Japan
With flakes lighter than dandruff and an average accumulation of six inches a day in January, this stand-alone volcano on Japan’s northern island is simply the most powderific resort on the planet. And the terrain outside the resort gates is hardly touched. Float down the broad, 1,800-foot-tall bowl off the backside of the summit and you very well might end up the only one soaking in the secluded onsen, or Japanese-style hot tub, at the bottom.
Vallée Blanche, Chamonix, France
Even ski mountaineers go out of their way to descend the mellow Vallée Blanche. Why? The same reason you need to: It’s the most scenic run in the most scenic ski area in the world. After walking out the narrow ridge of the Aguille du Midi, you traverse beneath hulking Mont Blanc, turn left after the spire of Gros Rognon, skirt the ice blocks of the Sérac du Géant, and turn left again near the fangs of Les Grands Charmoz. As a capper, the 12-mile run lands you back in quaint downtown Chamonix.
Warm Springs, Sun Valley, Idaho
No other run in America has the elegance of Sun Valley's Warm Springs. The gulley is wide, uncrowded, and perfectly groomed. No blind turns pop up, no cat tracks intrude. The fall line persists, uninterrupted, for 2,000 vertical feet. Throw in some open skies and high-desert sun and you understand why this is the original sweater-and-sunglasses resort and remember the simple joy of sliding on snow.
Birds of Prey, Beaver Creek, Colorado
The 80mph top speed of the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbühel, Austria injures more racers, but our own Bird’s of Prey at Beaver Creek, first raced in ‘99, is arguably the most difficult downhill course. Once you ski the off-camber turns, blind plunges, and jumps that fling racers 200 horizontal feet out of the shadows and into blinding sunlight, well, you’ll never again look at the World Cup Tour the same way.
Next Up: 2014 Editor's Choice: Mountain Resorts