The reality of a heart-pumping, badass ski run is in the eye of the beholder. It could be the first time venturing off-piste on a big powder day, taking an "experts-only chairlift" ride or stepping off a helicopter deep in the backcountry. In the Pacific and Inland Northwest, there are gems located within the boundary lines that can get any expert's blood rushing. I was reading through a bicycling magazine years ago, and there was an advertisement that read: "It is the bad fear that keeps you on the couch, it's the good fear that keeps you going." The same applies to skiing and snowboarding, at any level.
Shot 9: Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Located in the North Bowl, the only designation for this trail is a simple sign with the number 9. How the wind has been blowing will determine how big the rollover is into this chute, which is lined with bands of rock. On both sides. Although it's about three to five turns long before arriving to the shelf above Colburn Lake, there's no room for mistakes: Once you've entered the chute, there's nowhere to go other than down.
Schim's Meadow: Stevens Pass
Venturing into this area of the mountain, skiers and boarders are greeted with signs stating "Falls can result in uncontrollable slides." Weaving and bobbing your way through to this area's entrance is reminiscent of being a kid again — until you're standing at the top of a steep pitch, littered with tight trees, which can sometimes be used as a rappelling mechanism to assist you through the tree bands.
Big Couloir: Big Sky Resort
The locals telling stories of skiing the runs off Lone Peak are as intimidating as the actual ride up the tram, as daunting as skiing down any of the steep chutes. On a bright, sunny day, the peak juts up into the sky. From the top, the spectacular views and the realization of exactly how far up in the sky you are become a quick reality. Locals say it's almost better to ski this for the first time in the fog, as the vast vista can be a little intimidating.
North Face Glades: Silver Mountain Resort
Slightly off-camber, this area of the resort offers a nice, steep pitch to work your way through perfectly spaced trees. Success depends on perfectly timing your turns around the trees, through the steeps. Look to head into this area after the prevailing wind load this area with snow following a storm.
Elephants Graveyard: Whitefish
An unassuming area of the resort, this run has a tendency to load up with snow and offers a mix of trees, bumps and exciting terrain features that keep riders on their "A" game. For an added adventure, head over the No Name ridgeline and finish on Haskill Slide. n
As with most of life's adventures, riding these runs for the first time should be done with caution, in the company of someone who knows the area and can show you the way. We also recommend that only seasoned, well-above-average skiers and riders take on these challenges.