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Steepest pistes in The Alps

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Does the speed track at Vars count as a piste?

Starting altitude: 2720 m
- Arrival altitude: 2285 m
- Length: 1,400 m
- Difference in altitude: 435 m
- Maximum slope: 98%
- Average slope: 52.5%
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
A speed track is not a piste.
The USA idea of a double black diamond was never quite like a European black piste, though it would include many of them. Even so, St Anton made most of its old steeper blacks into itineraries many years ago.

In case anyone needs to know: Tangent of the angle (in degrees) of the slope x 100 = %
So (approximately)

50% = 27º
60% = 31º
70% = 35º
80% = 39º
90% = 42º
100% = 45º
120% = 50º
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Someone mentioned the Flypaper in Glencoe, which is short but reaches nearly 45º (the lower part goes out of sight behind the slight ridge) Where the 3 skiers are is a less steep variant. just over the ridge is the East ridge. When I've skied it there hasn't been most of this rock showing.



Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Wed 24-02-21 13:43; edited 3 times in total
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Nickski wrote:
I've skied directly down from Mont Fort and it's not that bad. That photo, unusually, makes it look steeper than it is. And there's no cliff at the end, in fact there's an uphill bit.

At Xmas, Plan de Fou was scarier as they'd pisted it and if you fell, you'd have a hard time stopping if skis came off.


The top of Mont Fort can be treacherous when it’s rock hard with giant moguls.

But with you on Plan de Fou - it can be a steep ice rink at the top!
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I think ski teachers should teach people how to stop themselves, especially if their skis come off. You must get on your front and try to do a press-up, to get your boot tips to dig in. - I see too many people sliding down on their backs. I was taught this technique by the guide Giles Green, who invented it. If he hadn't I'd be dead.
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@snowball,
Quote:

I think ski teachers should teach people how to stop themselves, especially if their skis come off. You must get on your front and try to do a press-up, to get your boot tips to dig in. - I see too many people sliding down on their backs. I was taught this technique by the guide Giles Green, who invented it. If he hadn't I'd be dead.


I read this and went back to my copy of "Off Piste" by Wayne Watson to fact check your statement (and my memory). Well said, and I agree it is an indispensable technique to learn, groomed piste or not.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
In my case it was firm but grippy snow on a slope, described as 50º in my off-piste book, just above a 300m cliff, so I really meant it when I said I would have been dead otherwise.

Off-subject from steep pistes, sorry.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@snowball, I'm surprised it would be possible to stop on a slope that steep, even with an ice axe!
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@musehead, I read somewhere that the tradditional ice axe brake was unreliable once you got above 30 degrees (58%). This is similar to the technique described by @snowball, except that you are also pressing down hard on the pick of the ice axe and, of course, keeping your crampons raised to prevent unwanted back somersaults . For gentle but firm snow a similar tachnique works substituting the tip of the ski pole for the pick.

On slopes above 30 degrees I suggest the best advice is "don't fall"
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My apologies to anyone who already read this years ago when I put it on snowHeads (or in a slightly different version in a ski magazine) but here is my account: I think our guide's descent on telemark skis may have been the first down there on telemarks. That day probably taught him a lesson and he is very much more cautious with clients now.


Victoria Fall


“Qualunque errore e fatale” said the off-piste guide book: “Any mistake and you’re dead”. “Extremely difficult. Entry at 60º, slope 50º ... frequent cornices”
We had been taken to it on our first day and shuffled as close to the edge as we dared and peered over into the abyss. Days later, after a helicopter drop (the only way to ski the far side of this area) we had looked across at a rock wall over half a kilometre high and had pointed out to us a flat point on the ridge from which a little ribbon of snow traced a hesitant diagonal to the broad snow fields below. This was Victoria. It didn’t look skiable.
And now here we were, on our last day, preparing to be roped down into it.
Far below us huge, shattered seracs and magnificent snow fields spread out towards a distant valley, and beyond, under a brilliant blue sky, the hazy ranks of mountains marched off down the Val Grande and Val Gressoney into the heart of north Italy. Down there, we were told, would be the best snow in the area, and this was the only way down.
We were a party of six skiing at Alagna with our guide, Andrea Enzio, and two new friends we had invited to join us for the day.
We had donned our harnesses at the top of the cable car and, after a couple of drag lifts and a small, rocky scramble, had traversed a wide bowl to the edge.
Andrea belayed a rope to his skis stuck in the snow while some of us peered down again or had a nervous pee. Would it be better to let others go first or go early and get it over ?
The first person had the rope attached to his harness and stepped over the edge. I occupied myself with my camera: Andrea's legs in the foreground and, from almost directly above, the little figures of my friends.
Three down and it was my turn. I was shown how to release the karabiner and stepped to the edge. The start was a vertical broken cornice. Lean out, and don’t hold on to the rope... But I felt an instinctive need to hang on.
20 or 30 metres later I had to release myself from the security of the rope and stand waiting on the precipitous slope for the others to arrive. I am told that Andrea skied down (on Telemarks!), using an ice-axe merely to steady his initial entry, but I missed it. I was much too busy starting my descent.
Down below us the chute narrowed and dropped over an edge: a rocky plunge three or four hundred metres down to the glacier.
The snow was firm but soft enough to grip well. I’d like to say that we skied it but actually we side-slipped very, very carefully.
A little way down a turn was necessary to pass left above some rocks. It was too steep for a kick-turn so one by one we nerved ourselves and jump-turned.
Things were going well. I managed, precariously, to get out my camera and photographed the first two starting down the next pitch. (Below, Andrea took off his skis to help them out of the main couloir: an awkward few steps around a rocky ridge.)
The new chute rejoined the first further down. The entry was tricky. I thought I could let myself go a little and then catch myself again. The snow was suddenly icy... I hadn’t meant... my tips caught and I slewed around, looking for a moment straight up the slope as I fell backwards.
Both skis came off as I tumbled... Stop quickly or I’m dead. Feet below me, facing the slope... it was immediately obvious I couldn’t stop. Everything seemed to happen quite slowly. There were rocks below and part of my mind wondered if I was going to hit them. I pushed myself off the slope with my hands, putting my weight on my boot tips: the Giles Green self-arrest... They dug into the snow. Too much... I was flipped over, somersaulting backwards... Get feet below again: push slightly, this time only just off the snow... My boots bit: I just avoided another somersault, slowed and came to rest.
Held by the very tips of my boots I didn’t dare move.
Very carefully, I kicked a foothold.
I had fallen about 50 metres, tumbling over two broad rocks. I was 30 metres from the drop-off. I didn’t have a scratch.
Below me, when I dared look round, was Andrea holding my ski.
The others had seen him actually leaping down and across the slope - it was a race: who would get to our intersection point first, him or me? He did. Would he have stopped me? Perhaps, but I doubt it. It was a very steep slope.
As it was my pack had come open and my camera fallen out. Andrea was faced with two falling objects and wisely chose to stop my ski. My camera is now at the bottom of the cliff. Andrea looked when we got there but there was no sign.
Pentax are solidly built. If anyone finds it I hope they send me the film.
I think, though, it is set on a new course: carried in the frozen time-scale of the glacier as it grinds its slow passage; bearing unknowingly into the future its cargo of rocks, rubbish and old corpses.
That evening at dinner my friends toasted my escape from death and I thought of Giles Green, the Alpine Experience guide who taught me his method of self-arrest and made me practice it. He died two years ago from a brain tumour. I’m sorry I can’t write and tell him it worked.
Andrea, by the way, is a very good guide. I gave him a nasty moment but he gave us some great skiing. I’ll be back; after all, I haven’t skied all of the Victoria couloir yet.


I wrote all that some time ago. Later I realised that Andrea's race had been heroic. He could have been going to his death. I have never told him so, till now.
I don’t know if he has taken any clients down the face since. (I gather only one other guide had ever done so before). He had, himself, made the first snowboard descent, and that day may well have been the first on Telemarks. If so he didn’t tell us. Most extreme skiers die young, but I’m not one. I’ve never been back. Yet.
Recently I talked with someone Andrea guided last year. He too had looked across at Punte Victoria and he told me about an Englishman who fell.
It seems I am one of Andrea’s stories, as he is one of mine.


David Johnson
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@snowball, sobering
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@snowball, Thanks for the tale. It was good read. You were lucky.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
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@snowball,

Great story.

Certainly looks a tricky entry & slope, you did well to survive it.

Punta Vittoria, North Face, Alagna Valsesia from ComboBros
https://vimeo.com/89891543

PS Does anybody use whippets?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Intra-continental drift...piste 75 in Trysil is supposedly the steepest in Norway, at 45 degrees. It's not very long, but definitely steep. The winter Olympics downhill course in Lillehammer might be steeper though, I measured part of the lower pitch at 50 degrees. Neither are in the Alps, of course.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
The Lower half or so of the main face of Vittoria, after the slight shift to the left the guide had been about to help us around, is only 45-40º, as I remember it, and no longer has a cliff under it.

I am surprised a race track has such a steep section. Presumably it is mostly jumped like the Mausefalle (sp) on the Hahnenkamm, though that is only about 41º.


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Wed 24-02-21 23:35; edited 2 times in total
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@DB, makes Langerzug look tame Very Happy
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I looked at a photo of that piste in Trysil they say is the steepest and it looks about half that, but photos can be deceptive. The details of it do say 45º, but they also give a length and drop distances which make it only 13.5º so I am left confused.


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 24-02-21 23:42; edited 1 time in total
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Quote:


PS Does anybody use whippets?

When I was young there seemed to be lots of whippets about, but I was just thinking I haven't seen one in ages. It may be a geographical thing. In that you may still get whippets in the North East but not in the Midlands
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Is Piste 3000 at Val D’Isere in the video?

They closed that dag lift which accessed a tunnel to the Fornet side... but seems it’s been reopened.

Skied the 3000 piste once in rocky, crusty conditions... was brutal. Poma up os so steep Boarders are not allowed, think the piste is 76% or something.
It has a winch point at the top to attach to the piste basher rolling eyes

https://www.cocoricoapresski.com/post/the-tk-3000-returns-it-s-a-lift-not-a-bad-guy-from-a-sci-fi-film
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DB wrote:

PS Does anybody use whippets?


Ready for action
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DB wrote:
@snowball,
PS Does anybody use whippets?


Some clarification for you @BobinCH,:


Whippet puppy (close-up):




Black Diamond prior to attachment to ski pole:

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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
BobinCH wrote:
DB wrote:

PS Does anybody use whippets?


Ready for action


Ahhh that's what they are - the guy in the shop said get yourself a pair of whippets for winter steep skiing. What am I going to do with these two now? wink

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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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@snowball, the bottom half of the piste is a flat run out, plus there's a flat bit at the top, hence the low average gradient. It is very definitely steep on the main pitch.
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I think perhaps the photo was of the wrong piste, in that case.
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@snowball, Andrea is a legend. I have never skied with him, but a drank some beers with him ten years ago and it felt like meeting a rock star. A genuinely nice guy. And he is not the only guide legend in Alagna. There is a similar story in Jimmy Petterson's skiing around the world where he is just called Andrea lunatic. I will for sure try to hire him next time in Alagna or Andermatt.

Glad you survived the fall and a heroic guide story.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
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La Chimenea in La Parva, Chile - had to step down at the top - don't know how to insert photo...
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@skilegs, click on post image below, and select from your computer files.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@skilegs, good luck with that I’ve been trying last 5 years to know how to upload photos....near vertical ski lines easier than uploading photos on here.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
brianatab wrote:
@skilegs, click on post image below, and select from your computer files.


You have that functionality as a super-snowhead. As a lowly snowhead, he does not.

Easiest is to open an Imgur account, upload them there from your phone/computer and paste the img code in your post here to display the picture
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
sign up at https://imgur.com and click and drag your image onto it. Copy the code (top right of your pic). Put on here, adding [img] before and .jpg[/img] at the end.

@Woosh, yes Andrea is very nice. However when I skied with him much more recently in a Ski Club of GB holiday at Andermatt, he was very cautious (too cautious, I felt). But perhaps he was cautious BECAUSE it was a SCGB holiday and They are more and more cautious. Or perhaps he felt some of the group didn't ski well and he imposed the same caution on the rest of us. Or perhaps he just remembered what happened many years before with me and it made him nervous.
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snowball wrote:
I think ski teachers should teach people how to stop themselves, especially if their skis come off. You must get on your front and try to do a press-up, to get your boot tips to dig in. - I see too many people sliding down on their backs. I was taught this technique by the guide Giles Green, who invented it. If he hadn't I'd be dead.


You can also add to this using your ski stick like an ice axe break. If it doesn’t stop you it can turn you around so you’re not sliding head first.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
BobinCH wrote:
DB wrote:

PS Does anybody use whippets?


Ready for action


Whippets frighten me I’m worried where the points might end up in a fall. They do look extremely handy though.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
jbob wrote:
Whippets frighten me I’m worried

@jbob, Agreed, they can be frightening, especially when taken out of context

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snowball wrote:
... Or perhaps he just remembered what happened many years before with me and it made him nervous.


Surprised he didn't see you coming at the start of the day and just do a runner after what you described previously! Shocked wink
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La Chavanatte
Avoriaz otherwise known as the Swiss Wall is often quoted as Europe's steepest but like many all depends on conditions. Sorry if it’s been mentioned.
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snowball wrote:
Someone mentioned the Flypaper in Glencoe, which is short but reaches nearly 45º (the lower part goes out of sight behind the slight ridge) Where the 3 skiers are is a less steep variant. just over the ridge is the East ridge. When I've skied it there hasn't been most of this rock showing.


The problem with the flypaper is it is closed a lot of the time. Well every time I have been to Glencoe, so it's still on my bucket list.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
jbob wrote:
La Chavanatte
Avoriaz otherwise known as the Swiss Wall is often quoted as Europe's steepest but like many all depends on conditions. Sorry if it’s been mentioned.


I really don’t think it is though. Big bumps develop at the entry but it eases off quite soon. I don’t even think it’s the steepest in the PDS.
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stuarth wrote:
Surprised he didn't see you coming at the start of the day and just do a runner after what you described previously! Shocked wink
Well there is that. Mind you he has had more than 25 years to get over it.
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The Piculin at Kronplatz is the steepest pisted run I’ve ever skied. It just keeps dropping away and a fall on the firm snow will mean a long and fast slide. It must be on the limit of what a winch cat can effectively manage.

https://www.kronplatz.com/en/planning-booking/news/slope+piculin_n-327
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jbob wrote:
You can also add to this using your ski stick like an ice axe break. If it doesn’t stop you it can turn you around so you’re not sliding head first.


I imagine a ski pole is going to be a lot more difficult to use and a lot less effective than whippets or an ice axe.


http://youtube.com/v/94QFImjdEAo

I've slid a couple of times on sub 45 deg terrain, it all happens in a flash and you don't half pick up a lot of speed quickly (your head being very close to the slope makes it feel a lot faster).
I've let the poles go and self-arrested using the pushup onto the ski boot toes method. May be if you landed on your back, feet downhill with both poles in hand you could quickly feed them through your hands then dig the points in the snow to the side of the body and attempt to stop with the ski poles ends. It might be possible to combine ski tips and ski boot braking together.


Edit - Just found this Video, looks like it's better to just use one pole.


http://youtube.com/v/frAn_nKqlDo
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