Some have trees, some don’t. Some are Double Black, some single. The one thing they all have in common is that UH OH factor.
Highline is on the east side of the front of Vail Mountain. It runs right below and beside its namesake lift and is long and Double Black. Only part of the run is visible from the lift which is good because some of the best skiers in the world are riding up and laughing at you; okay, laughing at me. The Wife coaxed me into starting our day on Highline once and I thought I was going to die. Of course, after that first run of the day, everything else felt like a green run.
Outhouse, Mary Jane
Outhouse may only be a single Black Diamond but its legend is secure, partly because you can be seen coming down by everyone at the lodge at the bottom and also because of the notorious sign in the old days warning that skis under 180cm were not allowed. Of course shorter skis are in vogue these days what with the shaped ski designs, but in the old days if you skied on less than 180cm, you weren’t worthy.
Devil’s Crotch, Breckenridge
The coolest thing about going down this run is you then have the right to buy a t-shirt that says “I licked the Devil’s Crotch” Anyone can buy them in town but come on, why wear it if you didn’t do it. Located atop Peak 9 and visible from the E Chairlift, this is a narrow chute, steep and full of bumps. It’s a Double Black Diamond and I have seen people cry on it. Okay that was just me on my first try but I have licked it since then.
Cat Dancer, Keystone
This run is located on North Peak in Keystone and though rated a single Black Diamond, it is long and will wear you out. After you’ve pounded hundreds of bumps and think you’re about halfway down you’ll see you still have a long way to go. That tiny little speck at the bottom is La Bonte’s BBQ, where an ice-cold beer is waiting with your name on it. The top is hairy with snow-fences marking the rocks, but if the snow is good, then, no problem. After the first 50 yards or so the bumps round out and you have a nice long, and I do mean long bump run to that beer.
Pallavicini, Arapahoe Basin
Like Highline at Vail, the “Pally Face” as it is known runs underneath its namesake lift. The lift rises over 1300 feet and this set of runs go straight down it. It is steep, as in about 40 degrees in pitch and sometimes steeper depending on the conditions of the bumps and windblown snow. In 2005 a rare in-bounds avalanche killed a skier there just one day after I was on it. I swear I had nothing to do with it but am surprised I didn’t just fall off the face of it, it’s that steep.
The Plunge and Spiral Stairs, Telluride
These two have been on my bucket list for years. I’ve never skied down them but have read enough about them in Ski magazines over the years that I feel they should be listed here. I’ve heard stories that if you look through your skis tips at the top you will see a tiny little town of Telluride below and it is a scary sight indeed. They are both some of the steepest runs around and when covered in bumps they are said to be well deserving of their Double Black status.