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I’ve done my fair share of black pistes in the Alps, but as a snowboarder my favourites may differ to a skiers, so with help from our expert ski team: Sales Director, Adam Johnson, Head of Ski Product, James Box and Ski Team Leaders, Nick and Scotty, we’ve put together the ultimate top 5 black runs in Europe. From beginner blacks to harakiri-extreme pistes, you’ll feel like a ski champion after executing these slopes.
5. Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs, France A Black/Red run for starters If your ski legs aren’t warmed up yet, they will be after this. From the top of Aiguille Rouge at 3226m you can take the epic 7 km Aiguille Rouge run down 2000 vertical metres to the village of Villaroger. It’s a mix of terrain starting as a black run for the first half, then a red piste through the trees for the remainder of the run. The steepest section is at the top, after that it feels more like a red run (a blackish red?)
4. Saslong, Selva, Italy
A world class thrill The World Cup Saslong run from Selva down into St Christina ‘is awesome’ says James. It’s not a difficult black run, as there a steeps followed by flats, followed by steeps, etc. So if you are flying down the piste you can get lots of air just as the downhill racers do when the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup comes to Val Gardena. Extreme fun paired with the beautiful scenery and the stunning mountain range backdrop.
3. La Sache, Espace Killy, France Not for the faint hearted AJ: My favourite black run in the Espace Killy is La Sache. There is a big caveat on this though. It must be done before lunch or maybe at lunchtime when the pistes are emptier. Some of the narrower and steeper sections get very crowded with skiers negotiating the monster moguls that form during the day that makes it a nightmare later in the day. Just before lunch is ideal because there is a great little Savoyard restaurant in Tignes-Les-Brévières called La Sachette that you can stop at after. At 1550m, this is the lowest point in the whole Espace Killy and therefore the warmest and best for dining outdoors. Scotty: The first time you do La Sache you just wonder where the hell you are going to end up, it’s steep, bendy but awesome. 2. Grand Couloir, Courchevel, France
Terror at the top
At the top of Saulire at 2700m there is just one of the famous Courchevel couloirs marked on a piste map as a run, the Grand Couloir. This famous piste is often high on the list for the scariest black run in the world and can get extremely mogully if it hasn’t snowed in a while. To get to the Grand Couloir there is a narrow ridge that gets icy and grooved so you can’t turn your skis to slow down. As you pick up speed the ridge gets steeper and bumpier. I’ve seen quite a few skiers lose their nerve and bail out at this stage but if you hold your nerve there is a small space to stop at the end of the track. The GC is steep to start but it quickly widens, it is steeper if you keep to skier’s right and stay in the shadow to get the best snow.
1. Chassoure – Tortin, Verbier, Switzerland
The possibilities are endless
From the Chassoure peak there are a few options to make your descent, depending on the snow fall and conditions these slopes can change daily. From the top you can drop straight in and face the moguls of ‘the wall’ or traverse along and ski down when you see a preferred route. The 700m track takes you down to Tortin where you can head up toward Mont Fort, or tackle the Chassoure-Tortin run again. This was described as a ‘skiers dream’ by one of the team, but beware as this is world renowned as an extreme ski run.
If you're looking to tantalise your extreme taste buds further, here is a quick rundown of more brilliant black pistes in Europe: For Starters: Piste 21 (under Chairlift 1), Kitzbühel, wide black run with flatter sections For Excitement: Through the tunnel in Alpe D’Huez …… stop… out the door…. ARRRHH. Beware, it’s steep. For Fear Factor: Anything down Mont Gele in Verbier. For Endurance: Point de Vue at Grand Montets in Chamonix, the run goes on forever. For Mogul Mania: Top of the Valluga in St Anton, it’s about half a mile of moguls! Gulp factor: Pan du Fou, Nendaz. If you’re a chicken then you turn right:
In the middle of the hustle and bustle of day 1 at the London Ski and Snowboard Show, we met up with cheeky chappie and Team GB snowboarder Jamie Nicholls. After a stunning performance at Sochi and achieving sixth place in the first ever snowboard slopestyle final in a Winter Games, the Olympics has thrown Jamie into the spotlight and he is now recognised as one of the country’s best snowboarders. Nicholls scored a huge 85.5 from the judges on his first run, but the standard of the male snowboarders was so high and Jamie was knocked out the running for a medal. We caught up with Jamie about his Sochi experience, what he’s been up to over the summer and his plans for the this winter, including a pretty big exciting secret project that’s happening in London (watch the video below for more info)
The Yorkshire lad is well known for lapping Halifax dryslope since a tender age, so he is an ideal example to inspire a generation to have a go and try skiing or snowboarding at their local ski centre. Since Sochi, Snowsport England have recorded a 12% increase in participation at domestic slopes and centres year on year, which is fantastic news for the British ski and snowboard industry. As the latest ambassador for Snowsport England’s national participation campaign, Go Ski Go Board, Jamie tells us that he is ‘trying to help build good camps for kids’ with the governing body and help fly the flag for winter sports. He is a regular to The Snow Centre Hemel Hempstead which always creates a buzz at the dome and inspires more people to give it a go themselves.
Read more about Team GB's involvement with Go Ski Go Board He has a very light hearted approach to getting in to the sport, and when asked for advice for anyone wanting to learn: Drop in to your closest snowdome, snow centre or dry slope and give it a good go. If you like it, stick at it, if you don’t like it, try it again and again till you do (laughs)… we agree too!
Hayley and I meeting Jamie at the Ski & Snowboard Show
The British snowboarder has a busy winter ahead of him. Last week he narrowly missed out on a podium spot on his first competition of the season and came in 4th at the Burton Rail Days in Tokyo. Some people will see fourth as a good result in Japan but I was going out there to try and win it. Next up will be the Dew Tour Mountain Championships in Breckenridge from 11 -14 December. After some training and down time in Austria he has high hopes for the competition in Colorado. Snowboarding has taken Jamie all over the globe and the 21 year old is now recognised as one of the World’s best snowboarders. But when he’s not in the park he does enjoy the backcountry; Last winter Jamie went on his first splitboard adventure in Austria, and that must have given him the bug as when we asked him if could snowboard somewhere in the world he’s not been before, Jamie told us that he desires a trekking trip to Nepal, Argentina or some weird places that I’ve never been and never get a chance to go. We are very interested to see what Jamie gets up to this season.
Jamie in Stubai, Austria.
With the winter season quickly approaching, the new ski and snowboard films are coming in thick and fast. Technologies are progressing as quickly as the riders making this year a very exciting time for ski films. From extreme and exotic locations to powder fuelled productions to discovering the stories behind our favourite athletes. Here are the 5 films we cannot wait to watch in full to get us inspired for winter. Take a look at all the ski and snowboard films coming this season and tell us your favourite 5.
The one we’ve been waiting for Higher is the highly anticipated final installment of Jeremy Jones’ Deeper, Further, Higher trilogy. After pushing boundaries and revolutionising backcountry snowboarding in his first 2 films, now Jones and Teton Gravity Research are back and taking their quest to the next level. From Jones’ playground in Jackson Hole to the incredible descents in the Eastern Alaska Range and the Himalaya of Nepal, Higher depicts Jones’ incredible snowboard journey which has made him one of the greatest mountain snowboarders of our time. Expect: Huge lines, untouched powder and exotic destinations Riders: Jeremy Jones, Bryan Iguchi, Luca Pandolfi, Ryland Bell
The one for the skiers When Red Bull Media House and Matchstick Productions team up you know something ground breaking is going to happen. The film took two years to make while shooting in locations all over the world including places never documented before. Using state of the art techniques including MSP’s new Cineflex Elite, the latest in aerial filming technology, they believe Days of My Youth will set a new standard for the entire ski industry. Days of My Youth takes a look into the minds of ten of the world’s best freeskiers and examines their lifelong affinity for the sport and the self-discovery every skier takes. Check out those views in the trailer at 0.30 in and you won’t be able to wait for the full version! Expect: Next level cinematography and extreme locations Riders: Richard Permin, Mark Abma, James Heim, Michelle Parker, Cody Townsend, Markus Eder, Bobby Brown, Sam Anthamatten, Russ Henshaw, Gus Kenworthy, PK Hunder
The one we wish we were in Absinthe films have been throwing down some of the best snowboard films season after season. From last year’s Dopamine to 2012’s Resonance to the rest of the amazing back catalogue, Absinthe consistently showcase the finest riders and push the boundaries of the sport. With 22 years of snowboarding video production, director Justin Hostynek still drops some of the most progressive riding out there. The trailer opens with an epic heli shot of Alaskan spines to the equally as epic sounds of Alt J’s Fitzpleasure. Heavy Mental spotlights a solid list of riders and watch out for the full parts from Bode Merrill and Victor De Le Rue.. Expect: An epic soundtrack and heavy riding Riders:Victor De Le Rue, Austen Sweetin, Bode Merrill, Jason Robinson, Mat Schaer, Wolfgang Nyvelt, Manuel Diaz, Victor Daviet, Johnnie Paxson, Romain De Marchi, Blair Habenicht, Scot Brown, Ozzy Henning, Rusty Ockenden, Nils Arvidsson, Mathieu Crepel, Sylvain Bourbousson, Helen Schettini, and Mike Basich
The Blockbuster As with any TGR production you can expect state of the art cinematography that provides a sensory overload. Combined with some of the most progressive skiing and immersive destinations, Almost Ablaze takes you beyond the boundaries. Awarded Film of the Year at the 2014 International Freeski Film Festival, Almost Ablaze follows the globetrotting lifestyle of these thrill-seeking athletes. From urban riding in the war-torn Olympic venues of Sarajevo to exploring new terrain in Sella Nevea to next level skiing in Revelstoke, this is extraordinary skiing in extraordinary locations. Expect: Next level skiing Riders: Angel Collinson, Chris laker, Colter Hinchliffe, Dana Flahr, Dane Tudor, Dash Longe, Dylan Hood, Griffin Post, Ian McIntosh, Jonny Collinson, Joss Christensen, Karl Fostvedt, Mark Carter, Max Hammer, Nick Mcnutt, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Tim Durtschi, Todd Ligare
The Ultimate Snowboard Film this Season Does Oakley have the finest snowboard team out there? With huge names like Shaun White and Nicolas Muller to new favourites like Torstein Horgmo and Mark McMorris, this world-class line up is guaranteed to bring one of the leading films of this season. Featuring riding from the streets of Finland to the backcountry of British Columbia, to Norway and Japan, each rider has his own story. Snowboarding: For Me focuses on the unique relationship between the members of the team with the sport and lifestyle they live every day. Expect: An all star line up Riders: JP Walker, Terje Håkonsen, Shaun White, Danny Kass, Torstein Horgmo, Ståle Sandbech, Mikkel Bang, Mark McMorris, Nicolas Müller, Jake Blauvelt, Heikki Sorsa, Eero Ettala and Kazu Kokubo.
View our video guide for all the ski & snowboard trailers coming this season
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