1 | St Anton – Valluga
One of the absolute classic descents in the Austrian Alps, the highest lift station in the Arlberg ski area leads within a few steps to dramatic, steep and seriously falling away off-piste slopes that takes skiers and snowboarders down to Zurs am Arlberg. The top section is an absolute no-fall section which is followed by a long traverse and some epic powder bowls. You don’t get access to the lift with skis or boards without a locally certified guide and you don’t get access to the powder bowls (or much else in life) if you slip-up on the top section – serious stuff.
2 | Innsbruck – Hafelekar
From the comfort of the rooftop bars in Innsbruck it is possible to make out the top cable car and ski routes leaving the Hafelekar, high above the historic old town of Innsbruck. This top section is totally unpatrolled, entirely off-piste and offers some of the toughest routes in the Austrian Alps. The area is revered by Innsbruck locals and on powder days the locals flock to these slopes. Seriously steep and in places unforgivingly narrow – the Hafelekar is a real testing ground for the best skiers and snowboarders.
3 | Mayrhofen – Harakiri
As smooth as a carpet and steep as a wall, the Harakiri can be an absolute joy to ski or else a piste where those out of their depth come seriously unstuck. The great thing about this extremely uncompromising piste is that it is groomed and those who do unravel near the top face a mighty steep and quick slide to the bottom – in most cases it is simply pride that is destroyed. For those completing the steep descent it is well worth a few minutes at the bottom gazing up at the victims who willingly line up at the first pitch, body language all wrong and then launch into an ill-fated first turn. Spat out at the bottom, smiling spectators ski to the rescue with poles, skis, hats and goggles and well wishes – great stuff.
4 | Krippenstein – Variante Schonberg
Almost unknown outside of the region, the ‘Krip’ offers a few lifts, a similar number of pistes and scenery of the very highest order. It also offers some of the very best off-piste in this part of the Alps with deep powder routes down the sheer face that overlooks the valley and stunning Alpine lake. Local guides are an absolute must – this area is strewn with deadly cliffs. For those navigating their way through this region the pitch, snow quantity and sheer location are unforgettable.
5 | Kitzsteinhorn Glacier – Black Mamba
A serious contender for one of the Top 5 slots opens this season on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. Glaciers are not always known for their steep pitches but the ‘Black Mamba’ certainly packs a bite with its sheer 63% gradient! This groomed black piste # 14 is 1km long, drops 290m in altitude and is venomous like a mamba – perfect for all experts who love it steep!