(We have urged the guides of Monte Rosa to learn more about it: how, where and when you can do steep skiing on Monte Rosa)
Steep skiing: a definition
Steep skiing is the extreme expression of off-piste skiing which is done on slopes with an angle of more than 40°.
From this concept, we asked ourselves a question: what is defined as an extreme steep descent?
If it is a fact that a descent of more than 40 ° is defined as steep because it can be measured, the concept of extreme can imply different evaluations. Because it is the pleasure that everyone draws from it that defines the concept of extreme; beyond a given limit, individual pleasure is extinguished and becomes something else.
Therefore, we have reached the conclusion that first of all, it is necessary for each of us to know and realize our own limits because once it is surpassed, pleasure loses its meaning. And at this point we cannot be of any help; this is the moment we need to compare our abilities with fellow adventurers, loves, lovers, masters but above all, we need to passionately do a self-evaluation!
From cult classics to hidden gems, frequented by those who have the nerve and experience.
We decided to give you a list with comments, that focusses on what we believe is a possible point break between extreme and excess, which you will have to evaluate. The Monte Rosa guides have given us their point of view on the most beautiful descents, leaving you the task of testing your limits, to venture into the field of uncertainty and the seductive temptation of the absence of any rules.
Never forget that there are no certainties in steep skiing, only shifting variables: some are more certain such as the morphology of the terrain, but there are many changeable factors such as the quality of the snow, the weather conditions, and the psychophysical state of the skier.
We like to think that the steep skier is someone who knows how to woo the descents, who can patiently wait for the right moment, thereby minimizing the frenzy of the end result with the subtle pleasure of waiting, and all the while doing a constant self-evaluation.
The Gran Couloir Stolemberg
A beautiful channel with sloped sections of around 40° which can only be run when the snow has settled, and it’s particularly exposed to avalanches. It has about twenty bends (the first with a "hint" of jumping) lead to rather pleasant continuous slopes of 35°. A “cool” entrance for Balma.
The Dente Bors
This run is a favourite of those nostalgic for the old Indren cable car, because it is the same route but from the ground, back upwards in what was its most evocative section. A short, but intense, couloir with some 40°bends, which descends from the plains of Balma and requires a familiarity with steep terrain. A blast from the past that should be avoided when it is hot!
It is the first channel where you can try out steep off-piste skiing. It is close to the lifts, which give you access to the legendary Balma Valley, the "Mecca" of freeride. With a difficult access of 45° with rocks outcrops, with wide slopes that allow you to get rid of the adrenaline accumulated in the few curves jumped at the entrance.
Really easy to spot but… so hard to find virgin and untouched! Like the Rettilineo, it requires good snow cover and excellent skiing skills. It’s a slope at a 45° angle in the first part, then it becomes easier. The right amount of adrenaline rush for the freerider who wants to quickly reach his more prudent friends who choose to ride the "easy" classic Balma.
The Miniere (Mines)
This is a side-channel of Vallone della Balma. The inclination of 35 ° is never excessive and the width of the channel makes this steep descent really wide, as long as the snow has settled well. Sometimes it can be a bit icy, so edge maintenance on equipment is essential. The name recalls the presence of mining sites on the sides of the canal. Skiers have replaced the presence of miners in just a few centuries on the Balma.
A 40 m descent into the narrow and steep 45° angled entrance channel, opens the doors to homogeneous slopes between 25° and 30° for more than 1000 meters of difference in altitude. It's like that song you can listen to a thousand times!
This is a particularly difficult name that creates confusion. The correct toponym is D’Ize-chetti (at the iron chain). It's a narrow and steep gully of 45° at the entrance which gradually widens and flows into the Olen valley, your first flirtation with steep skiing. It is perfect for verifying the aptitude abilities of experienced off-piste skiers who wish to try their hand at steep slopes.
A must of all the steep winter descents of Monte Rosa. The entrance through a snow frame, the first curves at a 60 ° angle and a very exposed traverse are the towers defending the slope of Punta Vittoria, where powdery snow and a 40 ° inclination merge and give the steep skier out of the ordinary moments of glory.
Ds Likke Schloss
The meaning is “small castle” in German Walser: a sinuous canal, set between the southern bastions of Punta Vittoria with an entry at 50 ° and 800m of curves jumped at 45 ° between bottlenecks and jumps. A perfect knowledge of the area, total control of your skis and the ability to sense optimal snow conditions are necessary for those who aspire to enter the Piccolo Castello.
Wide and gentle slopes in an isolated and wild environment are the prelude to this steep and severe 45 ° slope. The difficult location of the entrance and the exposure to the sun make it a descent that can only be wooed by skiers with experience and who know exactly what they want. This is a great descent under the Lys glacier, IN FRONT of… well, where everyone skis!
Of all the descents in Gressoney, this is the cherry on the cake.
Don’t just pick a random slope, if you don’t know which one and especially if you are not convinced! The first time you try out Steep skiing on Monte Rosa, ski with a local guide! Guide Society of Gressoney – Guide Corp of Alagna – Guide Society of Champoluc. Steep skiing must be tackled with the correct skills and the Monte Rosa guides know how to teach it!