A double black diamond sounds like a rare, exotic jewel. In fact, a double black diamond is a slope deemed extremely advanced and marked by two black diamond signs that reflect the radical gradient.
Think sheer. Think bumpy. Think insane.
Here are five stunning examples of the slopes that only the deep adventurous and “steep freaks” will even think about carving.
Corbet’s Couloir sounds quaint, but it is lethal. The double black diamond to be found at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming starts out as it means to stay: mean with a mandatory “air-in.” Yes, that means you must leap off a massive ledge just to reach the run underneath – enough of an adventure in itself for most people. Corbet’s Couloir gets its name from mountain guide Barry Corbet, who noticed the crease of snow sculpted like an upside down funnel and gamely forecast: “Someday someone will ski that.” Enter local ski patroller Lonnie Ball, who did just that in 1967. Still, Corbet’s Couloir is rated fourth in the ranking of the top 50 things for skiers to do before they take their final slide, according to TechSourceConsultants.com. Internationally famous among top skiers, the double black diamond has been called “America’s scariest ski slope.” Few would quibble.
We just had to include Goat at Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont because well, it’s called Goat. Also, one amateur reviewer had the guts to say “Goat kicked my butt.” Don’t smile too hard because Goat just might kick yours if you are not careful – or even if you are supremely skillful and alert. Goat is a classic double black diamond characterized by steep, winding chutes and a profusion of boulders that threaten to knock you into next week, should your hips fail to juke in sync. Goat is widely seen as one of New England’s toughest runs. Its brutal contours roll for almost three-quarters of a mile, achieving 36 degrees in steepness. The drastically challenging slope is studded with bumps the size of Hummers. You can just about see why the strange source narrating the video clip above is so amped about Goat. Are you ready for a taste of its animal magnetism?
You had better start doing your wall sits and stay down an awful long time if you want to have any hope of successfully riding the Palisades. The Palisades stand in Squaw Valley, California. They consist of a bunch of 9,000-foot cliffs. Their slippery chutes are barely viable under any conditions. Extreme skier, Scot Schmidt, captured the spirit of the Golden State double black diamond cliff-hanger well in the ski action flick, License to Thrill. “What’s tricky about this thing is the bottom part. It’s like a 90-meter jump,” Schmidt said. Fail to handle the part that the free skier described and you will be mauled. Once you stagger groggily to your feet, however, you will find that the surrounding year-round mountain resort is surprisingly rich in culture. Well, Squaw Valley hosts musical festivals and “beer events” anyway. Check out the events calendar that mentions a Get Outside Festival that weirdly follows an end of the world party.
For some reason – presumably the drama they generate – black diamond ski slopes often have theatrical names. Take Rambo, which also scores points for standing at a place called Crested Butte, Colorado. The steepest slope in Crested Butte, Rambo serves up a ridiculous 55-degree pitch. That’s sheer. In fact, the Rockies snow sport draw is supposedly North America’s steepest man-made ski run. Even eager extreme skiers wipe out when they try to tango with the sub-1,000 feet slope whose bottom reportedly looks as if it goes uphill. That is another way of saying “seriously, relentlessly steep.” In some photos, Rambo looks like a right angle dotted with rocks to keep you interested. Should you survive your white-knuckle ride along Rambo’s rugged curves, Crested Butte itself – an old coal-mining hub is a cool place to explore. “It remains one of the most historically authentic and captivating ski towns in the state,” the New York Times says.
Birds of Prey
Our final stop, Beaver Creek, lies within the bounds of black diamond hotspot state Colorado. The extreme Beaver Creek slope Birds of Prey has a hellish reputation. Birds of Prey is the place where alpine skier Aksel Svindal’s career hit a bad bump. During a 2007 training session, after landing a jump, Svindal spun off into a “safety fence,” sustaining vicious gashes, but he pulled through. In fact, the Norwegian’s first two wins after he returned were a downhill and a “super-G” (super-giant slalom) on – you guessed it – Birds of Prey. Experts say that the head-spinning course with a vertical drop of 2,627 feet is one of the world’s toughest downhill courses. Only the boldest adventure athletes have the nerve and verve to tackle its slopes. The diehard in this clip was brave or insane enough to have a crack at Birds of Prey during a blizzard. The kind of winds that the double black diamond kicks up can reach speeds of 100mph, which gives you stacks of momentum. In a bonus, after you reach the bottom of Birds of Prey, the good gales can push you uphill again. No ski lift required.
Cover Photo Credit: tpower1978 / Flickr.com