North America's Best & Long Groomers
In our hearts we’re all about the steep and the deep: Hucking the cornices at Squaw’s Palisades or cutting a line on the shower curtains outside Valdez or getting face shots at Silverton.
But even though our hearts are in the right place, our minds and bodies just can’t seem to keep up, and we’re faced with the prospect of spending our winters on the more manicured acres of our favorite resorts.
Still, there’s a lot to be said about laying down some smooth arcs while carving up a machine- groomed run: The speed, the control, the elegance, the fewer hospital visits. And the longer the better, right?
With that in mind here some of our favorite long-distance groomers:
1) Warm Springs, Sun Valley, Idaho
This is perhaps the template for all high-octane groomed runs. Although the run has a blue-square designation, don’t think it’s for intermediate skiers and boarders only. At about 2.5 miles long, the Warm Springs run, which has few trail intersections to distract your attention, drops a little more than 3,000 vertical feet in what one Sun Valley veteran said is “the straightest, truest fall line imaginable.” www.sunvalley.com
2) Dave Murray Downhill, Whistler, British Columbia
The 2010 Olympic men’s downhill course is a shade under two miles long with a vertical drop of 2,800 feet and is typically groomed “as smooth as a baby’s butt,” according to one local. The black-diamond rating comes from its gradient which varies from 28 percent to 58 percent. With such features as the Toilet Bowl, the Weasel, Afterburner and Boyd’s Bump you’ll find Dave Murray to be steep and fast. www.whistlerblackcom.com
3) Le Charlevoix, Le Massif, Quebec
This double-black diamond run, which drops 2,500 vertical feet in a little more than 1.5 miles, is the steepest and longest such run in Canada east of the Rockies. With a short section near the top that has a 68 percent gradient, it’s no wonder that it looks like you might just launch yourself into the St. Lawrence River at the resort’s base. www.lemassif.com/en
4) Cornice Bowl-St. Anton, Mammoth Mountain, California
After taking in the spectacular 360-degree view of the central Sierra from Mammoth’s 11,053-foot summit head down the ridge and pop a right at the saddle to plunge down the sublime and steep Cornice Bowl run, which cuts a wide, smooth swath through the otherwise bumped-out caldera. At the bottom of the bowl hang a left, and follow St. Anton’s mellow wide-track route to the Panorama Gondola, which brings you back to the top of the 2,100 vertical-foot-drop run. www.mammothmountain.com
5) Perry Merrill, Stowe, Vermont
An iconic run at an American icon ski resort, the Perry Merrill trail, which was cut in 1937, long before the gondola was put in, drops 2,000 vertical feet from the gondola’s top station to its loading platform. Although it starts out with a 33-degree pitch, the trail, which cuts a swath through the woods skier’s right of the more popular — and wider — Gondolier run — rarely hits 20 degrees and allows locals to enjoy fast non-stop runs. www.stowe.com
6) Tycoon, Deer Valley, Utah
Coming in with just a bit over 1,600 feet of vertical, Tycoon may not be the longest around, but there’s more to said about quality over quantity. With Deer Valley’s exquisite grooming abilities, this often overlooked run is simply a hoot. The pitch is a bit steep for a double-blue square run, but the wide boulevard allows you to easily scrub excess speed. www.deervalley.com
7) Gondola run, Kicking Horse, British Columbia
Although the resorts bills itself the Champagne Powder Capital of Canada and there are acres and hectares of sublime off-piste lines, there are times when a Kicking Horse visitor wants to simply lay down some high-speed cruising turns. This groomer is not strictly one continuous top-to-bottom trail — there is a 10-kilometer long green run that fits that description — but an amalgam of trails thattakes full advantage of Kicking Horse’s 3,790 feet of vertical drop. Starting from the top of the gondola go right of the Eagle Eye lodge and down the cat track before bearing left to the Cloud Nine run; just before getting to the bottom station of the Stairway to Heaven lift, bear left to the Tail Spin trail and then make a hard left at the It’s a Ten cat track; a right at the hairpin turn brings you Blaster and then another right puts you on the Downshift cat track; a final left on either Grizzly Paw or Wiley Coyote (whichever is groomed that day) brings you back to the gondola. www.kickinghorse.com