Top 5 ultimate challenging descents in Austria

There are endless columns devoted to the steepest, toughest or longest ski routes in the Alps.

Here we have selected 5 Austrian routes that in their own way deserve the attention of serious skiers and snowboarders.

1 - St Anton Valluga into Zurs am Arlberg - off-piste and very much a no-fall route

For runs where you are straight into the mix, the Valluga descent into Zurs am Arlberg has a top section that is tough to beat. Alight the cramped Valluga II gondola on a very exposed and precipitously steep rocky knife edge ridge, clip into the skis or snowboard and make very sure that all the top turns are safely made - falling here is not an option. The top section is mighty steep, falls away worryingly and is often wind battered. Why would you pay for a certified guide (mandatory) to endure this? Once the top section is navigated a long and still seriously steep traverse opens up a powder slope that is worthy of magazine covers - just make sure you make it that far.

2 - Harakiri, Mayrhofen - the steepest groomed slope in Austria

For good skiers this can be a real pleasure to ski. The slope is like a perfectly groomed carpet of snow, just at a very unusual angle - the Harakiri is the steepest groomed slope in Austria. Normally slopes of this gradient have moguls the size of SUV's - the Harakiri is different and for those confident enough to tackle it properly then it is a fantastic gradient to throw some big turns in. For lesser skiers and snowboarders the Harakiri has a tendency to eject and spit them out at the bottom. There is often a whole gallery of people at the bottom to applaud those that get to the bottom without skis, poles, goggles…. The great thing about the Harakiri is that it is so steep and yet smooth, those who do fall are nearly always untouched by the time they finally come to rest at the plateau at the bottom.

3 - Glacier to valley in Solden - almost 2km vertical of leg busting trail

From over 3200m down to 1300m in the valley, the 13km trail that winds down from the clouds to the apres ski mayhem in Solden resort is a test of any ski fitness preparation. The sections vary from the steeps on the Rettenbach glacier FIS course, to a long gentle valley trail and then back on steeper stuff on the way back in Solden. Do these 13km without a break and you will have hippo thighs by the time you reach Solden.

4 - Hafelekar, Innsbruck - the antithesis of the lunch time leisure run

Perched high above Innsbruck is the Hafelekar top station, a small lift complex that hangs onto some of the steepest off-piste routes in the region. It is not uncommon on good days to see people in Innsbruck rushing up to the Hafelekar (on an admittedly lengthened lunch break) to tackle the fearsomely steep top sections. Standing at the top of some of the drop-ins, Innsbruck looks worrying underfoot. In the evening it is possible to gaze up at the formidable routes from endless locations in Innsbruck and numerous rooftop bars - great for bragging!

5 - Albona, Arlberg - the absolute powder paradise of the Alps

Debates rage over the best location in the Alps for off-piste skiing yet for anyone who has skied or snowboarded the Albona above Stuben am Arlberg on a good day the argument is settled. This is the snowiest region of the Alps and above Stuben am Arlberg there exists a ridge measuring several km's that offers unbroken routes down into Stuben.

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