Every resort has at least one: that inbounds run or area that skiers and snowboarders talk about in lift lines and over lunch. The one whose pitch, steeps, chutes, trees, or moguls cause heart rates to rise and knees to buckle. It’s the part of the hill where you’re a little more likely to rack up an involuntary ride in the ski patrol sled.
Indeed, some inbounds runs can still give even the most most skilled skier or rider a serious shot of adrenaline—and give intermediate types a worthy goal to work up to. And with that, we’ve put together a list of the scariest inbounds runs in the Wasatch: a tested compilation of inbounds descents (plus one hike) that, if you haven’t yet tackled, definitely deserve a spot on your Utah skiing bucket list. Take a deep breath, drop in, and get ready to earn your bragging rights.
1. Challenger Run at Solitude Resort
A groomer on the unobtrusive front side of Solitude’s mountain (alongside many of the beginner-oriented greens and blues), Challenger lives up to its name. It’s a sudden super-vertical dropoff from a shoulder ridge, slightly north-facing so always shady and often a little bit icy.
It’s accessed from the Eagle Express lift on the far west end of the resort; you veer left at each fork in the groomers until you find yourself perched atop a sudden 1,000-foot-tall rollover. This run sees relatively little traffic, so you can usually just open the throttle and let ‘er rip, straight-lining it until you realize you’re shaking in your boots. The steepness eases up, then drops again in a series of launchable rollovers. You’re pretty much guaranteed butterflies in your stomach by the bottom.
2. Three Kings Terrain Park at Park City
Served by its very own dedicated lift so you can cruise fast laps and fine-tune your game, the Three Kings terrain park in Park City is where the big kids go. And the King’s Crown area is where the BIG big kids go (i.e., the world-class pros who do things most of us wouldn’t try without borrowing an anti-gravity suit from the future).
The main Three Kings Park has plenty to keep you busy: jumps, rails, wall rides, and boxes, and you can hop into the relatively small 13-inch minipipe to play around with launching off the lip. If you’re not a terrain-park regular and you’re old enough to rent a car, these kinds of features are enough to get you well outside your comfort zone. You’ll emerge humbled, yet you may have way more fun than you’d expect.
3. Night Skiing the Crest Trees at Brighton
Night skiing may not seem that extreme, but if you aren’t used to it and you catch the mountain on a nice, snowy night, you can really challenge yourself skiing the soft pillows through Brighton’s rolling forest just beyond the edge of the perfectly lit groomers. (This would be a great time to issue a reminder that helmets are an awesome idea.)
Somehow there’s nothing quite like flying through a silent, dimly-lit forest full of powder and perfectly-spaced trees to focus the mind and keep you firmly in the present—lest you take a big walloping crash in the dark.
4. Great Scott at Snowbird Resort
For a nice little thrill within full view of tram riders, head to Great Scott just below the top of the tram at Snowbird . The airy ridgeline known as the Cirque Traverse features quite a few interesting, rocky chutes with narrow entrances and wider aprons—yet the descent stays rowdy all the way down to the nearest cruiser, Chip’s Run, a thousand feet below.
Scope your line carefully on the tram ride up, being sure you aren’t poised to hit any unforeseen airs. Poke your way through the upper rocks as carefully as you please, then go ahead and press the gas pedal once you’re ready to descend this natural obstacle course aggressively. If skiing Great Scott fast doesn’t get your heart pumping, you might consider getting it checked.
5. Champion Moguls at Deer Valley
Moguls, you say? Yes, moguls. Deer Valley, you say? Yes, Deer Valley.
This ranks as a ski thrill because moguls are very difficult to ski well, especially when they’re as steep as this famed FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup competition run at Deer Valley. Some skiers (and most boarders) avoid moguls. Their commonly stated aversion is that they’re hard, but we all know that things that are hard are also good for you. So do a few extra squats and lunges at the gym, then head to this steep competition-grade mogul runjust uphill from Deer Valley’s Snow Park lodge to test your mettle.
Most mortals have to pause partway down to catch their breath and check their speed—lest they spin off ricocheting down the bumps. Get out of control, and you’ll pay for it with multiple chiropractor visits.
6. Fantasy Ridge at Solitude Resort
This hike and the runs off it (a mix of inbounds and out-of-bounds) are rated extra spicy. To be clear, you definitely need to chat with Solitude Ski Patrol at the top of the Summit Lift before you give this hike a go. It entails a narrow, steep bootpack with very steep cliffy drop-offs on either side, with several places where you really really wouldn’t want to fall. There are cables mounted to the rock in a few places so you have a little something to hold onto.
To tackle this adventure, you’ll want a backpack, razor-sharp ski skills, a comfortable relationship with heights, approval from ski patrol, and a pre-made plan for your descent. (Some lines off the front side of the ridge, which are inbounds, aren’t skiable by most mortals—and the gentler lines off the back-side are out-of-bounds and require full avy gear.) If it sounds intimidating, that’s because it is. But if you’re up for it, a hike that gets you this jittery is more than worth it.
Written by Beth Lopez for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Featured image provided by Craig Stanfill.