Ski Breaks: The best expert runs in France
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Whether it's sheet ice, steep gradients or moguls that does it for you, these are some of the most exhilarating downhill buzzes anywhere.
Here's our look at the finest, toughest black runs in France:
La Face de Bellevarde, Val d'Isere
One of the runs to tick off at least once in a skier's life, this is surely the epitome of the pisted black run. Patrick Ortleib mastered it at the '92 Olympics, but it's one of the toughest in France for the rest of us. What makes it particularly challenging is that it's often moguls from peak to base. Add to that a 1,000m vertical descent and, while it's not the steepest run ever, it's certainly one of the most exciting.
Epaule du Charvet, Val d'Isere
Staying in Val d'Isere and we have another 1,000m vertical descent in the shape of the Epaule du Charvet. Steep, physically demanding and technically difficult, it's one of the resort's greatest tests. Foret, Leisse, Oeillet, Piste G, Piste S, Primeveres, Raye, Sache, Silene, Trolles, Tunnel and Ves are some of the other great black runs in the Espace Killy, which has some of the best expert skiing anywhere.
La Verte, Chamonix
Despite the name, green this run is not. It's a downhill classic and one of the highlights of the Alpine World Cup skiing calendar when it hosts the annual Kandahar downhill in January. Starting at the top of the Coupe du Monde chair at 1,871m, the run boasts a vertical drop of 870m through the fir trees as you ski past La Cassure, Rocher Blanc, Goulet, and the Schuss Battendier.
The Swiss Wall, Avoriaz
Steep, long and never pisted, this is another favourite for black-run baggers. The run in the Portes du Soleil is mainly in Switzerland, but seeing as it starts on the French side of Avoriaz it can make the list. Known locally as La Chavanette, it's best not to fall - don't expect to be able to stop too quickly if you take a tumble.
Saulire Couloirs, Courchevel
Perhaps the greatest expert runs in the whole of the Three Valleys, these are some of France's toughest and most satisfying runs. Once you take the plunge, there is no way back – so be prepared for 900m of super steep north face.
Kilometre Lance, Les Arcs
You can only get on the piste by signing up for professional supervision, which is an indication of just what this slope is like. Simone Origone broke the speed skiing world record here in 2006, hitting an amazing 156.2mph. At Arc 2000, the run starts 2,800m up at the top of the gondola lifts at Varet and takes skiers on a super-fast 800m downhill ride.
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