Top Ten Extreme Ski Slopes

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By Peter Oliver & Alistair Wearmouth

With a name that rings with macabre pathos, La Grave is another French piste-noir. Set on a steep hillside facing the glacier-encrusted slopes of La Meije, the old village serves as a mountaineering center and base camp for expert skiers. Non-advanced skiers who find themselves in La Grave probably should decamp to Le Chazelete or Les Deux-Alpes for their own safety.

La Grave skiing is ungroomed and rugged, so it's essential to ski with a guide who'll be able to lead you safely through terrain that is mostly unpatrolled and unprotected from avalanches. The extremity of the slopes, however, brings a refreshingly crowd-free experience, especially notable in a region known for its busy slopes.

Pitching at more than 50 degrees for more than 3,000 feet, with a nasty dogleg thrown in there just to make it interesting, La Grave's Trefide Couloir is skiing's code-red zone. If you fall here, you'll want to ensure your travel insurance is fully paid-up. The 30-minute La Meije Glaciers Aerial Tramway (Téléphérique) is the only way up to La Grave's glacial high points, followed by two shorter drag lifts to reach the very highest lift-served access spots. If you think the descent of Trefide Couloir is hairy, you don't want to know about the exposed scramble over rock and ice necessary just to get there.

Resort Facts

Web: www.la-grave.com

Email: info@la-grave.com

2002-03 lift pass: 30 euros


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