Freeriding, off-piste skiing, backcountry skiing or off-piste skiing all mean the same thing: skiing or boarding through untouched powder and deep snow as far as the eye can see! The terrain that freeriders venture into is not groomed by snowcats and is rarely marked out. Here, winter sports enthusiasts enjoy a winter landscape covered in an untouched blanket of snow and a breathtaking feeling of freedom. Whether in Austria, France, Switzerland or Italy, there are fun powder runs in almost all alpine ski resorts. SnowTrex has compiled its favourites and presents the best ski resorts for freeriding:
The best ski resorts for freeriding at a glance:
|Kilometres of piste
|Alberg ski area
|Ski area Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn
|Ski area Kitzsteinhorn/Maiskogel
|Ski area Silvretta Arena
|Ski area Chamonix
|Ski region Les 3 Vallées
|Ski area Tignes - Val d'Isère
|Ski area Andermatt
|Ski area Engelberg-Titlis
|Ski area Arosa-Lenzerheide
|Ski area Matterhorn ski paradise
|Ski area Corviglia
|Ski area Flims-Laax-Falera
|Ski area Piz Corvatsch
|Ski area Monterosa Ski
|Ski area Via Lattea
What is a freeride run?
A freeride run is the term used by winter sports enthusiasts to describe runs that are no longer the responsibility of the lift operators. A distinction is made between different levels of difficulty, which, above a certain level and under certain conditions, require the guidance of professional mountain guides or specially trained providers: L means easy, WS little difficult, ZS quite difficult, S difficult, SS very difficult, AS extremely difficult and EX means extremely difficult. Freeriders should always find out exactly what the level of difficulty is before setting off, and not just go off on their own! In addition, winter sports enthusiasts should always venture into the terrain with the appropriate equipment. Then nothing will stand in the way of powder fun – for example in one of the following powder-rich ski areas.
Freeride Ski Resort Arlberg
The ski resorts of St. Anton am Arlberg, Stuben, Zürs, Lech and Warth-Schröcken form the Arlberg ski area. Here, dreams of piste fans come true on 303 kilometres of pistes and the fantasies of courageous powder fans are fulfilled on a further 200 kilometres of deep snow. On the untouched and snow-sure hills of the winter landscape, they can look forward to refined jumps, challenging passages and flowing tree runs. The deep snow runs can be found almost everywhere in the ski area. The highlight for many freeriders, for example, is an 11 km long deep snow run that starts at the Valluga summit and is hard to beat for powder fun. There is also the possibility of heliskiing in Lech. In all of Austria, only this small ski resort offers this attraction.
In addition, the white slopes are always checked for avalanche danger by the Arlberg mountain railways, so that brave skiers and snowboarders can feel as safe as possible away from the groomed slopes. To further enhance the feeling of safety, trained guides and freeride instructors are available on site to give freeride enthusiasts the best possible introduction to the Arlberg powder world.
Freeride Ski Area Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn
The ski area Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn is considered the ski area with the most snow in Tyrol. No wonder, then, that there are numerous deep-snow runs for freeride lovers to be found here. Fieberbrunn in particular is an absolute freeride mecca with countless downhill options off the groomed slopes. Several freeride schools and camps offer courses where knowledge and experience is shared by professionals. Freeride equipment is also rented out here. This gives newcomers in particular the opportunity to get to know freeriding under optimal conditions.
The ski area is also known in the freeride scene for the Freeride World Tour that takes place in Fieberbrunn every year. At the world championships for freeride skiers and snowboarders, the best of the best come together every year to compete in the finest powder in the ski area.
The mountains around Saalbach are among the best freeride areas in the whole of Austria:
Freeride Ski Area Kitzsteinhorn/Maiskogel
Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can let off steam on 61 km of blue, 26 km of red and 9 km of black pistes in the Kitzsteinhorn/Maiskogel ski area. But apart from the varied selection of downhill runs, the ski area is also one of the most popular freeride areas in the Alps. On five ski routes close to the lifts and signposted, beginners to experts will find the right space for their perfect line. Freeriders can get the necessary off-piste information about the snow situation, avalanche danger, weather forecast, etc. at the Alpincenter.
In addition, topographical features, difficulty levels and danger spots of the respective routes are pointed out at the so-called freeride info points when entering the various ski routes. Due to the high snow reliability at up to 3,000 m, sensational conditions for off-piste skiing prevail all winter long on freeride routes such as the “Ice Age” or the “Jump Run”.
Freeride Ski Area Silvretta Arena
The Silvretta Arena ski area is a sensational two-country ski circuit, located at the legendary après-ski resort of Ischgl and the Swiss town of Samnaun. It’s easy to ski from Switzerland to Austria and back again. Whether winter enthusiasts cross the border on groomed pistes or in powder on freeride slopes is up to them. No matter which variant they choose, snow fans rarely experience such a fun border crossing.
In the Samnaun Variant Zone, the ski routes from the top station of the Visnitz chairlift or the top station of the Visnitzjoch lift, among others, are ideal for freeriding. On Austrian soil, winter fans can find powder routes right next to the slopes and beyond on Palinkopf, Höllenspitze and in the varied terrain on Piz Val Gronda.
When thinking about the freeride experiences in the Montafon, experts always go into raptures:
Freeride Ski Resort Chamonix
The area around Chamonix in France is considered the birthplace of extreme skiing. Here, the highest freeride runs start at an altitude of 3,275 m and offer powder fans breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Grandiose freeriding opportunities can be found in the ski area in the Grands Montets area and on the Brévent, among others. Another highlight is the 20 km long valley run, where skiers and snowboarders can experience particularly fun moments. In addition, freeriders in the ski area have the opportunity to expand their playground with some powder runs by upgrading their ski pass to the “Mont Blanc unlimited” ski pass. In addition, professional mountain guides also provide support in Chamonix when exploring the versatile powder slopes.
Freeride ski region Les 3 Vallées
Winter lovers can enjoy a total of 600 kilometres of pistes in the Les 3 Vallées ski region, the largest connected ski area in the world. Thanks to its diversity, the ski region is suitable for every ski fan, from small to large and from beginner to professional. Freeriders also benefit from the size of the ski area, as there is almost endless space for them to let off steam between the many pistes. Especially on the slopes around the Méribel ski area, action fans can experience special powder fun on small excursions off the marked pistes.
Only at the border to the National Park are there deep snow slopes that are completely reserved for nature and are therefore a no-go zone for brave skiers and snowboarders. In the ski resorts of Les 3 Vallées, experienced guides offer courses for different levels. Ski rentals complete the offer with the right equipment for safe off-piste skiing.
Freeride Ski Resort Tignes – Val d’Isère
If you fancy freeriding, the Tignes – Val d’Isère ski area is the place to be. In addition to a proud 300 kilometres of pistes and 82 ski lifts, the piste experience is characterized above all by the large selection of freeride offers.
Numerous ski routes are available to powder fans on a total area of 10,000 hectares. At almost every groomed piste, there is the opportunity to venture off the usual route into the deep snow and make your turns here. Particularly noteworthy here are the two downhill runs “Combe de Constantin” and “Le Glattier”. Both off-pistes are easy to reach and ideal for beginners as well as advanced skiers. Ski guides not only reduce the risk of underestimating certain sections, but can also show freeriders unique and hidden routes where very few winter sports enthusiasts leave their tracks in the snow.
The Tignes – Val d’Isère ski area offers off-piste activities as well as the opportunity to prove your skills on the various pistes and snow parks. Professionals are guaranteed to get their money’s worth on the “Face” piste. The black piste is the longest and steepest run in the ski area. Newcomers to snow sports and families with children will find what they are looking for on the numerous wide blue slopes.
The following video shows why Tignes – Val d’Isère is one of the most popular freeride ski resorts in France:
Freeride ski area Andermatt
The Andermatt ski area is the largest ski area in central Switzerland and has also made a name for itself among freeriders as an excellent off-piste resort. For example, spectacular routes can be found in Gemsstock through the Felsen or Hintertal valleys via the Unteralp valley all the way to Andermatt. Thanks to the high snow guarantee, it is not unusual that there is almost never a lack of powder snow in the largest ski area in central Switzerland. The 3,000 m high Germstock marks the weather divide between the northern and southern Alps and provides Andermatt with a constant supply of fresh snow. It is also the starting point for numerous excursions into the open countryside. The particularly good snow situation enables freeriders to draw the first lines through the fresh gravel snow all the way down to the valley as early as December. But newcomers have to be quick, because there won’t be a day of fresh snow in Andermatt when the ski routes aren’t being explored by ambitious freeriders early in the morning.
Lots of sunshine and perfect deep snow ensure the best freeride conditions in Andermatt:
Freeride Ski Area Engelberg-Titlis
The Engelberg-Titlis ski area also convinces snow lovers with a lot of deep snow. As soft and fluffy as icing sugar. Thanks to all the fresh snow, the ski area has become one of the most popular freeride hotspots in Switzerland. The many and some very challenging powder runs on the Titlis as well as Laubersgrat push even experienced off-piste riders to their limits. Both the “Rotegg” and the “Laub” are characterized by a steep gradient with a high degree of difficulty.
The absolute highlight for freeriders in the Engelberg-Titlis ski area, however, is the Titlis circumnavigation. Abseiling, ascent and descent – if you don’t want to miss out on this experience, you should not only bring good equipment but also a good deal of experience and, ideally, a mountain guide. If that’s not enough, the Avalanche Training Centre (ATC) offers you the opportunity to practise searching with avalanche transceivers under realistic conditions, free of charge, and thus prepare yourself optimally for the next freeride tour.
Freeride Ski Resort Arosa-Lenzerheide
The Arosa-Lenzerheide ski area is one of the top destinations for winter sports enthusiasts! Here there is not only pure snow fun on 225 kilometres of prepared pistes, but also in deep snow off the beaten track. The areas on the Brüggerhorn, Hörnli/Weißhorn and the Lenzerheide Rothorn off-piste zone are particularly worthy of mention. For example, winter sports enthusiasts start at the Hörnli ridge, Sattelhütte, Parpaner Rothorn or Mottahütte and arrive – depending on the route – in Arosa, Lenzerheide, Tschiertschen or Molinis. Unique and scenically impressive tours are promised to every freerider there. For example, the route from Arosa to Tschiertschen runs along a stream after a few dream slopes and finally ends in a forest path that exudes a certain romance and amazes nature lovers. So if you want to admire the diversity of nature and enjoy powder skiing at the same time, Arosa-Lenzerheide is the place to be.
Freeride ski area Matterhorn ski paradise
If you love freeriding, you shouldn’t miss the Matterhorn ski paradise ski area, because Zermatt is a brilliant place for deep-snow fans. The Matterhorn, Breithorn and Monte Rosa from an ideal setting for unforgettable downhill experiences. Ideal conditions to get your first taste of freeride air are provided by the 36 km of designated and yellow-marked ski routes, which are secured against all alpine dangers and are particularly suitable for beginners.
For experienced freeriders, there is even the option of heliskiing in the Matterhorn ski paradise ski area. Here, it’s a case of unbuckling your skis, getting in the helicopter and climbing up to the Dufourspitze. In the Monte Rosa massif, you can climb to an altitude of 4,634 m and then descend the mountain on the best freeride routes. Air-Zermatt not only ensures the best safety, but also the company of a mountain guide who shows powder fans the most beautiful fresh snow slopes and reveals many an off-piste secret tip.
Freeride Ski Resort Corviglia
There is probably not a winter sports enthusiast in the world who has not heard of the winter sports mecca of St. Moritz… And rightly so: a diverse range of pistes and the fantastic mountain scenery of the Engadine make the hearts of every snow lover beat faster. In Corviglia, St. Moritz’s home skiing area, you can choose from a variety of runs, starting at the top station of the Piz Nair, for example. Past rock-strewn steep slopes and cliff bands, the route of the west slope finally leads to the Suvretta valley, from where it goes via Alp Suvretta to Futschöls before returning to the area. The east flank is the slightly shorter, but no less challenging part of the route due to the steep slopes. Experience and safety on skis or snowboard are required here, as well as a certain savoir-faire off-piste.
Freeride Ski Resort Laax
The Laax ski area is one of the largest ski areas in Switzerland. Here, winter sports enthusiasts can let off steam on a whole 188 kilometres of pistes, reaching up to 3,018 metres. For those who don’t fancy groomed pistes and prefer freeriding, the Flims Laax Variant Zone offers ski routes with a total length of around 40 km. Safety and the teaching of basic techniques are writ large in Laax. The Freeride Base in Laax offers not only the rental of protective and safety equipment, but also an informative exchange of powder experiences and the opportunity to take part in avalanche transceiver and freeride courses. So if you’re looking for a start in powder skiing or want to expand your freeride skills, this is the place to be!
Freeride Ski Resort Piz Corvatsch
The groomed slopes of the Piz Corvatsch ski area near Sils Maria reach up to 3,303 metres. So it’s no wonder that freeriders feel a breathtaking sense of freedom after a strenuous ascent on Piz Corvatsch at an altitude of 3,451 m. Once you arrive at the top station of the Corvatsch cable car, you have to take on a 45-minute ascent, including a short descent, to finally stand on the summit of Piz Corvatsch. But the effort is worth it, because not only a breathtaking panorama awaits every freerider up there, but also one of the best lines in the Engadine. Approx. 1,500 metres in altitude, the route descends over rocks and white snowy landscapes. A total of six tours stretch across the entire ski area and test every willing skier’s technique, ability, and condition. So it’s not for the faint-hearted, as experienced riders and pros are targeted here.
Freeride Ski Area Monterosa Ski
With an altitude of up to 3,275 m and a number of 175 kilometres of pistes, the Monterosa Ski area offers optimal conditions for snow fun for all ages and ability groups. But those who prefer to go off-piste can let off steam on the numerous ski tours in the open countryside. Particularly popular, for example, is the legendary route over the Grenzgletscher to Zermatt and via Plateau Rosa back to Val d’Ayas. Monte Rosa (4,634 m) forms one of the highest mountain ranges in the Alps with a total of 14 four-thousand-metre peaks and impresses with its high altitude and high snow reliability. No wonder, then, that it was decided years ago to make the untouched areas available to freeriders and leave the unique routes along the Valais Alps to the deep-snow freaks.
Alagne is known as the (!) freerider paradise par excellence. The highest point of the area is at around 3,300 m. From here, fabulous freeride tours lead down into the valley. Steep slopes and rocky outcrops adorn the flanks of the descents. Those who have made the ascent to the summit under their own steam can look forward to a panoramic view of the Italian mountain landscape, followed by fantastic downhill runs and unique experiences.
Freeriding in Monterosa provides dreamlike memories for every winter sports enthusiast who has once had the experience:
Freeride Ski Area Via Lattea
The Via Lattea ski area, with a total of 2,580 hectares, 400 kilometres of pistes and an altitude of up to 2,823 m, is located in the Italian-French border region and is the largest ski area in Italy. Famous for international ski races, the Via Lattea ski area is characterized by the steep slopes starting from Passo S. Giacomo, Sises and Fraiteve, which are ideal for powder skiing. Deep snow fans get their money’s worth here. You can either go up the mountain by lift or even by helicopter. Heliskiing under the guidance of a mountain guide not only provides freeriders with unique adrenaline kicks, but also enables top-class powder lines that you won’t forget in a hurry. Via Lattea impresses not only with an excellent selection of kilometres of pistes, but also with the variety of snow landscapes off the beaten track, allowing freeriders to feel the charm of the Italian-French Alps.
If you still need some help with the theory, SnowTrex also offers tips on skiing in deep snow.
FAQs about the best ski resorts for freeriding
Despite the different names, all terms mean the same thing: skiing or snowboarding off-piste through pristine deep snow and along undiscovered winter landscapes.
Freeriding is not dangerous as long as winter sports enthusiasts are well-informed and know and respect their limits. Moreover, you should only venture off-piste when conditions are optimal. Skiers have to be aware, that off-piste routes are not under the supervision of the ski resort service personal and are also not prepared by snowcats. Therefore, it is advisable to be accompanied by trained mountain guides or to take part in avalanche awareness courses due to the increased avalanche risk.
The Arlberg ski area is the largest freeride ski area with ski routes with a total length of 200 km.
The ski area in Laax is particularly suitable for beginners. In addition to the rental of protective and safety equipment, the Freeride Base offers avalanche beacon and freeride courses.
Compared to normal skis, freeride skis are wider, because the larger the ski’s surface area, the more lift is generated in deep snow.