Photo: © TVB Davos Klosters.
Joanna Yellowlees-Bound is the CEO of ski holiday specialists Erna Low and has led the company for 20 years. Given that Erna Low has traveled to 108 destinations in the Alps and Rockies, it’s no surprise that she knows one of two things about ski resorts.
It’s one of those chairlifting conversations that goes on forever. What is the longest ski run in the world? Do you measure them in miles (or kilometers-years), or vertically? Do you include the slides in addition to the piste as well as the piste? And does it matter if you have to catch a lift to combine all the bits of an origin together? Here’s my contribution to the debate: and to prevent it from turning into an argument, I’ve included the following parameters. Running must be uninterrupted by lifts or hiking. It must be marked on the piste map as a piste or cruise line (but not necessarily the same name on the entire route). It must end with a lift that is part of the network that will eventually bring you back to the point where you started. And importantly, I’m measuring the length vertically. This is the result. If you think I’ve missed something important, let me know in the comment box below. Erna Low herself, who founded our company 80 years ago, would be the first to complain – surely one of the top ten must be her hometown? Sadly, it’s not. But the fact that we now offer hotel or apartment stays in all of these resorts should at least put a smile on her face.
1. Alpe d’Huez – peak of Pic Blanc to l’Enversin d’Oz
Vertical drop: 2230m
How to go: when you take the cable car up the Alpe d’Huez to the top of Pic Blanc, you look down at the Tunnel trail below and think to yourself, “There’s no way I can get down there!” But you can. In soft snow conditions, its shell is worse than its bite – just don’t try it once it’s frozen. After some grueling ramps, you push through a tunnel and overtake an even steeper face. But once you’ve negotiated this, the worst is over. However, it is a long way both mentally and physically as it descends the red Les Rousses and the black La Fare to the village of L’Enversin d’Oz.
Stay: Le Cristal de l’Alpe is located 50 meters from the nearest lift and features a heated indoor swimming pool.
2. Zermatt – Klein Matterhorn to the resort
Vertical drop: 2200m
Photo: © TVB Zermatt.
How to go: the journey to the top of the Klein Matterhorn – and the cable car station precariously clinging to the top – sends butterflies flying. At 3883m, your heart races and you wonder if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. But the runs down – at least the first part on the glacier – are as benign as they come in. Sometimes you need to move to maintain enough speed. After the Trockener Steg is at 2939m, it’s just a little more demanding – especially if the crust is icy – but it’s basically an excursion all the way to Zermatt.
Stay: Park Hotel Beau-Site has great views and is a five-minute walk from the Sunnegga Express.
3. Davos / Klosters – Weifluhjoch to Kublis
Vertical drop: 2034m
Photo: © TVB Davos Klosters.
How to go: From Davos Dorf, take the funicular to Weissfluhjoch and then take the short cable car to Weissfluhgipfel. Downstream after Scharzhorn and down Schifer, no technical issues. Then it ran through the woods and across the undulating grasslands all the way to the village of Kublis. If you got it right, you ski straight to the station and board the train. If you choose the wrong time…well, a cup of coffee or a hot snack in the pub is more than welcome.
Stay: Hotel Seehof Davos has been welcoming visitors for over a hundred years and is located right next to the Parsenn funicular.
4. Les Arcs – Aiguille Rouge to Le Pre
Vertical drop: 2026m
Aiguille Rouge. Photo: © OT Les Arcs.
How to go: this is difficult; Strictly for strong skiers. From Arc 1950, take the Varet chair and then take the cable car to the top of Aiguille Rouge which is 3226m long. The long black road of the same name has some obvious complications as it winds just outside Vanoise National Park. Once you get to the road, it all gets a little easier. You finally reach the charming village of Le Pre. The way back is via three elevators to Arc 2000.
Stay: Le Village Arc 1950 is a ski pedestrian village in a ski area made up of eight Savoie-style buildings.
5. Argentiere – Les Grands Montets to the resort
Vertical drop: 2023m
Photo: © OT Chamonix.
How to go: From the car park at the bottom of the ski area you take the lift to Lognan at 1972m and then the Grands Montets lift up to 3275m. From the foot of the steel stairs, you can choose the route that crosses the Glacier des Rognans. This is a wild, craggy terrain that needs to be paid close attention. Pointe de Vue sweeps wide to the right of the skier, while Pylones follows the elevator line, as the name suggests. There are other variations on the way down, but all routes converge on the final yard that goes through the woods to Argentiere.
Stay: Hotel Les Aiglons is a modern hotel located at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi cable car.
6. Malga Ciapela – Marmolada peak to town
Vertical drop: 1823m
Photo: © Marmolada.com
How to go: we don’t have accommodation in the small town of Malga Ciapela at the foot of 3342m Marmolada in the heart of the Dolomites, but you can stay in Arabba and ski there from your hotel via Passo Padon. The cable car will take you up from town in three stages to Punta Rocca at an altitude of 3269m. Downhill is no problem – it’s a long easy journey with breathtaking scenery all the way to the bottom of the elevator where you start. The route follows a World War I trail and is clearly signposted.
Stay: The family-run Hotel Evaldo features a Roman spa center and gourmet restaurant.
7. Cervinia – Rosa Plateau to the resort
Vertical drop: 1833m
Photo: © Cervinia Tourism Office.
How to go: You don’t have to be an expert to ski Cervinia’s most famous. Anyone who can link their parallel turns will be able to manage the combination of blue and red trails that easily descend from the Italian-Swiss border to Cervinia, between several frames. Really amazing scene. Just remember to give yourself a break now and again. The sheer length of the base makes even the strongest legs spaghetti. Initially, I thought the longest run would be down to Valtournenche, which would be 526m longer, but it would take a short 150m half way down to get down.
Stay: Saint Hubertus Resort is eco-friendly with wooden beams, giant stone fireplaces and designer furniture.
8. Bormio – from glacier to village
Vertical drop: 1787m
Photo: © Bormioski.eu
How to go: take the eight-person gondola to Bormio 2000 and then the cable car to Cima Bianca at 3012m. There is a choice of easy and intermediate runs both above and below the treeline. All routes take you back to the outskirts of Bormio itself; but you’d be bad if you didn’t include the Stelvio piste along the way. Normally it’s a red piste: but has double life as one of the best downhill tracks at the World Cup and has hosted the World Championship twice.
Stay: Via Alu is a rustic apartment house 2 km from Bormio and 150 meters from the nearest bus stop.
9. Saas Fee – the top of the ski area down to the village
Vertical drop: 1782m
Photo: © TVB Saas-Fee.
How to go: It’s a long way up via the lift system from the pretty, vehicle-free town (only electric taxis allow) Saas Fee. The final leg is the Metro Alpin underground railway, which takes you up to 3456m, and is home to the Saas-Fee summer ski runs. From the top down, there are two paths down. Best is via Morenia, the skiers are right when you look down the mountain. The bottom half consists of beautiful red, straight from the mountain.
Stay: Sunstar Boutique Hotel Beau-Site is a cozy property with family rooms and an indoor swimming pool with waterfall.
10. Les Deux Alpes – from glacier to village
Vertical drop: 1771m
Photo: © OT Les Deux Alpes.
How to go: The Jandri Express gondola and then the funicular take you to the top of the glacier. Then, from the top of the short Lauze lift, you can ski all the way to Les Deux Alpes. The final leg of this run has been significantly improved this season with the construction of a new blue track into town.
Stay: L’Ours Blanc is a residence with 66 apartments, 50 meters from the elevator and has a heated indoor swimming pool.
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- 1 1. Alpe d’Huez – peak of Pic Blanc to l’Enversin d’Oz
- 2 2. Zermatt – Klein Matterhorn to the resort
- 3 3. Davos / Klosters – Weifluhjoch to Kublis
- 4 4. Les Arcs – Aiguille Rouge to Le Pre
- 5 5. Argentiere – Les Grands Montets to the resort
- 6 6. Malga Ciapela – Marmolada peak to town
- 7 7. Cervinia – Rosa Plateau to the resort
- 8 8. Bormio – from glacier to village
- 9 9. Saas Fee – the top of the ski area down to the village
- 10 10. Les Deux Alpes – from glacier to village