Where the Pucker Factor Is High in Colorado

by Dan Giesin | December 7, 2021

There are a multitude of reasons skiers and snowboarders flock to Colorado for their winter-time fun.

The Centennial State is renowned for its light, dry powder, its panoramic vistas, its immaculately groomed slopes, its luxurious resorts and spas, its Rocky Mountain highs.

But it also has some damned seriously steep in-bounds terrain, on runs that you ought to think twice about thinking about, whose pucker value can give the most hardened adrenaline junkies pause.

The following, in no particular order, are nine such runs.


Near the apex of Telluride’s highest point — 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak — lies the entrance to this couloir. The hour or so, 1,500-vertical-foot slog to Senior’s will give you plenty of time to think about the task near at hand: a 2,500-foot vertical drop down a slope that is often greater than a 50-degree pitch.

Highland Bowl

There are nearly 20 named runs in expansive hike-to double diamond playground (pictured above) that lends Aspen Highlands its name, but the best snow and tightest turns can be found on the north-facing G runs.

The Heathen

Sunlight is a relatively unknown and unpretentious resort near Glenwood Springs, but its East Ridge aspect is an expert rider’s delight, and that’s where you’ll find this run. But don’t let the somewhat gentle entry to The Heathen fool you; the tree-lined pitch soon kicks up to 52 degrees.


This is not the steepest descent in Crested Butte — you can find other more daunting terrain at the resort’s Extreme Limits area — but it is the steepest cut run in North America, dropping 381 feet over its 900-foot length for sustained 50-degree pitch.

2nd Steep Gully

There’s a 129-acre network of steep, narrow chutes at Arapahoe Basin known collectively as The Steep Gullies. Of the five Gullies, No. 2, lined on either side by rock outcroppings, is probably the gnarliest.

52-Degree Trees

This aptly named run at the smallish Wolf Creek resort can be found in the ski hill’s Waterfall Area, which alone can give you a hint on how steep the terrain is.

Wild Child

The Continental Divide defines Loveland’s western boundary, and along that ridge you’ll find a small palisades and its huge cornice that is the literal launching point for Wild Child, which surpasses 50-degrees at the top of the run.

The Six Senses

This is not one run, per se, but an open face with chutes, rocky outcroppings and cliffs that help determine a skier’s or snowboarder’s descent route. You can find The Six Senses between Peaks 6 and 7 at Breckenridge.

2 Smokes

Silverton resort is one-big adrenalin rush, with just about every square inch of its 1,819 acres rated double-diamond. 2 Smokes is a short, narrow chute at the bottom of Mandatory Air run, but you get your money’s worth descending a pitch that drops 390 vertical feet over its dearly 600-foot length.

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