Raising The Bar: The Most Challenging Mountains In North America To Conquer

When you're looking to push yourself further, try these less traveled trails and terrain

The road less traveled is a road that ever adventurer craves. It’s the thrill of the “unknown” or places that others don’t normally go that make for an exciting story. The typical trails which call to skiers and snowboarders everywhere do have their appeal, but for the biggest snow buffs, a truly challenging mountain is what they’re after.

There’s nothing greater than the rush of the wind on your face, and the powder spraying around as you make quick turns; one after the other. But what if the trails were steeper? Or more rugged? Or almost painstakingly difficult to traverse because of how deep the powder is? Some ski resorts offer a good mix of terrain for all levels, while others might have more difficult runs that strike a sense of awe in anyone who talks about it.

And if you’re the type who wants to push the envelope on what you’re capable of, then you’ll most likely want to try these mountains. While these challenging mountains are epically breathtaking and inspiring, we can’t say they are for the faint of heart. So hold on your ski poles and helmets, because it’s going to be a crazy ride.


Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, BC, Canada

kicking horse is just one of the many mountains that offers extremely challenging trails at the resortOnce upon a time, snow adventurers would have no other option than to take a helicopter to access the area at Kicking Horse. Now, it’s a little easier to get there but the trails remain to be some of the most rugged in Canada. 60% of their terrain is for advanced or expert skiers, and they truly mean expert. The incredible expanse of their 4 bowls containing 90 chutes will make your jaw drop and can all be seen from the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant (which sits at 7,700 feet).

If you’re craving to hit the backcountry while you’re there, you can certainly try to conquer it too. And request to be flown there by helicopter just like in the old days. Their knowledgeable trainers are there to also assist you in taking on the demanding trails in Kicking Horse. Gotta few questions on how to manage the terrain? They’ll be there to give you the low down so you can feel even more confident on the snow.


Mount Baker, WA

are you up for the challenges at mount baker?You want optimal snowfall quantity? Then Mt. Baker will be right up your alley. Known for having the deepest snow base in North America, this resort will have you feeling like the king or queen of the world. Average snowfall is more than 660 inches with most trails being for intermediate skiers and above.

Their Mountain Management policy is also fairly strict because it makes it clear that each person is responsible for their own actions. The policy sets expectations for all skiers to proceed with caution before getting out on the slopes. It also doesn’t make light of how challenging the terrain is either. If someone wants to take it on, there are a few things to consider.

Especially since they do mention that the safety of guests is “not guaranteed” due to the “rugged, ever-changing and at times severe mountain environment.” After being thoroughly warned about the dangers of the mountain, it’s safe to say you should use your best judgment when navigating around the inbounds. Try not to show off your skills too much though, because others might not find it as exciting.


Jackson Hole, WY

there are some truly challenging mountains in north america like jackson hole
Photo Credit and Copyright: Chris Figenshaw

Even if you’re not familiar with the area, you’ve probably heard of the reputation that Jackson Hole has. It’s a secluded but ultimately incredible ski resort that shouldn’t be slept on in any way. There are a variety of reasons why people feel this way about the resort, but none so much as how the terrain pushes you to the limit (and beyond) in your skiing abilities.

Hailing one of the steepest inbound runs in North America, Jackson Hole offers up dizzying trails that many advanced and expert skiers can’t get enough of. One such run is Corbets Coulior, a legendary run that’ll knock the wind right out of you (if you let it!).

This nearly vertical run insists (read offers no other option) that skiers begin their trek with a drop of 20 feet. Skiers should be on high alert and watch out for rocks in the run-out as well. Going at the speed you’ll be at once you really start moving won’t leave much room for error, so caution is well, very much advised. If this doesn’t sound like something you want to be a part of, you can watch others attempt this legendary run from the tram.


Big Sky, MT

big sky has a lot of big things, like its drops and runs, making for an incredibly challenging adventure
Photo Credit: Jeff Engerbretson

The term “rise and grind” was probably started because of Big Sky. Ok, we all know it wasn’t but it would make sense because of how much skiable acreage there is. Meaning you’ll want to wake up early if you want to get through it all. And let’s not forget about how much effort that means you’ll have to put in to make it through the day.

Extreme terrain is what this resort is all about, and why it can leave people feeling worn out after only a few hours on the trails. Lone Mountain, the singular peak at the heart of Big Sky, is a mighty peak with chutes and lines that are perfect for heart-pumping adventures.

You have a wide array of choices to pick from to get make the most of your visit. The A-Z Chutes, Headwaters Ridge, and Liberty Bowl will all ease the hunger you have for a mountain challenge. But there are more waiting for you, considering that the resort has mostly advanced trails (42%). Expert trails only make up 18% of the overall terrain, but don’t be fooled by the number. Because within that space lies some truly gnarly runs that will either make or break you.

Red Mountain Resort, BC, Canada

try hitting red mountain resort up this season to see if you can take it on
Photo credit: Kalacis

When it comes to Canada, the first thing you hear about is the incredible expanse of wilderness, and the treks people go on while there. The next thing will be about their epic ski resorts. And what their terrain holds for snow enthusiasts looking to physically push themselves. Red Mountian Resort is one of those locations (to be sure) because of their insane backcountry and unkempt runs.

For instance, guests can pay ten dollars (yes, that’s right) to take a Snowcat trip up towards Mt. Kirkup. The peak otherwise can’t be reached because there isn’t chairlift service available. You can score some of the best first-tracks while exploring 200 acres of tree skiing.

But don’t be fooled by the calming nature of the pure white snow or the perfectly spaced trees. Because it’s still a pretty intense journey back down to the base, even for advanced skiers. You can try out your luck on the ungroomed runs, and rolling advanced terrain. We think the experience will fulfill your adrenaline junky needs and leave you feeling exhilarated even after you’re done.


Sugarloaf, ME

when the going gets tough you keep on going on this challenging mountain
Photo credit: Jaime Walter

The name sounds sweet, but Sugarloaf offers guests some terrain that is anything but. Unless of course, you’re referring to it in a figurative sort of way. And with almost half of its runs (43%) in the advanced category, you’re in for a great time. Make no mistake because you’ll find real challenges to confront. Challenges that lead to trails both gnarly and unruly. And don’t miss out on ones like Misery Whip, a no-nonsense natural run down a no-exit T-bar line.

Sugarloaf also features plenty of sidecountry for skiers and snowboarders to traverse, a treat and perfect opportunity to find hidden stashes everywhere. Much like backcountry, sidecountry is just as wild and remote and full of fun terrain.

Mount Burnt and Brackett Basin offer uncommon (in a good way) experiences that people don’t typically come across. The resort offers cat rides to both areas, but there is a limited amount of per day. It’s best to book in advance so you can get in on the action. Snag a spot while you’re there or even before you arrive because it fills up pretty quickly. And it’s easy to see why this resort is so popular among advanced skiers because it takes the overall experience to a whole new level.