On spring weekends with good weather, hundreds – sometimes thousands – of skiers flock to Tuckerman Ravine, New Hampshire. This famous backcountry area is situated on the slopes of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, and has some of the steepest terrain anywhere in North America with sustained pitches ranging from 40 to 60 degrees. The legend and lore that surrounds this place puts it up there with Jackson Hole’s Corbet’s Couloir, Squaw Valley’s KT-22, Crested Butte’s Extremes and Aspen Highlands’ Highland Bowl.
In good snow years, skiers hike and ski the Ravine from April to July when the snowpack is more stable. The Ravine itself is a steep bowl that starts with the headwall and drains into the hike-in approach. Big crowds gather at the bottom and on the Lunch Rocks to watch the skiing glory (and disaster) play out above.
There are many routes within the bowl, and they’re all steep, getting steeper as you move from skier’s right to skier’s left. Some of the more famous descents include “The Icefall” with its 25-foot cliff drops and “The Lip” which was skied heroically by daredevil Anton (Toni) Matt in 1939.
The young Austrian skied an unplanned route when he entered Tuckerman Ravine during the “American Inferno,” a top-to-bottom race of Mount Washington. The story goes that Matt had planned to take a few turns and then tuck to the bottom once he was past the 50-degree pitch. Due to poor visibility, he didn’t realize he was still above “The Lip,” the steepest part of the headwall, and when he realized his real location, it was too late to attempt to turn. He got in a power stance on his wooden skis and leather boots and blasted past the spectators, somehow staying on his feet through the run out.
Of course others haven’t been so lucky when they’ve challenged Tuckerman Ravine. There are hundreds of videos across the web showing the dramatic demise of many egos as skiers slide down the slick and incomprehensibly steep face. Here’s a quick collection of the best from the web:
Tuckerman Ravine Crash – Face-first slide
We’re not quite sure what went wrong here, but this is a classic Tuckerman slide. The sound effects are priceless… (but, be warned, there is an expletive at the end!)
Jumping the Headwall at Tuckerman Ravine
Big ups to these guys who have some guts. Unfortunately this compilation of mostly crashes and a few narrow misses makes it pretty apparent that it’s tough to self-arrest on a slope as steep as Tuckerman’s.
Skiing Tuckerman Ravine on April 9, 2011
This POV footage shows off the general experience with the crowd factor, the steepness of the hike and the descent, and finally the corn-snow pay-off that makes it all worthwhile.
Despite the inconsequential spills in the videos above, Tuckerman Ravine is no joke. If you’re hoping to conquer the Ravine yourself, make sure you check the forums, ask the locals and potentially hire a guide based in the Mt. Washington Valley. The Mount Washington Avalanche Center is a good resource for snow conditions and avalanche danger information.
If you’re looking for in-bounds steeps, our Mountain Vacation Specialists can point you in the right pucker-inducing direction. Give us a call or chat now to find more information.