This question needs some qualification . . .
first about minimum vertical height,
second about what is meant by “skied”.
I’ve gone down a fully vertical (90-degree) slope on skis. It was about 1 meter high. I jumped off the top, landed at the bottom, declared victory.
If you mean like a slope say at least 500 meters high, using some technique that includes turning the skis from side to side across the slope, then you get could get into questions of how much side-slipping is “reasonably” permitted.
And presumably using rope for rappel would disqualify, but what about a rope for belay?
Anyway I guess the steepest long slope that has been skied with lots of side-to-side turns, no rope, and no more than a “reasonable” percentage of side-slipping is in the range of 55-65 degrees.
(not by me)
The French have a saying which ties in to what Ken has said
50 degree in powder, I’ll take my fiancee, 50 degrees and ice, I’ll take her mother
I can think of one tour I did to the Jas de Lievres near to home. It is a 35 degree slope at most but rain had frozen on the surface, not sheet ice but tricky conditions. I ended up putting crampons on to climb - I skied down another way.
Still 50 degrees in powder and you still pick up some speed on each turn, not that I’m hugely familiar with that kind of terrain. I guess I’m comfortable up to around 40 degrees but will ski steeper if it is powder and not too exposed. I don’t have great steep technique on hard snow in “you fall, you die” conditions.
There is a lot of great 30-35 degree terrain out there, I don’t know what attracts us all to steeper stuff, like moths to flames. It is not even as if it is all untracked these days.
I think to get a real idea of difficulty you need to look at length of the slope, I can do and enjoy a couple of turns of very steep ground but I couldn’t really do it for a few hundred metres. In some places, like David said I think, there’s the psychological difficulty in making turns where a fall can be major. It’s not something I do really, I’ve traversed above that kind of terrain and made a couple of scary turns once or twice but it’s not something I relish personally.
On the flip side, I’m not really decided about some of the videos you see. Not that I watch a lot but the odd one I see seems to have someone gunning a steep slope at high speed in a straight line. I can recognise it’s something I can’t do but I’m not sure if it’s skiing. Back in the “Blizzard of Aahs” days I could see something I couldn’t do but would have liked to capable of. I could just be getting old though.
I don’t have great steep technique on hard snow in “you fall, you die” conditions.
I once asked my cousin to come ski touring with me. His reply? “ I went backcountry skiing in Vail’s back bowls last year - jump, stop, hope you don’t slip and die… jump, stop, hope you don’t slip and die… I’m not coming!” One man’s pleasure is another man’s poison.
Andrew Maclean <http://straightchuter.com> was once asked why there were not more films of him skiing steep couloirs. He replied that films of skiers billy-goating down slopes were not very interesting. Still some of today’s pro-freeriders can ski 50 degree slopes like they are on a blue ski run, provided they are dropped by helicopter first.
I watch some of the local lads in Zinal skiing like that, there’s a couple that are really exceptional. I don’t suppose old farts like me are anything other than a joke when they see us though. I’d say I’m at my best on the rare occasions when I’m skiing fast making more GS shaped turns and at the worst when I’m slow and having to crank the skis round with brute force so I do see the skill involved in those high speed runs. The couple of lads I’m thinking of certainly have control of speed and direction, it’s just I see some where I’m left wondering if all that was happening was they managed to hang on upright. As I can’t really do either it’s fairly moot I guess.
I agree with davidof, anything between 30 to 40 deg seems to be most pleasurable (of course I am not talking “you fall you die” conditions/exposure), nonetheless (as the said moths and fire) mostly I tend to go steeper (subconsciously, though)....
Did once (and truly not wanting do it again) some exposed 55degs ... imho the joy ends (for us, mortals) somewhere around 48degs…
Personally, I feel that any sustained slope of more than 45 degrees is “extreme”. Anything up to that, with modern kit, is possible for a technically accomplished recreational skier. In “nice” snow conditions.
I’m not too sure about what is the steepest that I have skied down. Probably 40-45 degrees. The top of the Rectiligne or the Epaule du Tacul in Chamonix both felt like low-mid 40 degrees. But I suspect that the exposure contributed to that feeling too. Anything steeper, non merci. There is too much to lose....
As for the steepest snow, a 5.5(?) north face like the Nant Blanc in Chamonix. The late Marco Siffredi had this to say about it....
“The route started off flat — it was like 45°, really flat, until I reached a very exposed, 50° to 55° traverse underneath a ridge that lead to a little 50° to 55° gully. The gully carried out onto a 50° to 55° ramp, which ended at a 60-meter rappel past a vertical rock band. Just past the rock band is where I came to the steepest part of the route: 500 meters of 55° to 60° with a section of 65°. After that I came to another rock band where I had a little jump before making the final turns back to the rimaye. The total descent took me two and a half hours.”
And in 2009 Pierre Tardivel said it was “very steep” after he skied it. Or something understated like that…
The snow texture and snow conditions are a big one, making things a lot easier or way more difficult. The Rond with 50cm of fresh snow is a dream, but in poor conditions a nightmare. Ever in soft snow a fall could mean you end up tumbling towards that big hole. In hard snow I imagine things could get quite squirrely.
Its hard to say what the steepest slope I’ve skied is, assuming we are talking about a proper pitch. I’ve skied some pretty steep slopes at Brevent, skier’s right of the top lift, around the Col Cornu - Aig Pourrie and the back of Flegere. Lots of fun to be had around there, and without having to worry about falling down holes.
I skied some pretty steep slopes in Italy on the Sella Ronda, its quite an amazing place. Lots of nice lines!