AskDefine | Define couloir

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A steep gorge along a mountainside.




couloir m (plural couloirs)

Extensive Definition

A couloir (from the French word meaning "corridor,") is a formation of snow or ice, often only defined in winter, forming a breach in a cliff-face. Though often hemmed-in by sheer cliff walls, they may also be formed by the course of a stream or by trees. There is a marked differentiation that should be noted between a couloir and a 'col,' which is the natural, often gradual, depression valley formed by the juncture of two mountain masses. A couloir is a seam, a scar, a fissure, a vertical crevasse even, in an otherwise solid mountain mass. Never intended for skiing, nevertheless sought-out by backcountry adventurers and daredevils. Navigated by European, Alpine skiers long before the word 'extreme' entered the lexicon. Typically Alpine, the Massif du Mont Blanc has many well-known, celebrated, and frequently visited couloirs, Gervasutti Couloir, Breche Nonne Couloir, the Chevalier and Cosmiques couloirs are a few. Jackson Hole, Wyoming in North America has a famous and challenging couloir called, Corbet's Couloir. Sugar Bowl in California has a run called Nancy's Couloir. Also Big Sky Resort in Montana has a run called "Big Couloir" at 45 degree pitch for over 1,000 feet of vertical is one of the most intense in-bounds trails in America.
These physical features are popular with both skiers and climbers, requiring both stamina and skill, and are possibly fatal if either is lacking. Whilst in the United States such terrain features are uncommon on ski resorts, they are more common in Europe.
A couloir is typically considered an off-piste trail and as such are not marked on ski piste maps. Some exceptions include the Grand Couloir in Courchevel, France which has historically variable classifications, but is now graded as a black run under French piste difficulty grading and Corbet's Couloir in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Another exception is the double black diamond run on Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada "Couloir Extreme" which is located inside the Whistler-Blackcomb resort boundaries and can be accessed via chairlift.
couloir in German: Couloir
couloir in Polish: Żleb
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