A few years ago, I put together a list of the biggest ski areas in North America. Re-reading it recently, I was surprised just how quickly the list had got out-of-date—it seems the biggest ski areas in America keep getting bigger pretty quickly. In fact, things have changed so much in just a few years it seems a whole new list is required rather than an update of the original piece.
The first thing to say, before we start on the list, is that there are different ways to measure size. We usually measure ski area by acreage in Canada and the USA, but over in Europe, resorts more often measure the combined length of all the groomed ski runs added together.
There are many other ways you can also measure ski areas, for example: most uplift capacity of their ski lifts or the biggest by popularity (skier days). For an extra layer of complexity, some of the biggest ski areas are adjacent to other ski areas that are separately owned or private—Do you add the two together because you can physically ski both under one lift ticket, or treat them as separate as their owners do? It’s a judgement call you can make either way.
Anyways, here are our contenders for biggest ski areas in North America.
1. Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Canada – 8,171 acres
Whistler Blackcomb has long been recognised as the largest ski area in North America, with one of the biggest and fastest lift networks on the continent. There are 37 lifts including more high-speed quads and gondolas than almost anywhere else on the planet. Whistler Blackcomb’s hourly lift capacity of 69,939 skiers per hour is world-class too. See Western Canada lift tickets.
2. Powder Mountain, Utah – 8,464 acres
Powder Mountain has claimed to be the biggest ski area in the USA for quite a few years now. With the addition of two new lifts in winter 2016-17, the resort got even bigger by adding more than 1,000 acres of in-bounds terrain. The resort is famous for the powder (after all, the resort is named after it), its huge size, and the fact that ticket sales are limited to a maximum of 2,000 a day—That means that each skier or boarder gets access to a lot of personal space, and hopefully personal powder, each day.
Some argue that although Powder Mountain has more than 8,000 acres and over 160 marked trails, the resort’s six chairlifts and three tow lifts do not provide the uplift to access it all, so it’s not truly the biggest which is why we put Powder at second place. See Utah lift tickets.
3. Park City Mountain, Utah – 7,300 acres
Vail Resorts took control of what were formerly two separate Park City ski areas–Park City Mountain Resorts (PCMR) and Canyons–a few years ago now (time flies). Having spent a gargantuan sum acquiring PCMR, building a gondola and making other infrastructure upgrades to link the two ski areas to create one, Park City Mountain climbed the ranks into top 3 spot of “biggest ski areas in the North America.” Currently Park City Mountain has 41 lifts, including 32 mostly high-speed chairs and several gondolas.
Although Park City Mountain makes no official claim to be larger than Whistler Blackcomb (both are now owned by Vail Resorts), interestingly, by at least one measure, it is. German skiing expert and cartographer Christoph Schrahe, found that by the European measure— combined length of all the groomed ski runs—Park City Mountain has more groomed runs than any other ski area in North America. It measured 265km (164 miles) compared to Whistler Blackcomb’s 254km (158 miles). See Utah lift tickets.
4. Big Sky, Montana – 5,800 acres
Big Sky used to hold to title of the “biggest in US” but was overthrown by Park City Mountain and Powder Mountain over the past few years. While it may not currently be the biggest statistically, the resort has none-the-less maintained its trademarked tag line “The Biggest Ski Area in America,’” arguing that the experience it offers ‘feels’ the biggest. The resort’s owners have also announced their intention of expanding the ski area and reclaim biggest spot in the future.
In an added twist, Big Sky is actually connected by lifts and ski runs to another ski resort of 2,200 acres—That gives it a combined total of 8,000 acres. The catch, though, is that those 2,200 acres are the privately owned by the Yellowstone Club. To become a member, you need to invest in property worth several million dollars. These super rich skiers can seamlessly ski between Big Sky’s terrain and their own private area, but alas the rest of us can’t go the other way on to Yellowstone Club land. So do we count it or not? It exists if you can afford it but disappears as an option if you can’t. See Big Sky lift tickets.
5. Vail, Colorado – 5,289 acres
The third largest single mountain resort in North America. It has 5,289 acres. See Colorado lift tickets.
6. Heavenly, California, Nevada – 4,800 acres
Heavenly Mountain Resort, another owned by Vail Resorts that straddles the California–Nevada border, is 6th with 4,800 acres. See Tahoe lift tickets.
7. Mt Bachelor, Oregon – 4300 acres
Mt Bachelor has moved up in our list this winter following a 600+ acre terrain expansion this season. Formerly on 3,683 acres, it has leap frogged Canada’s second and third biggest ski areas into 7th place. See Oregon lift tickets.
8. Sun Peaks, BC, Canada – 4,270 acres
Sun Peaks just keeps growing. Now the second biggest in Canada, it has announced plans to expand further in the near future. See Sun Peaks lift tickets.
9. Lake Louise, Canada – 4,200 acres
With 4,2000 acres, Lake Louise is Canada’s third largest ski area and one of the longest established big ski areas in North America. See Lake Louise lift tickets.
10. Squaw Valley, California – 3,600 acres
Squaw Valley Ski Resort in California is in 10th place with 3,600 acres. A planned (not yet fully confirmed) lift connection may join the resort with its neighbor, Alpine Meadows, which covers 2,400 acres itself. If joined, the combined ski resort may pop up to the top three or four spot. See Squaw Valley lift tickets.
BONUS: Biggest Private Ski Area
Whisper Ridge, Utah – 60,000 acres
Whisper Ridge claims an incredible 60,000 acres of terrain but there are no ski lifts. This is a private ski area and you access the ungroomed runs via one of the area’s eight ski cats. See Utah lift tickets.