Being a chairlift isn’t easy. You’re out there in the cold, constantly spinning in circles, pushing people’s butts around all day. Plus, no one ever says thank you after a good ride and an angry mob forms when you’re out sick. It’s a thankless task, really. We at Liftopia want to take a moment to say a big THANK YOU to each of the thousands of chairlifts out there in the snow and wind making it happen, day in and day out. We’d also like to give special recognition to what we believe to be the 5 best chairlifts in North America. Note this list is ONLY chairlifts. No gondolas, trams or surface lifts included. Let us know which ones you like and which ones we’ve missed!
1. THE Silverton Chair
The chair at Silverton is really something special. The chair provides access to some of the best terrain and snow in North America. High above Silverton, CO, a select few get to access incredible high-altitude Colorado terrain, usually in a small group with a required guide… but that’s just the beginning. The chair itself started its life at Mammoth and was acquired by the Silverton founder dudes in a firesale. The terrain at Silverton is so raw, there are no roads. So the the pits for each tower were dug by HAND by burly Colorado mountain folk. Yes. Dug by hand. With picks and shovels. At +12,000 feet above sea level. Best. Chair. Ever! See it in action.
2. Chair 23 at Mammoth
Chair 23 at Mammoth is a beast-mode chair that serves beast-mode terrain. Climbing +1,100 feet of vertical with super steep sustained pitch in one ~6 minute long fixed grip triple chair ride up, you’d better be ready for the high-speed ride down. All terrain on Chair 23 is above treeline and there are plenty of cliffs, rocks, chutes, cornices and features for getting radical. The runs down are so intense, there is rarely a line at the lift because most folks have to stop to suck wind several times after every lap. Chair 23 is frequently on weather hold due to it’s XTREME location, but when it’s goes off, it doesn’t get any better than this. See it in action.
3. KT22 at Squaw
Of all the chairlifts in the world, there is no chair that has more die-hard fans than KT22 at Squaw Valley. And these fans will certainly make themselves heard in the comments in regards to the #3 placement as they will surely feel it should be #1. If a chair could take on a skier persona, KT22 would be Shane McConkey. The terrain served by KT is truly the stuff legends are made of. The Fingers and McConkey’s alone would be enough to put a chair, or even a whole resort, on the global gnar-radar (gnardar?). KT22 is also highly dependable, spinning +95% of days in the winter, albeit with sometimes monstrous wait times. If you ever have an opportunity to hit KT22 on a midweek powder day, take it. See it in action.
4. Deep Temerity at Aspen Highlands
If you were to ski “standard” laps on the Deep Temerity chair at Aspen Highlands, you would find some great runs. Steep, gullied trees with plenty of hidden features and aspects can be great days after a storm. But Deep Temerity is on this list not for the standard runs, but for the “bowl laps” the chair enables on what many would argue to be the crown jewel of Colorado resort skiing: Highland Bowl. Picture +2,500 vertical foot runs with wide open, sustained steep pitch skiing topping out at 48 degrees, all starting from the tippy-top of a +12,000 foot peak with amazing views and rowdy, big-mountain features throughout. Deep Temerity enabled laps on Highland Bowl are as close to heli-skiing as you can get, all for the price of a lift ticket. See it in action.
5. Peak Chair at Whistler
Whistler is currently the largest ski area in North America and the Peak Chair is what brought it there, taking visitors to the top of Whistler Mountain, over 7,000 feet above sea level. Skiers and riders can access nearly 5,000 vertical feet of terrain from the top of Peak Chair and the +1,300 vertical feet of high-alpine terrain that is lappable from the chair are some of the best on the planet. Similar to KT22, there are so many zones accessible from the Peak Chair it is tough to pick highlights. If nothing else, while your thighs are burning from your last run and you’re waiting in lift line, keep your eyes peeled for folks dropping the legendary Air Jordan to the lookers right. See it in action.
What are some of your favorite chairlifts? Let us know in the comments below!