What does a great view mean to you? Earlier this month, we asked our followers on social media to help us make a list of the ten Best Views From Gondolas in North America.
The response was immediate, enthusiastic and diverse, with 35 resorts mentioned. Most respondents nominated a specific lift, but some took a more introspective approach asking questions about what sort of views “qualified.”
As one woman over at TheSkiDiva.com asked, “You do mean from on the lift ride itself, right? As opposed to from the top where you get off and can look around? Because that changes the answer a lot.” (We meant views from the lift ride, itself.)
Others pointed out that trams and gondolas have multiple vantage points and therefore almost always have better views than chairlift, a result that was apparent when we counted up the “votes.”
Finally, it was very clear that whether or not one is riding in a gondola or riding on a chairlift, ski lift views break down into two distinct categories: big mountain and big water.
While nine of our top 10 have big mountain views, big water still got a lot of attention, with smaller resorts such as Lutsen and Spirit Mountain, both in Minnesota, being called out for their views of Lake Michigan. And now, without further ado… The Top 10 Gondola/Chairlift Views in North America!
1. The Peak 2 Peak Gondola, Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia.
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola spans the distance between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, joining their high mountain terrain. A 360-degree view of the alpine environment and surrounding peaks shows off the valley and Whistler Village to the south, while northern views encompass Garibaldi Provincial Park’s mountain range, and a bird’s eye view of Overlord Glacier and Fissile mountain.
In addition to unparalleled views, the Peak 2 Peak gondola holds three world records: the longest unsupported span of 3.024 km; the highest lift of its kind at 436 meters above the valley floor; and it completes the world’s longest continuous lift system.
2. Heavenly Gondola, Heavenly, Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California.
The only “big water” view to make it into the top 10, the view of forever blue Lake Tahoe from the Heavenly Gondola is renowned.
Still, other other chairlifts at Heavenly also got props. The Sky Express has unobstructed views of the lake, while the Dipper Express offers a view unlike any other, highlighting the contrast between the alpine lake on one side and the arid Carson Valley on the other.
A one-of-a-kind in New Hampshire, the Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain was built in 1938 and replaced in 1980. From its windows there are views of New Hampshire, Maine, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks in New York. On the clearest of days, the view extends north into Canada.
Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast U.S. is not visible from Cannon Mountain, as it is blocked by nearby Mount Lafayette and the Franconia Range.
According to our poll, Wildcat Mountain is the place to ski or ride and gaze upon Mount Washington. Or, as one person put it, “there are incredible views of Mount Washington right in your face.” Other stunning sights from the Wildcat Express include views of Tuckerman Ravine, a spring skiing backcountry mecca.
4. Bridger Gondola, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Completed in 1997, the Bridger Gondola inspired lots of comments, including this one from Facebook: “Off the hook views of the Tetons juxtaposed against the view of the flat valley of Jackson Hole. Very neat to get up in those mountains!”
Specifically, the view from the gondola looks south toward Corbet’s Couloir and the aerial tram. Terminating at 9,095 feet or 2,772 meters, the Leitner Poma gondola has big views no matter where you look.
Part of the Telluride public transportation system, the Telluride Gondola was originally built in 1996 to help protect the area’s clean air when the ski resort expanded. Free to everyone except skiers and riders (who must have a lift ticket), the gondola runs daily from 7:00 a.m. to midnight year-round and connects the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village.
The views from the gondola go two ways with the Victorian town of Telluride dropping quickly below as the lift rises toward the summit at Station San Sophia. On the Mountain Village side, the views extend west to the La Sal Mountains of Utah, 90 miles beyond the dramatic close-in summits of the 14,000+ feet Wilson Peak group and Palmyra Peak.
The Mount Rainier gondola opened in 2011 and runs directly from the base area to the summit, where the Summit House, Washington’s highest elevation restaurant, is located. From the top of the gondola there is a completely unobstructed view of 14,410 foot Mt. Rainier, which is only seven miles away as the crow flies.
Four other dramatic volcanoes are visible: Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak, as well as the Olympic mountain range.
The Snowbird Tram: you either love it or you hate it. It all depends where you’re standing.
If you’ve got a window spot, the view is breathtaking. The tram docks high atop 11,000 feet Hidden Peak, with the highest lift-served skiing access in the state of Utah and well as access to most of the resort’s 2,500 acres of rideable terrain. From Hidden Peak, views of Mount Superior, the American Fork Twin Peaks, and even Mount Timpanogos may be seen.
The tram holds 110 people and departs about every nine minutes. If you can’t get to a window or you’re short, other respondents suggest the view from the Supreme Chairlift at next door Alta. You can even experience both views in one day with an Alta Snowbird pass.
8. Great Divide Express Quad Chairlift, Sunshine Village, Alberta, Canada.
One of the few chairlifts to make the list, the Great Divide Express Quad features panoramic views of all three mountains open to skiers and riders at Sunshine Village. These are Goat’s Eye Mountain at 9200 feet (2806 meters), Lookout Mountain at 8954 feet (2730 meters) and the twin-spired Eagles at 9200 feet (2806 meters) and 9300 feet (2837 meters). Visible from the chair is one of the resort’s most popular, and difficult, extreme off-piste faces, Delirium Dive.
In addition to fantastic, dramatic mountain views, the Great Divide lift starts in Alberta, crosses over into British Columbia and then goes back into Alberta to terminate near the summit of Lookout Mountain. Sunshine Village is also located in the heart of Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is quite unique to their resort.
9. Panorama Gondola, Mammoth Mountain, California.
The aptly named Panorama Gondola begins at the Main Lodge base complex, where it whisks skiers and riders over the top of “Main Park,” one the USA’s largest terrain parks, and home to Mammoth Mountain’s super pipe.
With a gentle swing through McCoy Station, Mammoth Mountain’s mid-mountain lodge, skiers and riders can either get out, or stay on the Panorama Gondola for the 2nd half of the ride to the Top of California, ending at 11,053 ft. As you near the summit, riders take in stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, including the famous Minarets, along with an 18 foot high sign which is often buried by snow.
According to one Mammoth skier, “it’s a view that would make John Muir smile.”
10. K1 Gondola, Killington, Vermont.
On a clear day, the views from the K1 Gondola at Killington extend across the mountains of five states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York and Massachusetts, with close in views of Killington and Pico Mountain.
The K1 Gondola tops out at the summit of Killington Peak, the highest lift-served mountain in Vermont. From the top of the peak, skiers and riders can access the entire resort, with trails back down spanning the spectrum from green circle to double black diamond.
What are your favorite gondola/chairlift views? Share them in the comments below!