Is size everything? Well in skiing and snowboarding terms, maybe yes, maybe no. The great thing about offering a huge vertical is that when you get to the top it’s a long, long way down before you need to get on a lift again. Hence the longest ski runs tend to result from the biggest vert.
Of course some argue it’s not how big the vertical is but how steep it is and how fast you get up. They mean that if you get fast up a steep slope it quickly opens up lots of moderate descents and you can end up skiing more, doing laps, than from one big one. But that’s a whole other blog.
Here are the 10 biggest lift-served verticals in North America right now (*).
Revelstoke, BC, Canada – 5,620 ft
Revelstoke took the crown for the biggest vertical on the continent a little over a decade ago when it opened one of the world’s longest gondolas.
Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Canada – 5,280 ft
Actually boasting a choice of two 5,000 foot plus lift-served verticals, Blackcomb Mountain has the slightly bigger stat, for Whistler Mountain it’s a mere 5,020 feet.
Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, USA – 4,406 ft,
Snowmass has held the title of biggest vertical in the US for more than 20 years now, after it added one of the world’s highest lifts up to the Cirque up to 12,510 feet. It runs only in good conditions.
Big Sky, Montana, USA – 4,350 ft,
The former US number one for vert was pipped by Snowmass in 1997. That said the days the Cirque lift doesn’t run in Colorado, it’s still Big Sky.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA – 4,139 ft
Before Big Sky and Aspen Snowmass built their new high lifts, Jackson Hole’s famous tram accessed the biggest vert in the US, and to this day it still claims the country’s biggest continual downhill vertical, allowing you to ski top to bottom without needing to take another lift mid-way.
Kicking Horse, BC, Canada – 4,133 ft,
Much of this massive vertical is achieved thanks to the Golden Eagle Express 8-Passenger gondola which makes its 11,266 long feet of ascent in just 12 minutes.
Panorama, BC, Canada – 3,986 ft
British Columbia’s fourth entry in the top 7 claims a 4,265 foot skiable vertical if you ski off to the highest point of to the highest point of Taynton Bowl and gain a little vertical in the process.
Telluride, Colorado – 3,845 ft,
It’s possible to make a 4,425 foot vertical descent if you’re prepared to hike a little higher in those stunning San Juan mountains.
Timberline, Oregon – 3,690 ft
As well as the longest ski season in North America, Timberline is also in the tyop 10 for skiable vertical (and you can get a lot more if you hike up Mt Hood). When the 8 ski areas above are closed in summer and autumn Timberline still offers 2,616 feet of summer vertical.
Aspen Highlands, Colorado, USA – 3,572 ft,
Aspen Snowmass has not one but two of its four ski areas in the North American top 10, and it’s another where you can hike higher to get more vertical. So half of the six US entries in the top ten are in Colorado.
Also Worthy of Note
Biggest with ski lifts in the world: 9,040 ft, Chamonix, France, Europe
Biggest without ski lifts in the world above sea level: 18,008 ft, Mount St Elias, Alaska, USA (**)
Biggest without ski lifts in the world if you could ski jungle and under water: 33,730 ft, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA (***)
Biggest so far found in the solar system: 78,740 ft, Olympus Mons, Mars
(*) Although if you hike up from the top of the top of the highest lift, you can sometimes make it bigger still and some of these resorts publish verticals that include using the lifts, then hiking higher, which are bigger than the numbers we quote here for lifts only)
(**) Some mountains in the Himalayas are more than but none have as big a vertical as Mt St Elias above the surrounding ground level.
(***) Some snow at the top but some of the locals aren’t happy about skiers skiing it as they fear it may offend local gods. Then its jungle and the bottom two thirds is under the ocean.