Generally speaking, the bigger a ski resort’s vertical, the longer the runs that you can ski from the top. For those that love the feeling of skiing or riding for as long as possible, we’ve rounded up the longest vertical drops in the universe!
Of course, it’s fair to argue the quality of the vertical. A fast lift up or as few lifts as possible to get up (rather than having to get off one then get another to keep climbing) can be just as important as the size. With that being accepted, ski resorts publish hard numbers and official stats that show us which drops appear to be the biggest.
The Biggest Lift-Served Vertical in the USA:
4,406 vertical feet at Snowmass, Colorado
There are two main contenders for the biggest vertical title in the USA: one with the greatest height difference between its lower and upper lifts, and the other with the greatest “continual” height difference between its top and bottom lifts.
Snowmass in Colorado has the biggest height difference (4,406 vertical feet) between the top of its highest lift (a rope tow) and the bottom of its lowest lift. Big Sky Resort in Montana is close behind, with 4,350 vertical feet from the top of the Lone Peak Tram.
However, in terms of blasting from top to bottom in one go, Jackson Hole‘s tram has, for many decades now, offered the biggest continuous vertical descent. Whizzing up provides access to a non-stop 4,139 vertical feet.
The Biggest Lift-Served Vertical in North America
5,620 feet at Revelstoke, BC, Canada
If you’re looking for the biggest lift-served verticals on the continent, you really need to pop up north of the border to British Columbia in Canada. For many years, Whistler Blackcomb used to be ‘biggest in North America’ with 5,280 feet at Blackcomb, but it was over taken by Revelstoke when it opened in 2007. Other BC resorts with big verts include Kicking Horse (4,133 feet) and Panorama (4,019 feet).
The Biggest Lift-Served Vertical on The Planet
9,040 feet at Chamonix, France, Europe
Chamonix is home to the world’s longest lift-served ski run. The (up to) 14 mile long Vallee Blanche is an ungroomed trail and to ski it, you need to ride a succession of trams up to the Aiguille di Midi. Exactly how far down this vast vertical you can ski depends on conditions.
The Biggest Skiable Vertical On The Planet
18,008 feet at Mount St Elias, Alaska, USA
Of all the mountains on this planet, Mt Everest may stick up the highest into the sky, but the land around it is also high. Thus, the vertical feet between the top and bottom can be beaten by a few mountains that aren’t as high, but continue right down to sea level or further. In fact, the biggest vertical on the planet is right here in the USA: the formidable Mount St Elias, up in Alaska.
Only a dozen or so people have actually attempted to ski Mount St Elias and sadly several are still up on it somewhere. The combination of extreme terrain and extreme weather make it almost un-skiable. A Red Bull-backed team tried a few years ago and are claiming the closest thing to having skied the full vertical, although some pedants are saying they did it in two stages—helicoptering in then out and returning to ski the lower section on a separate date. So you could argue the world’s greatest vertical is still yet to be skied in one go.
See Alaska lift tickets.
The Biggest Non-Skiable Vertical On The Planet
33,730 feet, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
If you include mountains that start underwater, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea’s 33,730 of vertical feet is a little higher than Mt Everest. Of course, without a snorkel and hover skis you can’t ski the full vertical, but Mauna Kea is often snow-capped and the top of the 13,796 feet above sea level can be skied. If you do attempt it, you can at least say you’ve skied on the planet’s biggest vertical, just not all of it.
The Biggest Non-Skiable Vertical On Any Planet
78,740 feet, Olympus Mons, Mars
NASA keeps finding new planets, comets, moons and asteroids, but so far, the biggest known mountain in the universe is on our near neighbor Mars. So how long can it be until the first skiers on Mars tackle the solar system’s biggest vertical? Maybe quite a while…