Ski resort size has always been a big issue for resort marketing. The bigger the ski resort the more we can ski, right?
Some people are happy to ski the same runs over and over, believing small is beautiful. But if you’re one of those that think biggest is best, we’ve rounded up the top 10 ski resorts with the most acres of skiable terrain.
The biggest ski areas in America keep getting bigger pretty quickly. See the updated list as of 2017.
1. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
In North America, the long-standing title-holder for largest ski resort has been Whistler Blackcomb with 8,171 acres. Other ski resorts, however, have been creeping ever closer to that figure. See Whistler Blackcomb lift tickets.
This winter, Vail Resort’s $50m+ “absorption” of Canyons Ski Resort into Park City will make the ski resort the new biggest in the US, and second in North America with a total of 7,300 acres. Prior to the merger, both areas were already in the top ten for size in North America: Canyons ranked fifth biggest and Park City Mountain Resort ninth. See Utah lift tickets.
3. Big Sky, Montana
Last year, Montana’s Big Sky was number one for size in the US, but the expanded Park City ski resort now overtakes it. Big Sky did something similar to Park City a few years ago and absorbed its defunct neighbour Moonlight Basin, creating an area of 5,800 acres and trademarking it “The Biggest Skiing in America.”
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, still the largest in the US and second largest in North America.
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.
4. Vail, Colorado
Vail in Colorado was formerly the third biggest in North America, but (ironically) knocked itself down to 4th after the $50m+ expansion at Park City. It has 5,289 acres. See Colorado lift tickets.
5. Heavenly Mountain Resort, California
Heavenly Mountain Resort, another Vail Resorts owned ski resort which straddles the California – Nevada border, is fifth with 4,800 acres. See Tahoe lift tickets.
6. Sun Peaks, Canada
Sun Peaks in Canada has been edging up the ‘size’ table in recent seasons and has just taken the number two biggest slot in Canada and sixth in North America. The resort now has 4,270 acres. See Sun Peaks lift tickets.
7. Lake Louise, Canada
Banff Canada’s Lake Louise is seventh biggest in North America and third in Canada with 4,200 acres. See Lake Louise lift tickets.
8. Mt Bachelor, Oregon
Mt Bachelor in Oregon recently added 500 acres of terrain. It now totals 3,683 acres and has moved up to fifth place for size in the US and eighth in North America. See Oregon lift tickets.
9. Squaw Valley, California
Squaw Valley Ski Resort, also in California, is in ninth 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.
10. Mammoth Mountain, California
Fellow Californian giant Mammoth Mountain is in 10th place. With 3,500 acres, it’s only 100 acres smaller than Squaw Valley. See Mammoth Mountain lift tickets.
North America Versus the World
Over the years, there have been many attempts to compare ski resorts around the world with one another.
It’s easy to compare figures like vertical drop, longest run, number of lifts and hourly uplift, but when it comes to how big a ski resort is, Europeans come up with those stats differently. Instead of measuring in skiable acres, European ski resorts are measured by the length of all the ski runs lined up end-to-end. Additionally, when Europeans publish an area figure, they tend to include everything, not just the skiable terrain. Some of the biggest areas in the French Alps, for example, claim around 25,000 acres.
Around three years ago, Chris Schrahe (a German journalist, ski resort consultant and cartographic expert) began using newly available digital mapping techniques to precisely measure the length of the ski runs. He found that many ski resorts were exaggerating their claims, often excessively. Only 18% published accurate figures. It was the ski resort stats equivalent of the Volkswagen car emissions scandal! New rules are now in place which some resorts are abiding by, while others aren’t.
Mr. Schrahe now publishes a very detailed annual report each year comparing the world’s top 100 ski resorts on a wide variety of criteria. He has also launched a worldwide service, www.pistelength.com, which allows ski resorts to sign up to be independently verified with a seal of approval.
Using the same digital mapping techniques, here are some other interesting facts from Chris Schrahe’s research on a global scale:
- If you measure groomed trail length (the way Europeans measure) rather than skiable area, the newly expanded Park City Resort is actually number one in North America in terms of marked trail length.
- Whistler Blackcomb, Park City and Big Sky with Moonlight Basin are all in the world’s top 10 in size.
So there you have it, but perhaps it is easier to stop worrying about size and just go to some nice little ski hill somewhere and enjoy!