Last fall, my friends at Liftopia and I had a great time compiling a list of the “Ten Best Chairlift/Gondola Views in North America.”
We built our list through suggestions from social media: the Brave Ski Mom and Liftopia Facebook pages, our Twitter feeds, my Google+ page and a posting at TheSkiDiva.com forums (a favorite go-to source for insight and opinion).
The answers were fascinating. Some respondents, loyal to the end, were clearly shouting out for their favorite resort.
Bu then we also had some serious questions, as in what defines good view from a lift.
Is it only what you can see going forward, or is it okay to crane your neck and look around, or admire the big view once you’ve dismounted? (Answer: We were looking for views on a lift, those views that take your breath away while you’re en route.)
So what makes a good view? Either big mountains or big water. There was also a clear consensus that gondolas provide the best views, as you can see 360 degrees, rather than just straight ahead.
Here’s our list. As you reflect back over this year’s ski and snowboard season, what do you think?
The Biggest, Best Ski Lift Views in North America
Spanning the distance between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the Peak 2 Peak gondola joins the high alpine terrain of these two mountains. Three-hundred-sixty degree views take in the valley and Whistler Village to the south, with Garibaldi Provincial Park’s mountain range to the north, and a bird’s eye view of Overlord Glacier and Fissile Mountain.
In addition to these stunning views, the 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, as the critical link between Whistler and Blackcomb, it completes the world’s longest continuous lift system.
With stunning views of forever blue Lake Tahoe, the Heavenly Gondola starts just blocks from the shore and climbs to 2.4 miles the resort base, high up on the mountain.
While the views from the gondola received the most acclaim, other lifts at Heavenly also got props, especially the Dipper Express with a view unlike any other, highlighting the contrast between the alpine lake on one side and the arid Carson Valley on the other.
Additional Lake Tahoe resorts receiving votes for their lake views include Homewood, California where the lake nearly laps the base of the lifts, and Diamond Peak, Nevada.
3. Aerial Tramway, Cannon Mountain and Wildcat Express, Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire.
Often mentioned together, these two New England favorites offer big views of the northeast’s biggest mountains.
The historic and much-loved Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain shows off views of New Hampshire, Maine, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks in New York. On the clearest of days, you can see north into Canada.
While you can’t see Mount Washington from Cannon Mountain, you do get enticing views of nearby Mount Lafayette and the Franconia Range.
To gaze upon Mount Washington, Wildcat Mountain is the place to ski or ride. As one respondent shared: “Incredible views of Mount Washington are right in your face.” Other stunning sights from the Wildcat Express include views of Tuckerman Ravine, a popular spring skiing backcountry destination.
Talk about big mountains: almost everyone who has skied at Jackson Hole is blown away by the Tetons. While all the lifts have good views, 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!”
Looking south, the view from the Leitner Poma gondola takes in Corbet’s Couloir and the resort’s signature aerial tram.
A key component of Telluride’s public transportation system, the Telluride Gondola was built in 1996 to mitigate resort expansion impacts and protect the area’s clean air. Free to everyone except skiers and riders (who must have a lift ticket to get off at the top of the mountain), the gondola connects the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. It runs daily from 7:00 a.m. to midnight year-round, and you can even bring your dog along for the ride.
Leaving Telluride, the historic mining town drops quickly behind 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 Palmyra Peak and the 14,000+ feet Wilson Peak group.
Since 2011, the Mount Rainier has ferried skiers and riders from the Crystal Mountain base area to the summit, where you can dine at Washington’s highest elevation restaurant (the Summit House). From the top of the gondola there is a completely unobstructed view of 14,410 foot Mt. Rainier, just seven miles away.
Four other dramatic, and dormant, volcanoes are visible: Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak, as well as the Olympic mountain range.
Depending upon where you stand, you either love or hate the Snowbird Tram.
If you’re by a window, the view of the High Wasatch mountains is breathtaking. The tram docks atop 11,000 feet Hidden Peak, where you can enjoy the highest lift-served skiing and riding in Utah, as well as access 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.
Since the tram holds about 110 people, the line is rarely long, but if you can’t get to a window or you’re short, you won’t see as much. For a nearby alternative, check out the view from the Supreme Chairlift at next door Alta. You can take in both views in one day with an Alta Snowbird pass.
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.
From left to right, look for Goat’s Eye Mountain at 9200 feet (2806 meters), the twin-spired Eagles at 9200 feet (2806 meters)and 9300 feet (2837 meters), and Lookout Mountain at 8954 feet (2730 meters). Visible from the Great Divide Quad is Delirium Dive, one of Sunshine Village’s most popular, and difficult, extreme off-piste faces.
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 where it terminates near the summit of Lookout Mountain.
Of special note, Sunshine Village is located within spectacular Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Panorama Gondola begins at Mammoth’s Main Lodge base complex, from which it quickly soars over the top of “Main Park,” one the USA’s largest terrain parks, and the home of the Mammoth superpipe.
With a gentle swing through McCoy Station, Mammoth Mountain’s mid-mountain lodge, guests can either get out, or stay on the gondola to access the Top of California at 11,053 feet. 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.”
On a clear day, you can see the mountains of five states, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York and Massachusetts, from the K1 Gondola at Killington, while on any day dramatic views of Killington and Pico Mountain.
The K1 Gondola tops out on Killington Peak, the highest lift-served mountain in Vermont. From the summit, guests can access the entire resort, with trails back down spanning the spectrum from green circle to double black diamond.
And Your Favorites Are?
Please let us know. If you know of a stunning chairlift or gondola view that we missed, shout it out!
Portions of this post originally published at Liftopia.com on October 30, 2013.
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