The 9 Best Chairlifts in Utah

Martin Kuprianowicz |
Paradise Chair, Powder Mountain, UT. | Photo: Mike Swim /

Not all chairlifts are created equal. Some will hold a special place in our hearts forever while others we overlook or only use to get to our ‘favorite’ chairs at the mountain. As skiers and snowboarders, a chairlift is as ingrained a part of our lives as the vehicles we drive, the buses we sit on, or the planes we fly on—they get us where we need to go. 

In a ski hub like Utah, home to the trademarked Greatest Snow on Earth, there are 15 resorts to choose from throughout the state. That’s a lot of chairlifts.  So how can you know which are best? Having explored much of Utah in recent years, we’ve come to find some chairs as favorable to others. Often, it’s conditions dependent, and even though one chair has more vertical than another or has steeper terrain, it might not be as good as a different chair on a powder day or on a low visibility day, or on a super cold day, etc. The truth is it often depends on what makes one chair great and the answer to this question is subjective. However, there are chairs in Utah that are famous for consistently providing great skiing and riding, no matter the condition.

These are those chairs. 

Collins Chair, Alta, UT.  | Photo: SnowBrains

Collins – Alta

In the winter of 1938/39, Alta Ski Area built Collins as its first-ever chairlift. According to the Alf Engen Ski Museum, it was the first chair in the Wasatch Mountains, the fifth in the United States, and probably the fifth in the world. The lift was originally a single-seater and first started carrying paying skiers up Collins Gulch on January 15th, 1939. When it opened at Alta in 2004, the new four-seater Collins lift was the 66-year-old resort’s first base-to-summit lift. It replaced two older Yan fixed-grip lifts and dramatically improved the skiing experience at Alta. The chair accesses some of Alta’s best terrain straight from its base area, it’s fast, and it’s open until 4:30 daily. It’s a no-brainer why it should be top of this list.

snowbird, utah
Mineral Basin, Snowbird, UT. | Photo: Matthew Kidd

Mineral Basin – Snowbird

When the snow is soft and Mineral Basin is open at The ‘Bird, that’s where you go. Mineral Basin is the name of the back bowl at Snowbird as well as the four-seater chairlift that accesses 500 acres of wide open skiing over 1,300 feet of vertical. The Mineral Basin zone feels like it’s big enough to be a separate ski area, and its terrain consists of world-class chutes, gullies, headwalls, cliffs, and groomers. Plus, on a big year (like this one) the Mineral Basin chair stays open well into May and sometimes June when the spring-slush skiing is at its finest. This is arguably one of the best, most fun springtime chairs in Utah, if not North America. We’re more of blower February powder people, though, and Mineral Basin sure is good for that, too. Just be wary of the insane rope drops after a big storm (video below)…

Paradise, Powder Mountain, UT. | Photo: Mike Swim /

Paradise – Powder Mountain

Paradise at Powder Mountain is just that. It’s a delight of a chair, and easily Pow Mow’s best chair—it’s one of the best chairs in all of Utah. Serving 1,605 vertical feet of skiing and riding, Paradise is a fixed-grip quad that gives access to thousands of acres of playful, untracked terrain. It serves world-class tree skiing terrain, steep chutes, big cliffs, and powder stashes that linger for days on end. The lift runs a bit slower than other chairs on this list, but what it lacks in a fast ride up (about 17 min) it makes up for with some of the most fun pillow-popping, cliff-hucking, powder-slashing terrain you’ll find at any mountain anywhere.

John Paul Express, Snowbasin, UT. | Photo: SnowBasin

John Paul Express – Snowbasin

This chair is the definition of bang for your buck. The John Paul Express four-seater chair at Snowbasin is the resort’s fastest chairlift and accesses over 2,000 vertical feet of terrain in a very short amount of time. There’s a luxury ski lodge next to the JP’s top terminal with amazing cuisine and the chair also drops you off right next to the base of Snowbasin’s famous tramcar. JP is a portal to the best of what the Wasatch has to offer, including 2,000 feet of excellent, steep tree skiing on a consistent pitch all the way down. It’s a genuine leg burner but in the best way. We love John Paul and it’s the first chair we hop on every single time we get to Snowbasin.

Ninety-Nine 90, Park City Mountain Resort, UT. | Photo: SnowBrains

Ninety-Nine 90 Express – Park City Mountain Resort

The four-seater Ninety-nine 90 Express Chair at Park City is legendary in its own right because of the wide variety of terrain it holds. If your pursuit is hoots and hollers—rip right under the chairlift. If you want moguls, you’ll be in heaven because it’s almost impossible to avoid them off this lift. If you want a little hike and ski, it’s got that, too. Our favorite thing to do is to sleep in on a powder day, show up at Ninety-Nine 90 at about 10:30, wait a bit, hop on one of the first chairs, and ski non-stop powder right back down to the lift. Then we go back up and ski a super lap down past Ninety-Nine 90 all the way to Tombstone for maximum powder (and there are usually fewer tracks over there towards Squaretop). Then we’ll come back up to Ninety-Nine 90, harvest some leftovers, and call it a day. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Ninety-Nine 90 seems to have the most snow on the mountain.

Summit, Solitude Mountain Resort, UT: Photo: Solitude Mountain Resort

Summit – Solitude 

Summit is the epitome of steep and deep. The high-speed quad at Solitude is the mountain’s highest elevation chairlift and holds the best snow where soft turns can often still be found days after a storm, especially when Honeycomb Canyon is open. Most of the mountain’s hike-to terrain that gives access to Solitude’s sweetest powder stashes are located off this chair. Summit is also the lift that accesses Solitude’s infamous Fantasy Ridge Bootpack, which is an exposed, knife-edge ridgeline hike to some of the steepest inbounds terrain in North America. It is not for the faint of heart. Pair that with Evergreen Peak, another bootpack located to the far skier’s right of Summit, and this chair is a powerhouse of a ski lift. If you could only ski one chair at Solitude, this would be the one.

Milly Express, Brighton, UT. | Photo: The Lift Blog

Milly Express- Brighton

The best word to describe the four-seater Milly Express Chair at Brighton is ‘playground’. Located just at the toe of Mt. Millicent is Milly, our favorite chair at Brighton. Milly Bowl is just to the skier’s right of the top terminal and is a flowing dream of a run with a nice, steep pitch at the top, tons of cliffs and side-hits of every size imaginable, as well as several fall-line shots that funnel into an array of playful groomers below. On the skier’s left side of the chair, you got a couple of thousand feet of perfectly-spaced tree skiing, super fun, fast, windy groomers, hidden powder bowls, and chutes in the trees that will keep you on your toes all day long. It’s not uncommon to see Salt Lake’s community of ripping riders hucking massive backflips off intimidating cliffs right under the chair in feet of fresh powder. Yeah, Milly is rad.

Lady Morgan, Deer Valley Resort, UT. | Photo: The Lift Blog

Lady Morgan – Deer Valley

Deer Valley is known to possess some of the greatest tree skiing on Planet Earth, and the resort’s four-seater Lady Morgan Chair is the Queen of that. About 930 acres of the 2,026-acre resort are covered with trees and you don’t have to go far to find a powder stash. Located on the far looker’s right of the mountain, Lady Morgan is often not crowded and is one of the last zones to get skied out. Perhaps that’s because Lady Morgan accesses some of Deer Valley’s most challenging terrain, like its steep aspen tree shots that provide 1,150 vertical feet of soft powder skiing through the trees. This chair also serves the notable Lady Morgan Bowl, which is a fabulous combination of a wide-open start with clusters of trees near the bowl’s bottom. Lady Morgan also accesses several smooth, long groomers, which Deer Valley is famous the world over for. This chair has options, and you really can’t go wrong anywhere with it.

Navajo Express, Brian Head, UT. | Photo: SnowBrains

Navajo Express – Brian Head Resort 

Detachable quad Navajo Express at Brian Head Resort located near Cedar City is one of the most scenic chairlifts in all the land. From the top of Navajo Express, you can witness a truly alien landscape that seems more like Mars than Earth. The chair provides panoramic views of Cedar Breaks National Monument and offers a solid supply of different beginner and intermediate trails, all of which will give you views of the Southern Utah desert while you’re skiing. This chair is a trip. These otherworldly views paired with excellent snow quality are what make the skiing at Brian Head truly special. Upon a visit to Brian Head, your adventure wouldn’t be complete without a ride up the iconic Navajo Express.

Chairlifts are tools. Some are short. Some are long. Some are slow and give us a headache. But they all get us where we need to go—a place that we can all call home. These are some of the best chairs that Utah has to offer in our eyes. If you really want to find out how beautiful these creations really are at these Utah mountains, you’ll just have to take a ride up on one and see for yourself.

*Note: we do not discriminate against other chairlifts. All chairlifts deserve love. We just have our favorites.*

Mt. Millicent at sunrise, Brighton, UT. | Photo: SnowBrains

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