Did you know that there are an estimated 5,764 ski areas worldwide? However, most of that mind-boggling number are mom-and-pop ski areas, with maybe just one or two lifts. If we cut down that number to only include those ski areas with more than four ski lifts to qualify as a ‘ski resort,’ we still have staggering 1,945 ski resorts globally.
Only a tiny proportion of these generate the majority of skier visits — a concept you may be familiar with if you have taken economics or business classes known as the ‘Pareto Law’ or the ‘80/20 rule’. The ski industry has a Pareto Ratio pretty close to that, where 74% of ski visits are generated by only 13% of ski resorts.
The vast majority of these major resorts are located in the European Alps. Out of the 52 largest ski resorts by visitor numbers, a whopping 79% are located in the Alps. The next largest geographical area is North America, and the list only features three Scandinavian Resort, Åre, Trysil and Sälen. The ranking is based on a resort’s average annual skier visits during the last five winter seasons ending 2019/20. This was done deliberately, as the strong influence of several pandemic ski seasons would otherwise skew the data, as not all resorts around the globe were closed.
Nine major ski resorts see around two million visitors or more each season. You might think you have a pretty good idea of what the nine largest ski resorts in the world by visitor numbers may be. We have featured a lot of lists on SnowBrains, that often end up featuring the same resorts, but be prepared to be surprised because you may have never heard of some of these resorts.
Top 9 Largest Ski Resorts by Visitor Numbers:
#9: Ischgl Samnaun Silvretta Arena, Austria/Switzerland
If you are an avid SnowBrains reader, you may remember this resort we mentioned in our cross-border article last year. This Austrian/Swiss resort stretches across 150 miles (239km) of runs and is serviced by 45 lifts and cable cars. It has one of the world’s most modern lift infrastructures and an hourly lift capacity of 90,733 pax. Every year around 2 million people come to ski in Ischgl Samnaun.
#8: Val Gardena (Gröden) Seiseralm, Italy
You may have heard of Gardena if you follow Alpine ski racing, as the resort hosts the FIS Alpine World Cup circuit each year. This Italian ski resort is located in South Tyrol in the north on the border with Austria. The ski area stretches 115 miles (181km) of groomed slopes serviced by 79 ski lifts and cable cars. This vast infrastructure enables the combined ski area to offer an hourly capacity of 126,100 pax. Every year around 2 million people come to ski in Val Gardena Seiseralm.
#7: Les Arcs, France
Les Arcs is located about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Albertville, host of the 1992 Winter Olympics. The resort is in the heart of the French Alps and offers a vast 265 miles (425km) of groomed runs serviced by 53 lifts and cable cars, including a two-level cable car that fits 200 people. The modern lift infrastructure has an hourly capacity of 95,906 pax. Every year more than 2 million people come to ski in Les Arcs.
#6: SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental, Austria
Wilder Kaiser literally means ‘Wild Emperor,’ and this ski area is pretty wild. Unlike most resorts with a big village at the bottom, this ski area in Austria can be reached from nine different towns. This expansive ski area offers 284km of groomed runs serviced by 90 lifts. It is one of the most modern lift infrastructures in the world and has an hourly capacity of 148,000 pax. More than 2 million people visit the Wilder Kaiser every year.
#5: Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
Whistler Blackcomb is probably the name everyone expected on this list, and the Canadian behemoth is in fifth place. With a ski area that stretches across 8,717 acres of terrain, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains have more than 200 trails combined. Thirty-five lifts and gondolas service the two mountains of the combined resort giving Whistler Blackcomb an hourly capacity of 69,939 pax. Around 2.5 million people head to Whistler each season.
#4: Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn, Austria
The ski area of Skicircus Saalbach combines the resorts of Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Leogang, and Fieberbrunn. Aside from 168 miles (270km) of groomed slopes, the ski area has a dedicated freeride area in Leogang. The resort is serviced by 70 lifts and cable cars and has an hourly capacity of 140,020 pax. The ski resort sees an annual 2.5 million visitors on average.
#3: La Plagne, France
La Plagne hosted a large part of the Albertville Winter Olympics in 1992, and some parts of the ski resort were purpose-built for the Olympics. La Plagne is essentially the conglomeration of 11 smaller resorts over time, resulting in a mega-resort with 11 individual villages scattered around the mountain range, providing something for every taste, from family-friendly to après-centric villages, each with its own personality. The combined ski resort La Plagne offers 140 miles (225km) of groomed runs serviced by 75 lifts and gondolas. The resort has an hourly capacity of 134,892 pax. Annually more than 2.5 million ski visits are registered at La Plagne.
#2: Arlberg, Austria
Ski Arlberg is the largest connected ski resort in Austria and consists of the ski areas St. Anton, St. Christoph Lech, Zürs, Stuben, Schröcken, and Warth. St. Anton, particularly, has garnered international fame for its incredible après ski scene with legendary Mooser Wirt. The combined ski resort offers 350km of groomed runs serviced by 87 lifts and gondolas. The infrastructure enables the ski resort to run at an hourly capacity of 147,008 pax. The Arlberg resort registers around 2.5 million visitors each season.
#1: Campiglio Dolomiti di Brenta Val di Sole Val Rendena Ski Area, Italy
Campiglio Dolomiti di Brenta Val di Sole Val Rendena Ski area provides guests with almost 100 miles (158km) of skiable area serviced by 61 lifts and gondolas. This number does not include several magic carpets and surface lifts for beginners. The resort has an hourly capacity of 107,538 pax. This Italian resort sees more than 2.5 million ski visits each season.
4 thoughts on “The 9 Busiest Ski Resorts in the World by Visitor Numbers”
No mention of Les Portes du Soleil ski area on the French/Swiss border. By far the largest in the world!
The report splits up single ski resorts into multiple ski towns and thus provides a highly inaccurate picture. In France Tignes Val d’Isere is one ski area. So is Les 3 Valees with Val T, Meribel / Courchevel. Crossing the border to Italy is Via Lattea which connects 7 ski towns and not just Sestriere and in the US, Park City and Canyons is now the largest connected ski resort in North America and it’s not even on the list…
One of these ski areas (Val Thorens, Les Menuires and Courchevel-Meribel) has been included three times, and would be by far the biggest of the lot! They are on one lift ticket and extremely well connected under a common brand (Les 3 Vallées)