The 9 Coldest Ski Lifts in North America

Nick DeRiso |
The Top 9 Coldest Chairlifts at Ski Resorts in the USA and Canada
All of the chairlifts that made the cut provide access to excellent terrain and quality snow coverage. However, they come along with the price of having to possibly endure negative temperatures on the ride up. Photo: Wallpaper Flare

We’ve all been there: sitting on a chairlift freezing our behind off, wondering if it’s time to hit the après early or grab a hot chocolate and keep going. The days it’s so cold you have an equipment failure, your binding breaks, or your phone stops functioning. Those days when you get an ice cream headache from simply skiing downhill. On the bright side, at least the lift lines aren’t very long on these frosty days.

Today we’re looking at what perhaps could be (in no particular order) the 9 coldest ski lifts in North America. For argument’s sake, we’ll leave the rankings up for debate in the comments. Did we forget any chairlifts? Drop some of your experiences below or any honorable mentions that are worthy to be added to the list!

Summit Quad – Whiteface Mountain, NY, USA

Coldest ski lifts in North America
The top of the Summit quad at Whiteface. Whiteface holds the NY state record for the deepest depth recorded, 119 inches (9.9 feet) on April 20, 1943. Photo: Wesley_P44

Whiteface earned the nickname Iceface for a reason. New York winters can be brutally cold, we’re talking colder than Antarctica, cold. During a cold spell in 2016, the summit of New York’s fifth-highest mountain once reached -114℉ with wind chill.

The extreme temperatures on Whiteface have to do with its 4,865-foot elevation, northern exposure, and wind speeds. Throw in a few blizzards, nor’easters, and polar vortexes, even during the most temperate winters, the Adirondacks are one of the coldest places in the lower 48.

Duncan Express – Mont Tremblant, QC, CA

The coldest lifts at ski resorts
The resort and surrounding villages draw those who want to experience a more European style of winter holiday. A view down the almost 8,000-foot lift line of the Duncan Quad. Photo: LiftBlog

Situated in the Northern region of the Laurentians, 90 minutes north of Montreal, Tremblant boasts the highest summit in Quebec where the weather is synonymous with the cold. It’s the largest ski resort in Quebec, with 94 trails and 13 lifts, and also quite possibly the most frigid. Wind coupled with high elevation and you’ve got on-mountain temps in January well below zero.

The Duncan Express reaches the summit up above the surrounding area so it’s always windy and -4℉ is common on a normal day. When you’re sitting on an exposed metal chair in Quebec it’s no wonder everyone warns you to take every pair of thermals you own on a trip to Tremblant. The skiing is decent minus the frigid temps, but the ambiance of the village is a big part of the appeal.

Green Mountain Flyer – Jay Peak, VT, USA

Coldest chairlifts in North America
The Flyer is one of the longest chairlifts in Vermont. Photo: LiftBlog

Skiers better bundle up or cover their face on The Flyer because at 7,350 feet long it’s the longest detachable quad in the Northeast USA, and riding the lift can sometimes feel like an eternity. The most bone-chilling chairlift in the region has rightfully earned the nickname The Freezer where the wind is known to pick up as you approach the summit on an exposed ridge.

Often times the winds are so strong the chair is known to move backward with the gusts. Those that endure one of the coldest and longest chairlifts in Vermont are handsomely rewarded with some of the best glade skiing in the East.

Angel Express – Sunshine Village, AB, CA

Who has the coldest ski lifts in North America
When the temperature drops below -32℉ they close the lifts, but skiers have found themselves out on the slopes on days when it’s a brisk -22℉. Photo: LiftBlog

Sunshine Village is the highest ski area in western Canada and is situated in a unique spot sitting inland amongst the sheer and soaring faces of the Canadian Rockies. The Angel Express is the oldest and coldest lift at Sunshine where the wind blows sideways and temperatures get horrifically cold.

On its worst days, those who brave the cold are warned to dress warm and take breaks often as frostbite comes on quickly in Alberta. On the upside, the snow density at Sunshine is as light as it gets.

Cannonball Express – Cannon Mountain, NH, USA

The Cold Lifts at Ski Resorts
This lift may endure the harshest conditions of any lift in the east. Extreme wind speeds of the four thousand footers near the Presidential Range, and temps in the negatives. Photo: LiftBlog

Anyone who’s ever ridden the Cannonball Quad chairlift at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, N.H. could argue it’s a great place to ski and ride but also the coldest place on Earth. It doesn’t get much more callous in New Hampshire than a trip on the Cannonball Quad but the skiing makes it worth freezing to the seat.

The wind is fierce during those balmy New England days as the state is located in the extreme northeastern corner of the US. The Cannonball Express sits in the shade in the mornings and afternoons making it one of the coldest rides even when it’s a relatively mild day.

Summit Chair – Lake Louise, AB, CA

Cold Ski Resorts in North America
The Summit Chair rides up a treeless lift line to access 480 acres of some of the best terrain at the resort. Photo: LiftBlog

The Summit Chair was built in 2020, making it the first Doppelmayr lift built in recent decades at Lake Louise. It was created to provide a completely new way to access the summit. A place where it can be cold, damp, and windy all at the same time, it’s a triple threat to your frozen body.

Even on a semi-windy day, which very well could be every day, the Lake Louise Summit chair can be lethal. The thing to remember is that the skiing waiting for you at the top is phenomenal, so it’s well worth it. Unfortunately, it’s above the tree line and there is no protection or place to hide from the bitter cold. Those who want to embrace the cold should be prepared for 0-degree temps every morning, but hey, at least it’s a dry cold.

Horseshoe Bowl T-Bar Breckenridge, CO, USA

T Bar Breckenridge Colorado Cold lifts
Though windchill isn’t the same as ambient air temp, it sure makes it feel cold and Breck is almost always windy. Photo: LIftBlog

The T-Bar at Breckenridge can be absolutely brutal on a windy day and will still be running when a chairlift in the same location would be usually shut down because it’s a surface lift. Imagine breaking the treeline at Breck while riding 3mph on a t-bar and the wind nails you at 12,000 feet, then the lift stops multiple times because rookies fall when they get on. Those winds are fierce and will cut straight through even the warmest outerwear.

Though windchill isn’t the same as ambient air temp, it sure makes it feel cold and ‘Breckenfridge’ is almost always windy. If the T-Bar isn’t cold enough for you, Breckenridge is also home to the highest chairlift in North America, the Imperial Express which certainly gives it a run for the money as the coldest lift at this mountain where the elevation reaches 12,998 feet.

Timberline Quad – Sugarloaf, ME, USA

coldest ski resorts in north america
Sugarloaf has 1,200 acres of terrain and a nearly 3,000-foot vertical drop, featuring more than 150 trails serviced by 13 lifts and the coldest may be Timberline pictured above. Photo: LiftBlog

Located in the Longfellow Mountains of western Maine, Sugarloaf is one of the largest ski areas in the Northeastern US. With upper elevations of 4,250 feet, Sugarloaf Mountain features unique snowfields and is the only lift-serviced skiing above treeline in New England. It also happens to get extremely cold. 

The wind is a given on any day but skiing above the treeline is the kicker adding to its frigid feel, unique to Sugarloaf in New England. Know for its snowmaking and vertical drop, Sugarloaf is always a solid option for quality skiing on the East, just as long as the lifts being on wind-hold doesn’t jam up your day.

Chair 9 – Loveland, CO, USA 

cold skilifts
Taking Chair 9 gives skiers and riders access to 100 hikeable acres right off the lift. Photo: LiftBlog

When it debuted in 1998, Lift 9 was the highest-elevation quad chair in the world. Dropping you off at the Continental Divide, it’s now the 2nd highest lift in Colorado. For those willing to brave the cold, Lift 9 takes skiers and riders up to 12,700′, where they can access wide open, steep, and deep terrain with 480 acres to choose from.

Of course, it’s cold, windy, and freezing but there is something thrilling about standing on the summit of the Continental Divide at the top of Loveland. From here you can see the other legendary Colorado ski areas including Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and the four mountains of Breckenridge. There’s also nothing like being on a steep, swaying chair, in windy conditions, without a safety bar.

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23 thoughts on “The 9 Coldest Ski Lifts in North America

  1. One day in the early 70’s, I was surprised to be the only skier at the start of the day at Arapahoe Basin.. I froze on my first run and found out it was -40 F. took me an hour to warm up.

  2. Polar peak at Fernie, BC hands down… (I even have a video to prove the insane wind speeds experienced on that cursed chair)

  3. Wind hold on these coldest chairlifts, when lift tickets are over $100 requires each resort to have Plan B. Plan B needs to bring back the T-bar. Placing a T-bar on the hill requires strategy because T-bars cannot cross an active trail. Thereby, take a trail map and plot out a proposal by those who are familiar with these resorts and we all should petition the mountain operation/ manager to address wind hold on a chairlift when chronic windhold lifts are without Plan B; i.e. not providing a surface lift that reaches the same top. Maybe, even a refund should be provided if Plan Bs are not instituted, since both credit card lift pass purchases and RFID each have the necessary traces where a refund is easily possible and should become “automagical” by the resort. Imagine, paying $100-$200 pp/day and the best terrain is closed for the day, due to wind or cold temps and the customer is expected to eat it. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”
    This is the immortal refrain yelled by anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network.

  4. I’ve never skied back east but throw humidity into the equation and I’m sure -20 in Colorado doesn’t feel nearly as cold as -20 in the east

  5. Been in the two Breck lifts and 9 at Loveland many times. Chair 8 at L’land easily could be on this list.

  6. Were Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah to cold for this list. Besides the fun of saying “Breckenfridge” it is no where near the coldest in then region. All of the regions lifts that break from the trees could be on this list.

  7. Well written and informative article. All are fine ski areas, but, uh, there’s that frigid ride up. So, as the great Johnny Carson would lead into a joke, “How cold are they?” My experience is on the now historical Killington double chair to its peak. It had a reputation.

    One day I went up, and my feet were really painfully cold. I went into the Killington Peak Lodge, and found that I could not unbuckle my boots; the plastic was frozen. They didn’t have a fire in the pit, so I walked around until I could bend the plastic on my Technicas to get them off. It sounds like a shaggy dog story, but, it’s what we put up with to get the great skiing on these cold mountains.

    Then there’s being stuck on a stopped chair during night skiiing, but, we won’t go into that here.

  8. Well, lest we forget the chairlift at Skiland, outside Fairbanks AK, where other than steady wind up top, there is the rule that the lift will close if the temp drops below -20, wind or not

  9. Oh man I remember riding chair 9 at Loveland few years ago and holy shit it was cold that morning!!! And being from the east and not being used to the elevation really helped! Haha but what a absolute BEAUTIFUL chair to ride! The mountain view was awesome!!! Great experience!

  10. Funny, Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, MT wasn’t mentioned. I once skiid there when it had to warm up to -20 deg F to turn on the lift….

  11. I’ve skied many of these mountains and they deserve to be on this list. Surprised A-Basin in Colorado didn’t make the list.

  12. Knew the “Green Mountain Freezer” would make the list when I saw the headline. Not to mention it gets hardly any sun even on clear days because of summit.

  13. I was surprised that Tenney Mt. 6000ft slow speed double chair didn’t make the list. Above Tower 13 the wind comes in from the north pretty bad. Top lift attendants are always on the lookout for skier frostbite.

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