Top 10 Ski Lifts in the Rocky Mountains of the USA

Robin Azer |
Blackfoot chair at Grand Targhee. image: Grand Targhee

The American Rocky Mountains are home to some of the best rip-roaring ski terrain anywhere, scattered among its 75+ ski resorts. Access to the goods comes (mostly) via the roughly 600 ski lifts spread across the region.

Of all the lifts blanketing the Rockies, there are a few stand-outs, either for the terrain they access and/or their legendary stature. Out of a pool of many worthy contenders, below marks this year’s Top 10 Ski lifts in the Rocky Mountains, in no particular order.

TOP 10 SKI LIFTS in the ROCKY MOUNTAINS, USA:

***

Lone Peak Tram – Big Sky Resort, MT

Lone Peak Tram – Big Sky, MT

Type: Tram, 15 person

Installed: 1996

Vertical Rise: 1,490 ft

Top Elevation: 11,145 ft

Ride Time: 6 minutes

The Lone Peak tram at Big Sky Resort provides access to some of the rowdiest and technical terrain anywhere. On a clear day, you can see three states from the top – Montana, Idaho, Wyoming – as well as sightlines to two national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

Aerial Tram –  Snowbird, UT

The tram at Snowbird. Credit: SnowBrains

Type: Aerial Tram, 120 people

Installed: 1971

Vertical Rise: 2,900 ft

Top Elevation: 10,970 ft

Ride Time: 8 minutes

From the top of the tram, at about 11,000 feet, follow the Cirque Traverse, which serves up an almost endless supply of steep lines. Take the Traverse to the end to hit Dalton’s Draw, a hidden favorite. The hike-to terrain on Mount Baldy, where some of the Freeride World Tour comp takes place, is insane. Pro skier Todd Ligare, a TGR staple and Snowbird devotee, suggests the Keyhole, a vast area on Baldy that requires little exploring and holds soft pockets days after a storm, or the Wilbere Chute, which serves up long, clean, consistent shots that will make your legs burn.

Kelley McMillan, Outside

Silver Queen Express – Crested Butte, CO

Silver Queen Express – Credit: Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Type: High-speed quad

Installed: 1992

Vertical Rise: 2,057 ft

Top Elevation: 11,465 ft

Ride Time: 7 minutes

The Silver Queen Express at Crested Butte Mountain Resort provides riders 7 minutes of viewing time to pick their next line, with views of the iconic Peak just off to the right. Plenty of expert terrain can be found involving narrow chutes, cliffs, tight trees, and steeps – some in excess of 50 degrees. The longest descents to be had at Crested Butte are accessed from this lift.

Dreamcatcher – Grand Targhee, WY

Dreamcatcher Chair at Grand Targhee, WY. image: Grand Targhee

Type: High-speed quad

Installed: 1996

Vertical Rise: 1,883 ft

Top Elevation: 9,846ft

Ride Time: 6 minutes

Powderhounds take note: Grand Targhee enjoys copious amounts of fresh snow. When visibility starts to wane, head for the trees. The Dreamcatcher lift at Grand Targhee climbs to the summit of Fred’s mountain, providing access to numerous well-spaced tree runs filled with its famous blower-light powder. Dreamcatcher also offers up stunning views, including glimpses of three different states – Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana as well as the Teton Mountain Range.

Wildcat Lift – Alta, UT

Into the abyss on Wildcat Chair. Photo: SnowBrains

Type: Double

Installed: 1980

Vertical Rise: 1,226 ft

Top Elevation: 9,780 ft

Ride Time: 8.6 minutes

Aerial Tram –  Jackson Hole, WY

The iconic Jackson Hole Tram leading to some of the best terrain anywhere. Credit: JHMR

Type: Aerial Tram, 100 people

Installed: 2008

Vertical Rise: 4,093 ft

Top Elevation: 10,412 ft

Ride Time: 9 minutes

Nickname: Big Red, The Red Heli

Arguably the best lift in North America, the Jackson Hole Tram has a well-justified reputation. Not because the tram ops play rad music on the way up, even though they do. Not because this new tram, built in 2008 to replace the old one, can operate in 70 mph winds, which it does. No, this lift rules simply because of the terrain it serves, and especially its backcountry access. From steep north-facing powder shots, aesthetic couloirs with mandatory airs, silent tree glades, wide open bowls, ass-puckering ridge hikes and long tours, the skiing off the tram is reason enough to forget all the other crap going on in your life, and get to Jackson as soon as you can.

Matt Hansen, Powder Magazine

Double Chair –  Silverton Mountain, CO

Silverton Mountain – Credit: Liftopia

Type: Double

Installed: 2001

Vertical Rise: 1,900 ft

Top Elevation: 12,092 ft

Note: Purchased from Mammoth Mountain, California; installation done primarily by hand.

Silverton’s lone ski lift dishes out a true big mountain skiing experience, and is your best bet for untracked turns in all of Colorado. The ski lift runs to a lofty 12,300-foot ridgeline; from there you can drop several different aspects or boot the chute-lined ridge all the way to Billboard Peak at 13,487 feet.

Hans Ludwig, GrindTV

Schlasman’s Chairlift – Bridger Bowl, MT

Credit: Teton Gravity Research

Type: Double

Installed: 2008

Vertical Rise: 1,641 ft

Top Elevation: 8,695 ft

Note: Hand-me-down from Snowbird, UT

Bridger Bowl’s famed Schlasman’s lift is the access point to high-octane descents.

Schlasman’s Lift accesses expert-only terrain to the south of Pierre’s Knob. The 311 acres of bowls, gullies and chutes gouged by limestone cliffs are open only to skiers and snowboarders with an avalanche transceiver.

Teton Gravity Research

Deep Temerity – Aspen Highlands, CO

Type: Triple

Installed: 2005

Vertical Rise: 1,708 ft

Top Elevation: 11,571 ft

Ride Time: 7 minutes

The addition of the Deep Temerity lift to Aspen Highlands back in 2005 opened up access to the adjacent Highland Bowl (still a 20-30 min hike away), as well as the terrain between the chair and bowl, and was a game-changer for the mountain. The lift made the run twice as long and eliminated a 20-minute hike out.

“I think the opening of the Deep Temerity lift changed a lot of people’s lives for the better.”

– JOHN GASTON Strafe Co-Founder

Revelation Lift – Telluride, CO

Revelation Lift to Gold Hill 1 offers wide-open steeps.
Credit: Telluride Ski Resort

Type: Fixed-grip quad

Installed: 2008

Vertical Rise: 764 ft

Top elevation: 12,494 ft

The Revelation Lift at Telluride is “a small lift that does a lot.”

By delivering skiers some 400 feet higher on the Gold Hill ridge than the existing Gold Hill lift does, the Revelation Bowl Lift will also drop skiers at the threshold of the existing back country gate, accessing the vast out-of-bounds terrain of Bear Creek.

Dave Riley, CEO, Telluride Ski Resort

There are numerous lifts blanketing the ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains. The lifts listed here represent but a small number of them. Have a favorite lift you like in the Rockies?


Related Articles

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Ski Lifts in the Rocky Mountains of the USA

  1. This article was incredibly schweet! Waaaaay too few articles out there seem to explore the importance of where the good lifts are, and why they’re rated a certain way! I’m heading to Jackson for the first time next week and now can’t wait to ride the Red Heli!

  2. Great article! The value of excellent (either for speed or for epic mountain access) lifts at various Western is underappreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.