Top 10 Chairlifts on the West Coast

Robin Azer |
Mammoth Mountain’s Chair 23

The West Coast ski scene is the land of extremes with Mt. Baker holding the record as snowiest and Whistler Blackcomb the largest in all of North America. All have been enjoying incredibly abundant snowfall totals this season. Access to the best of that snow and the rowdy terrain it blankets is provided by the workhorse of the mountain – the chairlift.

There are many worthy contenders for the top spots, but a few are standouts. Here are the Top 10 Chairlifts on the West Coast, in no particular order:

Chair 23 – Mammoth Mountain, CA

Chair 23 at Mammoth Mountain. photo: snowbrains

Type: Fixed-grip triple

Vertical Rise: 1,121 ft

Chair 23 at Mammoth is known for providing access to “beast mode” terrain, all with the benefit of scoping it out riding the lift. With 2/3 of the mountain at your disposal from the top, the options are numerous, particularly if you’re looking for cliffs, rocks, chutes, or cornices – and the views are photo-worthy. Mammoth Times referred to Chair 23 as a “madcap carnival ride.” Adding fuel to that impression, Mammoth’s CEO has stated …

“It’s definitively a sphincter-tightening ride,”

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory

Peak Express – Whistler Blackcomb, Canada 

Type: Detachable quad

Vertical Rise: 1,316 ft

Top Elevation: 7,160 ft

As the largest ski resort in North America, this west coast resort gets two nods on this list. The Peak Express on Whistler drops you at the top peak of the mountain at 7,160 feet. It opens up access to almost 5,000 acres of terrain stocked with alpine bowls, chutes, and glades galore.

“On a powder day, as you ride up the Peak Express, enjoy watching the athletes hitting this zone hard and fast. On extra deep days, Whistler’s adrenaline junkies jump over a frozen waterfall known as Air Jordan. This is a chairlift spectacle you don’t want to miss.”

Debbie Cook, Whistler Tourism

KT22 Express – Squaw Valley, CA

KT22 Squaw Valley
Photo: SnowBrains

Type: Detachable high-speed quad

Vertical Rise: 1,767 ft

Top Elevation: 8,070 ft

Voted North America’s favorite chairlift from numerous sources, KT22 is the gateway to the famed terrain of The Fingers and McConkey’s. This “expert’s nirvana” provides 2,000 vertical feet of rip-roaring, rowdy terrain packed with steeps, chutes and cliffs.

Chair 8 – Mt. Baker Ski Area, WA

Chair 8 Mt Baker with view of Tomyhoi Peak.       Photo: epicski.com

Type: Quad

Top Elevation: 5,089 ft

Mt. Baker ski area is the snowiest ski resort in all of North America, averaging 655″ a year. Chair 8 to Shuksan Arm is the one to take if your angling to access some of the steepest and snowiest backcountry terrain found anywhere.

“Ski Shuksan Arm, a huge ridge accessible from the top of Chair 8, is mentioned over and over again by reporters as hands-down the best gravity train in the nation.”

Slope Quest

High Campbell Chairlift – Crystal Mountain, WA

Crystal Mountain, WA trail map showing the High Campbell chair at the top.

Type: Double

Vertical Rise: 912 ft

Top Elevation: 7,002 ft

The biggest ski resort in Washington offers up some big skiing. The High Campbell Chairlift provides access to 40-degree Powder Bowl, no-fall zones right under the chair, backcountry access to Silver King & Campbell Basin make this chair a winner.

“In addition, doubles are still the lift du jour for the area’s prime terrain (off High Campbell), keeping lines fresh well into the afternoon.”

Powder

Palmer Chairlift – Timberline Lodge, OR

Palmer Lift at Timberline Lodge provides access to summer skiing and riding.    Photo: Timberline Lodge

Type: Detachable Quad

Vertical Rise: 3,690 ft

Top Elevation: 8,470 ft

The Palmer Chairlift gives Timberline Lodge the longest ski season in North America. Unique to this chair is that it only operates during the summer months due to high winds (100mph) during the winter months as well as regular big storms that bury the chair under mountains of snow and ice.

“In the summertime, everyone who is anyone in the ski business is on Palmer. It keeps it interesting. It appeals to a different level of skier or snowboarder.”

Steve Kruse, Timberline’s GM of Mountain Operations,

Cornice Express (Chair 6) – Kirkwood, CA

Kirkwood Mountain Resort – Chair 6    Photo: SnowBrains

Type: High-speed quad

Vertical Rise: 1,363 ft

“Powder Day: From Chair 6, hit the rocky, 40-degree chute called Chamoix to skier’s left. Once through the crux, bite hard right through a keyhole into Oops and Poops, a steep, 10-foot-wide, and often overlooked corridor. The last run to get skied out along Kirkwood’s six-mile ridgeline is Palisades, a far traverse skier’s left of Chair 6. It also gets hammered by the sun, so ski cold north-facing areas in midwinter or south-facing corn in spring.”

Skiing Magazine

Northwest Express – Mt. Bachelor, OR

Northwest Express chair at Mt. Bachelor   Photo: Lift Blog

Type: High-speed quad

Vertical Rise: 2,365 feet

Top Elevation: 8,065

The Northwest Express Quad at Mt. Bachelor grants access to over 400 acres of ungroomed power, chutes, and all-around good-times terrain. 

“The majority of Mt. Bachelor’s above treeline volcano terrain is reserved for experts. This high alpine playground features some of the most unique and playful skiing and snowboarding in the U.S.”

Delta Vacations

Summit Six – Alpine Meadows, CA

Summit six – Alpine Valley

Type: High-speed six-pack

Vertical Rise: 1,560 ft

Summit Six is a principal lift at Alpine Meadows as it provides access to most of the terrain here. Of particular intensity is Keyhole:

“Standing at the top of this sharp, 55 degree drop is pretty exhilarating. The snow here is usually amazing even when the rest of the resort isn’t ideal. It’s usually soft and chalky since it’s located in a colder, drier, north facing part of the resort.”

The Life Report

Glacier Express – Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

Glacier Express  – On Blackcomb – crossing over the Horstman T-Bar.    Photo: skiingbc.info

Type: Detachable quad

Vertical Rise: 1,915 ft

Top Elevation: 7,011 ft

The Glacier Express is the second to make it onto this list from Whistler Blackcomb. The highest chair on Blackcomb Mountain, it accesses extensive terrain options, over thousands of acres. Traverse over to the Couloir Extreme or boot pack up Spanky’s Ladder to get into four massive wide-open bowls, filled with chutes, cliffs and all sorts of interesting terrain.

 


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3 thoughts on “Top 10 Chairlifts on the West Coast

    1. Glacier Express is not “The highest chair on Blackcomb Mountain” Seventh Heaven is higher. Also that “Traverse over to the Couloir Extreme” would be not so much a traverse as a T-bar lift on the Horstman T-bar. Oh and the so called “Couloir Extreme” is actually named Suadan Coulior a revert to the old name which was done Nov 2017.

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