Often times when I hear people talking about the largest ski areas in North America, debate arises as to what qualifies as “one” ski area. At what point is ski area marketing going too far in this regard?
Case 1: Long connector trails
Example: Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont
In this case, single trails provide the only connections between mountains. Resorts with long connector trails are almost unanimously agreed to still be one mountain.
Case 2: Connector lift under one ticket
Example: Sugarbush, Vermont
It is here where, in this case, two separate sets of lifts and trails are connected via a long lift. When this lift is not running, there is no connection between these sets of trails without leaving the resort boundary. It is here where people start to question if this is still one ski resort, especially if the connector lift operates infrequently.
Case 3: Shuttle bus
Example: Loveland, Colorado
In this case, you are required to take off your skis and leave the resort boundary on a resort-run shuttle to reach another area of the resort. This model is very common in Europe but is less popular in the US.
Case 4: Connected, but owned by separate parties and marketed as separate ski areas
Example: Alta/Snowbird, Utah
In this case, the two areas are officially connected, but are owned by separate parties and are advertised entirely as separate ski areas, despite functioning more similar to one resort than two.
Case 5: Unofficial interconnect
Example: Stowe/Smuggler’s Notch
Stowe and Smuggs aren’t officially connected nowadays, but the top of Stowe’s Sensation chair is less than half a mile from Smuggs’ Sterling chair. It’s well documented that you can bushwhack through it and ski from one to the other in just minutes, even though the drive between them is about an hour during the winter.
Not mentioned here are gray area cases. Whistler-Blackcomb is technically a normal ski area with normal connector trails, but they are only connected by trails at their base area, and transfers between the two are mainly done by using the long Peak-2-Peak gondola connector.
So what do you think? At what point does a ski area just become two? Where do you draw the line?