So which is America's best ski lift? Check our top 3.

snow action team 11.12.2018

Which is America’s best ski lift is a question with many potential answers.
So we looked at it like this: imagine if you were only allowed to ride one lift in America for the rest of your snow-sliding days, which would it be?

Jess McMillan beneath the iconic Tram at Jackson Hole

Jess McMillan beneath our #1, The Tram at Jackson Hole © Eric Seymour

Here are 3 that would keep us going till the legs give out.

America’s Best Ski Lifts #3 – Silver Queen Gondola, Aspen

Of course it helps if your best lift is top-to-bottom, like #3 on our list. Aspen’s Silver Queen Gondola opens up the whole of Ajax Mountain in one 14 minute ride. That’s a lot of great skiing. No green runs in sight, but with better intermediate options than our top two. Not too worry, partners or friends who can’t ski much at all can still come up and meet you for lunch.

“Ajax is your best bet when it’s snowing hard, as there are many tree sheltered runs, and the ride up in the gondola is much more pleasant than on a chairlift when it’s cold and snowing hard” says our Aspen Insider “Ask Doctor Pete” Stiebel. “Powder can still be found in the tree runs even days after a storm.”

Ride up from town, ski down to town is another advantage – haul straight up at Little Nell to kick into aprés mode. Some locals ride nothing else all season, and (the bottom line) you wouldn’t be bored if you couldn’t ride anything else either.

Riding powder underneath Aspen gondola

Some locals ride nothing else all season © Aspen Snowmass

America’s Best Ski Lifts #2 – Lone Peak Tram, Big Sky

Calling Lone Peak a “Tram” is getting Trumpesque in the exaggeration department. In truth this is more of a paint can with people inside.

But who cares when it accesses the most spectacular in-bounds peak of any major ski resort in North America?

Lone Peak at Big Sky is the Montana Matterhorn, a sharp pinnacle with steep runs spilling off all sides.

There is no easy way down. In fact I wasn’t too bummed when it socked in on my first ride up: I couldn’t see the drops, so couldn’t be too scared.

Looking at it in full sun as we left a couple of days later I still couldn’t quite work out how we had picked our way through the rock bands. I had followed Gracely Speth, a local teenage freeskier and rodeo competitor (it’s what Montana girls do in their spare time).

If I rode it every day for the rest of my skiing life I know I would always be scared. But assuming it didn’t make that skiing life a lot shorter I would be having one hell of a time in the process.

Sure 1,450′ vertical is not a lot, but when you can ski most of it at 60° or so down the aptly named Big Couloir, and have to ski most of it at only slightly milder inclinations in other directions, you will never get bored.

As they say in these parts in reference to Jackson Hole, “Hey, Corbet’s is not even a real couloir. Now Big Couloir, that’s a couloir!”

It looks like a paint can, but you can’t argue with the spectacular terrain off the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky © Michel Tallichet above; Gracely Speth in front of the Lone Peak paint can © Owain Price

America’s Best Ski Lifts #1 – The Tram, Jackson Hole

Quite simply, no other lift in America gives you so much great terrain choice as the Tram at Jackson Hole. Despite what they say up at Big Sky, Corbet’s is a real enough challenge for most of us who ever thought we could ski or board at any sort of reasonable level.
If you do ski way beyond reasonable, like Coen Bennie-Faull here, you will never run out of options.

Coen Bennie-Faull drops into S&S Couloir at Jackson Hole © Tony Harrington www.harroart.com

Fortunately, while there are no groomed trails from the top of the tram it’s not a major stretch for solid intermediates to find the main route around Rendezvous Bowl to the start of the long blue runs below. Plus if this was the only lift you rode forever more then you would soon be a way better skier as a result. You would soon have legs of steel too!

The terrain options are immense, ranging over the whole 1261m/4139′ vertical drop.

You will share the rides with the ski & snowboard movie royalty, like Travis Rice or Jess McMillan, and anonymous gnarly dudes like the greybearded monoskier I watched sailing serenely into Corbet’s one crusty day when most were crashing and burning. No one cares how you look, and you have to ski insanely well before anyone will notice how you ski either.

Dropping in for a sugar shot at Corbet’s Cabin is another bonus. Stop and think about the skis people used to ski this terrain on and be thankful for your fat boards..

“Meet you at Corbet’s” is a nice line to drop © Owain Price

OK, whadda about wherever you are saying reading this. So tell us your favourites. Snowbird? Whitefish?

Couldabeen champions: the tram at Snowbird is another contender © Tony Harrington www.harroart.com

Up in Whitefish Montana the Chair 1 Express does a great job accessing most of this less known mountain © Owain Price