When skis float on endless stashes of pow and countless lifts beckon us further and further into the mountains, these are the resort days of our dreams—an experience only the largest ski resorts on earth can show us. For this, we will gladly get sucked into the belly of a ski behemoth: the world of well-serviced lodges, fast lifts, and limitless terrain. But where are these fabled giants of ski-landia? The answer is a little harder to come by than you would think.
Ranking the biggest ski resorts by size seems to be an amorphous concept. The U.S. and Canada rank resorts based on skiable acreage while the European standard is to measure size based on ski run length end to end. But what’s included as skiable acreage and how runs are measured remains fuzzy.
Then we get into the issue of what counts as a resort. Do short bus rides from one ski area to another linked by a pass count? Do private areas count toward skiable acreage at adjacent public resorts? After all, if you happen to know someone like Bill Gates or Justin Timberlake you could ski from the private land of Yellowstone Mountain Club over to Big Sky. If you count the two as linked, the combined acreage boosts Big Sky up to one of the United States’ biggest resorts.
So, while we wait for the resort community to create a cohesive standard of measurement, here’s our list of the world’s biggest ski areas according to the resorts’ self-reported mountain stats.
10. Park City, U.S.A.
- Total Skiable Terrain: 7,300+ acres
- 341 Runs
- 41 Lifts
- Average Snowfall: 355 inches
- Included on the Epic Pass
Incorporated in 1884 as a silver mining town, Park City has swelled to become the largest ski area in the United States. Its 17 peaks and full-fledged resort amenities make Park City an easy choice for families.
Beginners and kiddos have the chance to explore mellow groomed trails and trees in High Meadow Park, while adventure junkies can ski the bowls and chutes of Jupiter Peak and the double black terrain of McConkeys Bowl. Pow seekers should check out Murdock Bowl when the conditions get fluffy. End the day skiing Home Run from the Silverlode Express to the base area to enjoy the longest run at the resort at a whopping 3.5 miles.
Skiers and non-skiers alike can appreciate the resources of the bustling base area, with lift access directly to the main street and a free bus system around town. Après options, of course, abound. Craft beer aficionados can kick back at the Wasatch Brew Pub and sip on a Polygamy Porter or head to the resort base area and duck into The Spur or O.P. Rockwell to hear live music. Like Whistler, Park City is pricey. But the ease and convenience of the resort (which is only 40 minutes from the Salt Lake City International Airport) and the endless varied terrain make up for the higher sticker price.
Explore the town: Ski Towns – Park City
9. Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.
- Total Skiable Terrain: 8,171 acres
- 37 Lifts
- 200+ Runs
- Average Snowfall: 465 inches
- Included on the Epic Pass
Drop into steep couloirs, float in knee-deep powder, and dance in and out of a fairyland of Douglas Firs—the largest resort in North America offers just about everything. Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain (linked by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola) have a combined 16 alpine bowls and 3 glaciers. Thanks to its sheer size and diversity of terrain, Whistler has frequented the top of SKI’s Reader Resort rankings over the years.
When you visit, be sure to take the Seventh Heaven Express to the Jersey Cream Bowl to ski the famed Saudan Couloir, or opt for a bootpack to the top of Blackcomb’s Glacier chair, where you can head over to Spanky’s Ladder to drop into the technical Ruby, Diamond, and Sapphire Bowls. When the snow is dumping, head over to the Crystal Ridge chair to glide through the trees, or hike to the Flute Bowl from the Symphony chair to get a taste of inbounds backcountry skiing.
Compared to European ski resorts, the sticker price at Whistler Blackcomb can be painful. For avid skiers, purchasing the Epic Pass may help soften the blow. Overall, expect to spend some more money down in Whistler village and in the lodges, but reap the benefits up on the mountain.
Related: My First Time – Whistler Blackomb
More from Whistler Blackcomb: How to Ski Spanky’s Ladder
8. Val d’Isere-Tignes, France
- 300 km (186.4 miles) of Slopes
- 159 Runs
- 75 Lifts
Formerly known as L’Espace Killy (named after the Olympic gold medalist Jean Claude Killy), this ski area fully links the villages of Val d’Isere and Tignes via lifts and ski runs. Sixty percent of the slopes are above 7,218 feet, guaranteeing stellar snow coverage year-round. In the summer, head over to the Grande Motte Glacier at Tignes for more than 12 miles of groomed runs.
Intermediate skiers have the chance to experience high-altitude glacial skiing on the blue cruisers of Génépy and Rabotch on the Grande Motte Glacier, while more advanced speed demons can head over to the 1992 Olympic downhill run, La Face. Some stellar off-piste skiing can be found in Val d’Isere-Tignes, too, including the popular Col Pers, a North facing smooth and scenic run beginning at the Col d’Iseran glacier.
For an authentic French feel, stay in the village of Val d’Isere. Its architecture is storied, with original chalets and a clock tower dating back to the 11th century. Then relax and kick your feet up in front of a bowl of boiling cheese: Here, 300,000 fondues are served every winter.
Nearby Experience: From One to Eleven
7. Arlberg Ski Area, Austria
- 305km (189.5 miles) of Slopes
- 88 Lifts
- Average Annual Snowfall: 354 inches
- Included on the Epic Pass with special conditions
The largest ski area in Austria provides a wonderland backdrop to plenty of early morning leg burners and slow strudel afternoons. The ski area encompasses three main regions and five towns all connected by an efficient lift system. There are plenty of beginner and intermediate areas, as well as off-piste routes best explored with a guide. Arlberg is in a region of Austria with the highest snowfall too—so buckets of powder are to be expected on occasion.
Those looking for the classic European-style ski day need look no further than the Weisse Ring (White Ring) route. The route covers approximately 14 miles and follows the tracks made by some of the first ski pioneers at Arlberg. Take the route at a leisurely pace or come in the spring to watch skiers compete in the yearly White Ring Ski race.
After a full day of skiing, head into St. Anton for the ultimate après and party scene, or retreat to the smaller, authentic ski town of Stuben for a quieter, family-friendly atmosphere.
Read more about the unique ski areas of Arlberg: A Different Kind of Ski Tour
What it’s like when there’s powder: Stranded in the Austrian Snow
6. Matterhorn Ski Paradise, Switzerland/Italy
- 360km (223.6 miles) of Slopes
- 52 Lifts
- 145 Runs
It doesn’t get more idyllic than perfectly manicured slopes set before a backdrop of the giant Matterhorn. For the quintessential European ski experience, head to Zermatt, home to the Matterhorn Ski Paradise which spans the Swiss border to the Italian Aosta Valley.
To get acquainted with the mountain, complete the Matterhorn Ski Safari. You’ll ride 29 different lifts and cable cars and never ski a run more than once, crossing into the Cervinia-Valtournenche ski area in Italy. En route, you’ll explore the world-famous scenic peak of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Europe’s highest mountain station at 12,740 feet above sea level. The next day, explore high alpine glacial skiing at its finest on the Theodul glacier, which thanks to its elevation serves up skiing well into the summer months.
Intermediate skiers and above will thrive at the Matterhorn Ski Paradise. The abundance of wide and steep slopes will have you feeling like a ski racer. Rip down Sunnegga, a run previously used for the Swiss championships, or carve from the Klein Matterhorn all the way back to Zermatt—a total of 15.5 miles, the longest downhill run in the world.
5. Via Lattea, or the Milky Way, Italy/ France
- 400km (248.548 miles) of Slopes
- 70 Lifts
- 249 Runs
Enjoy a morning croissant in France and mid-day espresso in Italy at the Via Lattea, or “Milky Way,” which encompasses eight villages in the Italian and French Alps. The Italian side of the ski area includes the resorts of Pragelato, Sansicario, Cesana, Clavière, Sauze d’Oulx, and Oulx. The French side includes the Montegenévre ski area.
This resort is expansive, so plan your ski day will ensure that you don’t get stuck in a shuttle or taxi ride after the lifts close. The mid-station of Sportina is a convenient spot for beginners, while the nearby area of Sauze d’Oulx offers exciting tree skiing—ask locals for the best lines. If carving is your MO, head to the Olympic Women’s Downhill run in Sansicario, used for the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. Then spend time in Clavière, where the Italian and French borders meet.
To access both the Italian and French sides of the Milky Way, buy the International Ski Pass. If you’ll only have a day or two, opt for the Via Lattea ski pass which gives you access to the Italian side of the resort, which boasts plenty of terrain to shred during a shorter trip.
4. Les 4 Vallées, Switzerland
- 410 km (254.8 miles) of Slopes
- 93 Lifts
- Included on the Epic Pass with special conditions
The biggest ski area in Switzerland, Les 4 Vallées encompasses the six resorts of Verbier, Bruson, La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, and Thyon. The terrain begins at an elevation of 4,101 feet and tops out at the lift-serviced Mont-Fort glacier sitting at 10,925 feet.
Offering beginner-friendly infrastructure and great value, Nendaz and Veysonnaz tend to attract family crowds. At Veysonnaz, take in the view of the Rhone Valley while basking in the sunshine (an average of 300 days per year). Thyon, too, has an expansive beginner’s area.
One can’t truly experience Les 4 Vallées, though, without adventuring onto the off-piste terrain. The Freeride World Tour makes a stop at Verbier, where riders ski the steeps of Mont-Fort and Bec des Rosses with over 1,641 feet of vertical drop. The Tortin wall also taunts even the most skillful skiers with some painful moguls that get scarier as the run goes on. If Tortin isn’t your thing, check out the quieter resort of Bruson below.
3. Paradiski, France
- 425km (264 miles) of Slopes
- 264 Ski Runs
- 164 Lifts
Three resorts—Les Arcs, Peisey Vallandry, and La Plagne—are linked by the largest cable car in the world, the double-decker Vanoise Express, to form Paradiski. This interconnected network of resorts spans 20 villages.
While being whisked away on the colorful cable car, gaze in awe at the expansive array of terrain. Seventy percent of the area’s slopes are located above 6,562 feet, guaranteeing optimal snow coverage. Throw in two glaciers at 9,483 feet and open glades in Peisey Vallandry, and shredders can expect plenty of terrain for all skill levels.
Adrenaline junkies should head over to Les Arcs. If you’re in for the long haul, take the Aiguille Rouge cable car. You’ll be hoisted to the resorts highest peak at 10,584 feet with an option to descend 4.3 miles towards the village of Villaroger. From this point, you can also access the Varet glacier. Below the Varet gondola you’ll find challenging, ungroomed and natural terrain. A handful of difficult runs can also be accessed on the Chiapue glacier via the Bellecôte gondola in La Plagne.
2. Sella Ronda, Italy
- 500 km (310.6 miles) of Slopes
- 4 Ski Valleys
- 222 Lifts
Located smack in the middle of the Dolomites, Sella Ronda is a merry-go-round collection of ski slopes that encircle Sella mountain, an angular plateau massif. Here, spend a day completing the entire loop—the orange clockwise and green counterclockwise route signs will guide you on your journey.
The 40km (24 mile) intermediate route takes you through four ski resorts and four mountain passes, all accessible and linked through the Dolomiti Superski pass. Explore offshoots of the Sella Ronda that extend down to the villages of Ortesi, Val Gardena, Corvara, and Arabba. If you have an itch for the steeps, take a detour from the clockwise route to check out Gran Risa. It’s the steepest slope of the entire area, hosting two World Cup races every year.
The Sella Ronda experience is touted far more for the journey itself and the Italian towns you’ll pass through than off-piste exploration or gnarly advanced terrain, though advanced skiers looking for a challenge can still find it off the beaten path. Start early in the morning and complete the whole loop, with time to spare for lunch and extra runs to explore scenic peaks.
1. Les 3 Vallées, France
- 600 km (372.8 miles) of Slopes
- 166 Lifts
- 328 Ski Runs
- Included on the Epic Pass with special conditions
At Les 3 Vallées (French for “Three Valleys”), explore alpine glaciers and zoom down steep, groomed trails. The interconnected ski area is composed of three resorts in the Northern French Alps—Val Thorens (the highest resort in Europe, topping out at 7,546 feet), Courchevel, and Méribel-Mottaret—so options for terrain abound.
While exploring Val Thorens, take the Bouchet chair in Orelle to reach the highest, lift-serviced point in Les 3 Vallées at 10,597 feet. From there, expert skiers should venture on the off-piste route of Pierre Lory to drop into some couloirs that open into a soft pitch. In these more remote off-resort areas, hiring a guide is advisable. At the end of the day, ride the Cime Caron to rest your ski legs and get a panoramic view of Mont-Blanc.
Wherever you are in Les 3 Vallées, the magic of the French Alps is a constant. You’ll be surrounded by chalet-style architecture in 50 mountain villages that range from your all-inclusive resorts to quaint farming hamlets. You’ll likely feel underdressed in your baselayers while you dine in charming cafés that’ll drown you in wine, cheese, and bread. The area boasts several Michelin star restaurants, too, and we might suggest brushing your helmet hair before dining.
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