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Resort Guide 2023

These 10 Resorts Have the Best Lift Systems in the East

The lifts at these resorts are reliable, thoughtfully laid out, and keep skiers moving.

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Ski lifts may be the most underrated cog in the ski resort machine. When we plan our ski trips, we pick our destination based on snow quality, grooming, lodging, etc.—a resort’s lift system is the last thing on our mind. But there’s nothing like standing in long lift lines, being funneled into lift bottlenecks, or being stuck on stalled chairs to put a damper on a ski day.

Resort Guide 2023: Top 50 Resorts in North America

So if you want to guarantee you get the most vert out of your day on the slopes, hit up these resorts that boast the best designed and most efficient lift systems in the East. They may not all have high-speed six-packs, but what they do have is reliable lifts that keep skiers moving.

Top 10 Eastern Ski Resorts with the Best Lifts

No. 10: Sugarloaf Resort, Maine

Score: 7.80
Other Strengths: Terrain Variety, Challenge
Weaknesses: Access, Dining

Sugarloaf Lifts RG23
(Photo: Courtesy of Sugarloaf Resort/Jamie Walter)

What Readers Say

“Great terrain! Excellent resort layout. Fast lifts. Great staff!”

“Great terrain and grooming. Effort to open more terrain could be a lot better, lots of wind holds on the lifts, so good when the weather and snow cooperate.”

“My favorite mountain in New England. Mountain trail layout is very good, with a variety of terrain for all skill levels. Accommodations and restaurants are all very good. Only complaint is in my opinion, there are too few. Not a problem when I was there, but a problem at peak season I would imagine.”

No. 9: Sunday River, Maine

Score: 7.83
Other Strengths: Grooming, Family-Friendly
Weaknesses: Value, Nightlife

Sunday River ski lift
According to readers, Sunday River scores points for its number of high-speed lifts and a thoughtfully laid out lift system for getting skiers to where they want to be. (Photo: Courtesy of Sunday River)

What Readers Say

“Many excellent high speed lifts, good terrain, and nice variety. Only problem is there are many fast skiers here that don’t know how to turn or stop and just fly down the mountain. Would only recommend midweek. Also, not enough convenient parking.”

“What Sunday River lacks in vertical it makes up for in variety of trails. Snowmaking, a necessity in this warming climate, is the best in the area as is the grooming. Nice selection of glades.”

“Great mountain, dedication to the snow product year in and year out. Excited for the coming lift upgrades and continued snowmaking infrastructure overhauls. Huge area, you can always find a quiet terrain pod and lift even on the busiest days.”

No. 8: Loon Mountain, N.H. 

Score: 7.89
Other Strengths: Grooming, Access
Weaknesses: Challenge, Value

Loon ski area gondola
Fast and efficient lifts get skiers to the goods at Loon. (Photo: Courtesy of Loon)

What Readers Say

“An easy day trip from Boston with a variety of terrain. Nothing extremely challenging, but when the glades are open, that adds to they enjoyment immensely. It does get crowded on weekends, so I generally do either midweek or early/late season weekends. The Kanc8 helps a lot with lift lines and the new Seven Brothers Express for 22-23 should take some of the load off the gondola.”

“Fast and efficient lifts in most places and good terrain. Very convenient parking midweek. Reasonably affordable with Ikon Pass.”

“They do a great job with grooming and snowmaking. Also, they have long vertical runs off their three major lifts.”

No. 7: Mad River Glen, Vt. 

Score: 7.9
Other Strengths: Terrain Variety, Challenge
Weaknesses: Snow Quality, Nightlife

Skier at Mad River Glen
It doesn’t have high-speed lifts, but its classic single chair is a big party of the indy vibe that makes Mad River Glen so special. (Photo: Courtesy of Mad River Glen)

What Readers Say

“Uncrowded during the week. Avoid weekends as kids programs (which are great) make for long lift lines. When the snow is good, it’s the best in the East. When the snow is bad, it is interesting.”

“Mad River is special. Old school but focused on what is important now: skiing on amazing terrain without crowds. You can explore hidden treasures in and out of bounds with friendly locals and strangers. It can thrill you from top to bottom but you can always find a way to bail and cruise to the bottom. The Single Chair makes you one with the mountain and the music at the bottom and mid-station are worth the ride in and of itself.”

“MRG is NOT part of Ikon, Epic, or other corporate ski company. While the season may be short and lines can be long on Saturdays, MRG staff and guests are great. And NO SNOW BOARDS!”

No. 6: Mont Tremblant, Qué

Score: 8.0
Other Strengths: Lodging, Après
Weaknesses: Access, Challenge

Mont Tremblant gondola
There’s nothing like a high-speed gondola, especially when you’re in eastern Canada and temps are below freezing. (Photo: Courtesy of Mont Tremblant)

What Readers Say

“It is European skiing experience you can drive to! The village is fantastic, lodging options are endless, food is fantastic, and you cannot beat Petite Caribou for the après scene! Nightlife is outstanding and the people are extremely kind. Just a happy vibe from the moment you arrive.”

“Great value. Mountain is not huge but it’s enough to have some enjoyable days, hotels are affordable, town is super charming.”

No. 5: Gore Mountain, N.Y.

Score: 8.1
Other Strengths: Terrain Variety, Value
Weaknesses: Lodging, Après

Gore Mountain gondola
Yes, you have to take off your skis to ride a gondola. But staying warm and cozy in a cabin is worth it. (Photo: Courtesy of Gore Mountain)

What Readers Say

“Gore is a very special and unique place. Skiing is “pure,” and the vibe is definitely Adirondack. Great glades, steeps and cruisers. Lots of lifts manage the crowds well and spread them out over four mountains so the lift lines are not bad. Huge water supply from the Hudson River for snowmaking. Reliable grooming.”

“Hidden gem in the Adirondacks. Mountain layout allows skiers to spread out to different areas which all but eliminates lift lines. You can have a trail all to yourself during midweek days. Snowmaking is extensive and grooming crew is excellent.”

No. 4: Killington Resort, Vt. 

Score: 8.42
Other Strengths: Terrain Variety, Challenge
Weaknesses: Value, Family-Friendly

"Top 5 Biggest Ski Resorts in the East Killington, Vermont is number one"
The Beast of the East is popular, so it can get crowded. But a system of high-speed and high-capacity lifts spreads out the crowds as much as possible. (Photo: Courtesy of Killington)

What Readers Say

“The Beast of the East does a great job, from its early season opening to late May closing. It’s often overlooked, but they are making efforts to make this place unique with its new $30 million base lodge and lots of lift improvements over the years.”

“We have skied Killington for many years because of the many trails, varied terrain, great lift system, and nearby affordable lodging/meals. Best in New England in our opinion.”

“I am a long-time VT skier but a Killington newbie. Was scared by the reports of tri-state Jerries, but as it turns out, the place lives up to its nickname. It has incredible views, better snow than anyone else in VT outside of Jay, and terrain for almost everyone. Can I tell you a secret? Paying extra to skip the lines is great.”

No. 3: Wachusett Mountain, Mass. 

Score: 8.54
Other Strengths: Grooming, Access
Weaknesses: Challenge, Lodging

Wachusett ski lift
Resorts don’t necessarily have to have fancy gondolas and lots of high-speed lifts to rank high in the Lift category—they just need to have a lift system that keeps skiers moving and bottlenecks to a minimum.

What Readers Say

“I would recommend it to most skiers who want some runs between their longer drives, except those who want bragging rights. The lift system is especially efficient and on weekdays or weekend mornings allows maximum time on the slopes. The long, gentle section for beginners, along with the dedicated high-speed quad lift, is a remarkable service for families. The learning experience is also supported by an abundance of gentle intermediate terrain. The flow of skiers throughout the week is enough to finance a superior grooming operation.”

“I discovered Wachusett two years ago and it’s been my home mountain for the last two seasons. My riding ability at this point is too advanced to have a lot of fun at Wachusett for more than a few hours, but holy cow I cannot say enough good things about that mountain. They consistently have some of the best conditions, even on the worst days when there’s no business for the mountains to even be open. I love going to them for early and late season riding because their snowmaking really makes for fun terrain. Everybody is so friendly, the mountain is beautiful, the food and staff are great. It’s such a good family mountain and I’ve learned a lot about skiing in New England from riding lifts with the retired skiiers when I’m out getting first tracks on weekday mornings. Just a really cool local place that I try to go 1-2x a week during the week.”

No. 2: Holiday Valley, N.Y.

Score: 9.02
Other Strengths: Grooming, Family-Friendly
Weaknesses: Challenge, Snow Quality

Holiday Valley ski lift
Holiday Valley doesn’t boast the biggest vert, but it has an impressive number of lifts to shuttle skiers up the vert it does have. (Photo: Courtesy of Holiday Valley)

What Readers Say

“Outstanding snowmaking. High number of high speed lifts. Friendly staff, customer oriented. Great resort town for àpres ski. Varied train—something for everyone and every ability.”

“Great resort that is well managed. They were challenged last year by variable weather conditions (warm-ups). Wish we could go back to pre-COVID days before all these new skiers made lift lines crazy. Only ski mornings now as afternoons are a zoo.”

“It’s the hidden gem of the East and managed well. Snowmaking and grooming crews are second to none. Lift speeds and accessibility accommodate all parts of the hill and skier traffic (if any, it’s rare). The town of Ellicottville makes Holiday Valley even more phenomenal with multiple restaurant and lodging options. Although the resort is on the small size with the number of runs, they have plenty of room to continue to expand. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t lack vertical, but they do maximize every inch of the resort. Holiday Valley is perfect for east coast lovers looking for a great all around stop. Oh and the lake effect snow, it’s something special!”

No. 1: Bretton Woods, N.H.

Score: 9.09
Other Strengths: Grooming, Family Friendly
Weaknesses: Challenge, Nightlife

Bretton Woods gondola
Readers love the layout of Bretton Woods’ lift system and voted it the best in the East. (Photo: Courtesy of Bretton Woods)

What Readers Say

“Best snow, grooming, lifts, trees, and scenery in the East. Feels like a western resort. Great Nordic too.”

“Bretton Woods is definitely one of my favorite resorts because it never disappoints us, even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. The lifts are set up and run extremely well and never on wind-hold. The snow always seems to be great and it’s close enough for an extended day trip as well as a destination resort.”

“Bretton Woods is the perfect family destination for skiing! The mountain has trails for all levels of skiing. All of the staff—from the parking lot, to ticketing, to the lifts, and all of the services—are incredibly friendly and helpful. The condos on the mountain or across the street are roomy, clean, and exactly what you need after a great day on the slopes.”