When it comes to assessing a ski resort, does size really matter? Shouldn’t we be we be more
concerned with esthetics, experience and entertainment value? Quality over quantity?
Nah. We believe the bigger the better.
Not surprisingly, the largest resorts are located in one of the great mountain ranges of the
world, the Alps, with the top 12 situated in all or part of four Alpine countries — France,
Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Indeed, of the world’s largest ski hills, only 15 are situated outside
the Alps, with 11 of them in North America.
Just how big are these mega-resorts? Well, they measure ski hills in Europe a little differently
than we do here in the New World. In North America, we assess size by skiable acres; across
the pond they measure by adding up how long each named run or piste is to get the number of
To give an example of the Alpine scale of things, 3 Valleys in France has 600 skiable
kilometers, making it No. 1 in the world; Park City, after merging with neighboring Canyons
resort recently, has 250, the best in North America but only 13th on the world list.
Or to put it another way, Whistler Blackcomb has 8,171 lift-served acres for the top spot in
North America in that category; Paradiski, a merger of the two old French resorts La Plagne and
Les Arcs, boasts a hefty 35,559 acres (which includes various villages and other, non-skiable
But because the European resorts generally don’t list mountain stats that include hectares or
acres, we’ll have to go with the skiable-kilometer model. So, the world’s top 10 largest ski
resorts are 3 Valleys, France, with 600 kilometers of trails; Les Portes du Soleil, Switzerland,
580 km; Sella Ronda, Italy, 500 km; Paradiski, France, 425 km; 4 Valleys, Switzerland, 412 km; Via
Lattea, France-Italy, 400 km; Zermatt-Cervinia, Switzerland-Italy, 322 km; Les Sybelles, France,
310 km; St. Anton, Austria, 305 km; Espace Killy, France, 300 km.
The top 10 North American resorts, using the European yardstick, are Park City, Utah, and Big
Sky-Yellowstone Club, Montana, both at 250 km (and tied for 13th in the world); Vail, Colorado,
234 km (19th in the world); Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, 200 km (23rd); Steamboat,
Colorado, 165 km (33rd); Breckinridge, Colorado, 153 km (37th); Beaver Creek, Colorado, 150
km, and Mammoth Mountain, California, 150 km (tied for 38th); Winter Park, Colorado, 143 km
(44th), and Fernie, British Columbia, 142 km (46th).
Acres of skiing
But if you used lift-served skiable acreage rather than skiable kilometers, the North American
top 10 shapes up a little bit differently. Whistler Blackcomb, as mentioned above, is No. 1 with
8,171 acres, followed by Park City (7,300 acres); Big Sky-Yellowstone Club (5,800); Vail (5,289),
Heavenly, California-Nevada (4,800); Sun Peaks, British Columbia (4,270); Lake Louise, Alberta
(4,200); Powder Moutain, Utah (3,800); Mt. Bachelor, Oregon (3,683), and Squaw Valley, California (3,600).
Then again, there are other ways to get the measure of the mountain.
If you are willing to hike or pay to hitch a ride on a snowcat at Powder Mountain, its total acreage swells to more than 8,000 acres. And there are several resorts that have common lift tickets and are just a short bus ride apart, including
Colorado’s Vail and Beaver Creek, which have a combined total of 6,121 acres, or California’s
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows (6,000 acres), or Colorado’s Aspen Snowmass complex,
which includes Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk (5,313 acres).
But by any way you measure it, there still is a lot of skiing and riding to had out there.