Ski resorts love to advertise their verticality, and with good reason. What other land-based sport allows you to rocket thousands of feet down a mountain and then go right back up and do it again? Maybe freeride mountain biking, if you’re crazy enough.
The all-important drop is a big draw for many resorts, especially in North America where marketing departments can tout mile-high descents—we’re looking at you, Whistler—and the biggest of big mountain skiing.
Since the most common method of measuring vertical is to subtract the resort’s lowest point from its highest, advertised verticals don’t always represent longest continuous drop a skier can make.
This is where the website MountainVertical.com comes in. For hundreds of North American resorts the site has independently verified the true vertical distance between the top and bottom of a resort’s longest possible run, and published that stat as the “True-Up Vertical Descent.”
As the website explains, this metric eliminates several problems with advertised verticals: you often can’t ski from highest point A to lowest point B; or there’s a buzzkill of a traverse linking them; or reaching the highest point requires a major hike.
So for those of you who crave the big stuff without wanting to get helicopters and the backcountry involved, we put together a list of 12 of the of the most vertical lift-served ski areas in the world—with an emphasis on the U.S. and Canada of course. When available, we used MountainVertical’s stats. For European and South American resorts, we looked at self-reported numbers and cross-referenced them with authoritative sites like OnTheSnow.com.