The mountains may not be as big in the East, but that doesn’t mean there are no monster drops east of the Rockies. Beating out both Mammoth and Vail in true top-to-bottom footage, Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks stacks over 3,200 feet of continuous vertical from its top station to the base lodge, making it the biggest North American descent outside the West. Go figure that it was the site of alpine skiing events in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
Not as big as its Canadian cousins in the North Cascades, Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hood still has a serious wow factor. (You may recognize its creepy exterior from The Shining.) Timberline has got the biggest drop west of the Rockies—in the U.S., that is. Advanced skiers can take the Palmer Express lift all the way to 8,540 feet at the top of Palmer Snowfield, way above the treeline, and bomb down via the Mustang Sally trail all the way to Still Creek Basin nearly 3,700 feet below.
It’ll take some traversing and multiple lifts to get there from the bottom of the mountain, but once you reach the top of Revelation Lift (12,570 feet), you can start your descent on the upper See Forever trail with some amazing ridgeline views, and then take your pick of intermediate and advanced trails to the bottom of the Coonskin lift in Telluride.
High in the Argentine Andes lies Las Lenas, the largest ski area in South America and the one with the continent’s biggest lift-served drop. Take the Marte lift and hike a short way to the top of the intermediate Apolo trail, which you can link up with the Neptuno and Venus trails for a 3,800-foot, treeless descent. If a heart-in-your-throat, barely-on-piste drop doesn’t scare you, take the Mercurio run for the full 3,900-foot experience.
What was already America’s biggest resort got bigger earlier this year when Big Sky bought neighboring Moonlight Basin, both of which share the same mountain, 11,166-foot-tall Lone Peak. It’s also home to the third-biggest vertical drop in the States. The more-than-three-quarter-mile descent is not for the faint of heart: start on the mountain’s eastern exposure (the Big Sky side) and take the Lone Peak Tram to the summit. Cross over to the northern exposure (the Moonlight Basin side) and bomb down one of two double black diamonds before joining up with a trail network that can take you down to the Madison Village base area.
Colorado’s most vertical resort is Snowmass. Although it claims around 4,400 feet based on the difference in elevation between its highest and lowest points, an honest-to-god, no-asterisk descent from the top of the cirque to base village is a shade over 4,000 feet. For that to happen, the Cirque Poma lift needs to be running, and when it is you’re in for a mad downhill dash, at least until you hit the family-friendly slopes about halfway down—depending on your route, of course.
The biggest drop in the U.S. is one of the easiest to access, too. Hop on the tram at Teton Village and ride all 4,105 feet to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. From there, let gravity do the work, with a little help from your soon-to-be-aching thighs, natch.
North America’s biggest and most popular resort is also has two of the continent’s three biggest verticals. Spread out over Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, the drops on both peaks are nearly a mile—which the resort uses to good effect, advertising a 5,280-foot vertical. The dive down Whistler Mountain starts at the peak (7,160 feet) and heads all the way to Creekside via the intermediate-rated Peak to Creek trail. The Blackcomb drop starts a little higher, at the top of Blackcomb Glacier, and ends a little lower at Blackcomb Daylodge.
The biggest lift-served skiing in North America is in the Canadian Rockies, on Mount MacKenzie near Mt. Revelstoke National Park. Take the aptly-named “The Stoke” to 7,300 feet and wind down the mountainside on The Last Spike, a 9.5-mile intermediate-beginner trail that has a number of opportunities to switch to the steeper stuff, should decide your ride is a little too leisurely.
Revelstoke may be tall, but it's practically shoulder-height when compared with Europe’s most vertical resorts. If you want to ski really huge verticals, you have to go to the Alps. For the second-biggest on-piste drop in the world, head to Les Deux Alpes, a huge family-friendly operation with Europe’s largest skiable glaciers, Mont de Lans and Girose, the highest reaches of which are open year-round. Take the lift to the top of the glaciers—a nosebleed-inducing 11,800 feet—and you can look forward to a looong ride down to the village of Mont de Lans, some 1.4 miles below.
You won’t be skiing down the Matterhorn itself, but you will have a jaw-dropping view of it from the top of the Klein Matterhorn lift, the highest in Europe. That would be at the dizzying elevation of 12,736 feet, so make sure you’re acclimated first. You have the option to ski down the Italian side of the mountain to the villages of Cervinia or Valtournenche, or to the town of Zermatt on the Swiss side. Either way, it’s a long trip—the biggest on-piste vertical drop in the world.
With more vertical than Revelstoke and Whiteface stacked on top of each other, Chamonix—France’s oldest ski resort and home of the first Winter Olympics in 1924—is the world’s tallest. Fitting since it’s in the shadow of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak. True, there’s no official piste from the top of Aguille du Midi cable car (12,605 feet), but there is the Vallée Blanche, a 12-mile-long run that’s a magnet for powder junkies everywhere. Beware: a guide is recommended since there’s no marked trail. But trail or no trail, it’s been called the best downhill run in the world.