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12 Massively Vertical Ski Resorts

By Mark Lebetkin
10/21/2013 2:37:18 PM

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.

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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.

Credit: Whistller Blackcomb/Justa Jeskova

Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C. (5,234 feet)

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.

Credit: Flickr/Phil Tomilson

Revelstoke, B.C. (5,620 feet)

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.

Credit: Flickr/Jurian Persyn

Les Deux Alpes, France (approx. 7,200-7,500 feet)

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.

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