Updated: Apr 11, 2022
We had so much fun exploring every single ski lift out West and profiling our 11 Best Lifts Out West, that we had to come East and repeat the experience. We scoured the Northeast and asked: How high? How far? How long? How many people? How much fun? We also dove into some of the storied histories of these class New England lifts. These are our 11 favorite lifts in the region. Lifts are ordered by elevation gained, measured in vertical feet.
Summary of our Top 11 Lifts (by vertical feet): * Click the lift name to jump to that section
Cloudsplitter Gondola – Whiteface, NY (2,432 feet)
Madonna – Smugglers' Notch, VT (2,150')
ForeRunner Quad – Stowe, VT (2,046')
Wildcat Express Quad – Wildcat Mountain, NH (2,041')
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway — Cannon Mountain, NH (2,021')
Single Chair – Mad River Glen, VT (1,972')
Jay Peak Aerial Tram — Jay Peak, VT (1,952')
Castlerock Double — Sugarbush, VT (1,670')
K-1 Gondola — Killington, VT (1,642')
Chondola — Sunday River, ME (1,138')
Kancamagus 8 — Loon Mountain, NH (1,062')
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*Resort names below in blue link to the related Avant Ski Resort Guide when available.
Cloudsplitter Gondola – Whiteface, NY
Elevation Gain: 2,432 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: 8-Person Gondola
Ride Time: 15 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Cloudsplitter Glades, Northway, Excelsior
Cloudsplitter Gondola at Whiteface gains the most vertical of any lift on our list, but it could easily take this top spot for having the best name. The gondola provides access to an incredible amount of terrain – and it doesn't even go to the summit. Whiteface boasts 3,430 feet of vertical, the most of any resort east of the Rockies. Cloudsplitter services a fantastic array of cruisers, steeps, and tree skiing and is endlessly entertaining for experts and intermediates alike. Plus, views of the surrounding Adirondack peaks are amongst the best in the Northeast.
Insider Tip: Expert skiers should also venture over to the Summit Quad, an epic Whiteface lift in its own right. When conditions allow, it provides access (after a short hike) to the Slides, a series of unmaintained chutes that sends riders over bumps, cliffs, and even frozen waterfalls. Be warned, this area is not for the faint of heart!
Madonna — Smugglers' Notch, VT
Elevation Gain: 2,150 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: Double
Ride Time: 13 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: F.I.S., Freefall, The Black Hole
> Check out our Smugglers' Notch Expert Itinerary to explore the challenging terrain here
An old school gem, the Madonna double serves the most challenging terrain at Smugglers' Notch. Make sure you've warmed up well before heading up, as the ride is long and the terrain at the top is steep and unforgiving. Test your mettle on the double black rated Freefall and F.I.S. trails before taking another lap and dropping into the ridiculously steep Black Hole — New England's only triple black diamond.
ForeRunner Quad — Stowe, VT
Elevation Gain: 2,046 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: Express Quad
Ride Time: 5.9 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Starr, Liftline, National, Goat
> Visit our Stowe Expert Itinerary to have a blast off of the ForeRunner Quad
The ForeRunner Quad services Stowe's legendary "Front Four." Starr, Liftline, National, and Goat are Stowe's famous double black diamond trails and have long been a proving ground for expert skiers in New England. Stowe itself is the cradle of skiing in the Green Mountain State, synonymous with the spt since 1933 when Vermont's first trails were cut on Mount Mansfield.
Wildcat Express Quad — Wildcat Mountain, NH
Elevation Gain: 2,041 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: Express Quad
Ride Time: 6 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Top Cat, Lift Lion, Upper Wildcat
The Wildcat Express at Wildcat Mountain is the longest detachable quad in New England, spanning over 2,000 vertical feet in six minutes. Installed in 1997, the lift carries passengers from the base to the summit of the second tallest peak in New Hampshire and features incredible views of Mount Washington and Tuckerman Ravine. From the Summit, the entire trail system is accessible. Fun fact, gondola cars run along this lift line in the summer only.
Cannon Aerial Tramway — Cannon Mountain, NH
Elevation Gain: 2,021 feet
Lift Type/ Capacity: Tram/70 passengers per tram
Ride Time: 8 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Tramway, DJ’s Tramline, Upper Cannon, Kinsman Glade
A New England institution, the Cannon Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain, was initially installed in 1938, making it the first aerial tram in North America. The ketchup and mustard colored cars are easily visible from the highway and welcome visitors as they trek north on I-93. Riders are whisked to the top of Cannon’s 4,080’ peak in 8 minutes and can enjoy unrivaled views of Franconia Notch along the way. From the top, skiers have their pick of a variety of intermediate, expert, and gladed runs.
Single Chair – Mad River Glen, VT
Elevation Gain: 1,972 feet
Lift Type/ Capacity: Single Chair
Ride Time: 8.5 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Paradise, Chute/Lift Line, Fall Line
Mad River Glen’s motto, “ski it if you can,” is especially apt when referring to the terrain serviced by the Single Chair. This terrain includes some of the gnarliest steeps, trees, cliffs, and bumps this side of the Rockies. The Single Chair is one of the nation’s best preserved pieces of skiing history. So much so that Mad River Glen is the only ski area in the nation on the National Register of Historic Places. The Single Chair was the fastest lift in the world when it opened for the first time in 1949. In 2007, the Mad River community raised $1.8 million in donations to restore this iconic chair. Today, it is one of two single chairs that remains in service in the U.S. and the only one in the East.
Jay Peak Aerial Tram – Jay Peak, VT
Elevation Gain: 1,952 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: Tram/45 passengers per tram (originally 60)
Ride Time: 10 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Face Chutes, Tuckerman’s Chute, Vermonter
The Jay Peak Aerial Tram, Vermont’s only lift of its kind, ferries riders up nearly 2,000 vertical feet to the summit of Jay Peak, offering access to some of New England’s deepest snow and most interesting terrain. The ride from base to peak takes only 10 minutes. From the top, riders have their choice of ridiculously steep and narrow chutes or long, winding cruisers. This terrain generally skis pretty well thanks to Jay Peak’s location beneath the infamous “Jay Cloud.” The resort is renowned for having the most reliable snowfall in the Northeast, averaging ~360 inches. Beware, the tram runs the risk of closure due to high winds, so check the forecast before heading up.
Historical fact: At the end of the 2016 season, the tram was shut down by state officials and $4.5 million of upgrades were required for it to re-open and continue operating. Capacity was also reduced from 60 skiers to 45.
Castlerock Double – Sugarbush, VT
Elevation Gain: 1,670 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: Double Chair
Ride Time: 15.5 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Lift Line, Rumble, Middle Earth, Castlerock Run
> Explore our Sugarbush Expert Itinerary for the inside scoop on exploring Castlerock Peak
The Castlerock Double serves some of the most iconic terrain at Sugarbush. The chair is a dinosaur and the ride takes a whopping 15+ minutes, but there is plenty of entertainment along the way. Watch fellow riders below attempt to tackle the menacing Lift Line. When you do reach the top, it’s time to put on a show of your own!
Insider Tip: During the early season, Sugarbush typically opens Castlerock Peak for skiing before the chair actually starts spinning. This is a great chance to earn some of the best turns of the year. To access the peak, take the Heaven’s Gate Triple and ski towards Paradise. You’ll see a trail entry into the trees on your left. Follow the trail (about a 20-minute hike) and you’ll have fresh turns on Castlerock all to yourself!
K-1 Gondola – Killington, VT
Elevation Gain: 1,642 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: 8-Person Gondola
Ride Time: 6.5 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Cascade, Downdraft, Escapade
> Killington has six peaks and more than 120 runs – check out our Top Trails to find the best terrain
Known as “The Beast”, Killington is massive, with the largest stated acreage of any resort in the East. The K-1 Gondola is the portal directly to the top of New England’s highest ski resort peak at 4,241’. From the top of K1, skiers can get almost anywhere on the mountain. Head straight down for some of the steepest groomers in the region, or head right to test yourself on the legendary bumps of Bear Mountain. Heading left will take you to the cruisers off of North Ridge, Snowdon, and Ramshead. Don’t forget to stop for the view!
Chondola – Sunday River, ME
Elevation Gain: 1,138 feet
Lift Type/Capacity: Combination of 6-Pack Chair & 8-Person Gondola
Ride Time: 6.5 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Grand Rapids, Dream Maker, T72, North Woods
> Explore our Sunday River Itineraries to make the most of your rides on the Chondola.
Sunday River’s Chondola is one part chair lift, one part Gondola, and the only one of its kind in New England. When loading, riders can choose to take the 6-person chair or an 8-person gondola (that runs between every 4 chairs). There are two separate loading lines — the chair line tends to move quite a bit faster if you don’t mind braving the elements.
The real beauty of the Chondola, though, is the terrain it services. First off, it takes riders to the jumping-off point for the rest of the mountain — providing easy access to Barker, Spruce, North, and Aurora Peaks. Meanwhile, the South Ridge area, directly underneath the Chondola, offers fantastic skiing for beginners and intermediates. The entire South Ridge area is also open for night skiing,
Kancamagus 8 - Loon Mountain, NH
Elevation Gain: 1,065 feet
Lift Type/ Capacity: 8-Pack Bubble Chair
Ride Time: 4.5 minutes
Top Runs Serviced: Northstar, Rumrunner, Speakeasy, Rampasture
New for the 2021-22 season and the crown jewel of lift technology in the region, the Kancamagus 8 at Loon Mountain is amongst the most technologically advanced lifts in North America. Featuring heated, ergonomically designed seats, a weather-proof bubble, and a mind-boggling speed of 1,100 ft/minute, the “Kanc 8” rockets riders up 1,000+ vertical feet of terrain in just 4.5 luxurious minutes. While not the longest lift on our list, the Kanc 8 services some of the best cruisers at Loon. It is also well positioned to offer access to the Governor Adams and Octagon Lodge areas, in addition to the North Peak Express Quad. But really, this one is all about the ride!
Bretton Woods Skyway – Bretton Woods, NH
The Bretton Woods Skyway at Bretton Woods was installed in 2019, making it one of the newer lifts on our list. The aptly named skyway offers breathtaking views of Mount Washington. In just 5 minutes, riders are ferried from the base to the brand new Rosebrook Lodge, with even more jaw dropping views of the Presidential Range and some of the best on-mountain dining in New England. From here, skiers and riders can head left for pristine groomers, or right for steeps and trees.
Timberline Quad – Sugarloaf, ME
The Timberline Quad at Sugarloaf can be downright freezing and uncomfortable, but it is well worth the ride for the fantastic views, rivaled only by the incredible terrain serviced. When conditions are right, Timberline takes riders to the only lift-serviced above tree line skiing in the East. Skiing the Snowfields is a unique experience more akin to skiing out West than in New England. After you’ve conquered the steeps, continue down into Brackett Basin for trees, chutes, and cliffs. We promise, this will be one of the most epic runs you’ll find in the Northeast.
Insider Tip: Aim to visit Sugarloaf in late March or early April. The snowpack is usually at its peak and the weather is much more forgiving. Be sure to check the mountain report before you venture up, as the most exciting terrain at the Loaf is extremely dependent on conditions.
Slidebrook Express – Sugarbush, VT
While the Slidebrook Express is not your typical lift — it runs in both directions and connects the Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen areas of Sugarbush — it does have the esteemed honor of being the longest ski lift in North America at a whopping 11,012 feet. That’s over two miles! The ride takes 10 minutes and offers riders a great view of the Slide Brook sidecountry terrain below.
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