A big part of what skiers look for in a resort is piste size. The problem is that identifying the largest slopes is harder than you think. Most resorts in Canada and the US refer to size in terms of the length of their runs, instead of actual area size. Also, they do not use a uniform method of measuring length and use different tricks to come up with impressive numbers. Such as measuring a skiers’ track when doing wide turns and counting pistes twice if they are wide.
So we will look at various resorts, they claimed size and more realistic size and what makes them appealing.
The Skiwelt is claimed to be 279 km while the actual measured size is 240 km. It is Austria’s biggest and well-linked skiing area. The major resorts are Westendorf to the south, Brixen, Ellmau, and Soll. Westendorf has a few steep slopes and Soll has some great black slopes, but, the main draw of Skiewelt is undemanding cruising.
Les Trois Vallees, France
The Les Trois Vallees resort claims that the distance is 600 km, but the measured distance is 493 km. For many, this is the biggest and therefore, best. This is probably the best in the world for intermediate skiers who love variety. There are also huge amounts of off-piste terrain and brilliant black runs at Courchevel.
L ‘Espace Killy
L ‘Espace Killy has a claimed distance of 300 km, but has the measured distance is 232 km. Tignes and Val d’Isere share some of the world’s best areas for adventurous experts and intermediates and named after local hero Jean-Claude Killy. Along with wide areas of gentle slopes, most are red and blue runs that are very steep for their grades. Due to the high elevation and north-facing aspect the snow is good and the lift-served piste makes this the most extensive and best throughout the world.
Milky Way, France/Italy
The Milky Way is divided into two halves and claims it has 400 km worth of skiing; the measured figure sits at 251 km. The Italian Sansicario, Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx are all closely linked. Similarly, the French Montgenevre and Claviere are also linked. The connecting point at Torinese is tricky to navigate and easier done by bus or car. Montgenevre is famous for great snow and unspoiled off-piste areas. At Sestriere, there are some challenging pistes but the main appeal of this resort is the easy cruising.
The Blackcomb and Whistler mountains create the largest linked area of skiing in North America and have the biggest vertical that measures at 1,610 meters. To the south, there are vast amounts of intermediate cruising areas. The standout features are the high bowls. Experts love the ski-anywhere terrain. Blackcomb has some tough runs, but is mainly single runs, like the Couloir Extreme which runs at an angle of 41 degrees.
Vail is the biggest in the US and has slopes that are divided into 3 main sectors. The front face is woodland and a mixture of cruising on steep bump runs and well-groomed pistes. Across the ridge is the Back Bowls which has unkempt anywhere terrain, that’s excellent in fresh snow, but because it’s south-facing the snow can disappear quickly. Past the Back Bowls lies the Blue Sky Basin, which is north-facing, has great snow and skiing through trees.