Do note however that the list is based on the altitude of the highest skiable peaks accessible via ski lift as opposed to resort attitude; and with the exception of Chacaltaya, the criteria for inclusion are a working lift system and a reasonable amount of skiable terrain and ‘vert’.
Max altitude 5222m
No of lifts 1
Length of ‘pistes’ 2km
The rope tow on the slopes of 5421-metre Mount Chacaltaya in Bolivia was built in 1939 and is as basic as it gets, as is the skiing – don’t expect mountain restaurants and groomed pistes here. Needless to say the glacier is melting and skiing is only possible from time to time (it was once possible to ski here year round).
Indeed, there is no common consent on whether the rope tow currently operates on a regular basis, so do some research before booking your next Bolivian ski holiday…
Also note that there’s no ‘resort’ on Chacaltaya, but as the highest (occasionally) lift-served skiing on Earth it obviously has to feature in our list.
Max altitude 3980m
No of lifts 3
Length of pistes 30km
Gulmarg’s gondola, which accesses the slopes of Mount Apharwat, is the highest in the world with most visiting skiers using it to access a fantastic array of backcountry terrain rather than the limited amount of pistes.
There are also three rickety drag lifts for beginners.
The town of Gulmarg was used by officers of the British Raj as a retreat from the heat of the Indian Plains in summer and has a fine array of colonial hotels (plus three golf courses); work on the gondola began in 1989 and continued on and off for 16 years, allowing skiers with a taste for the exotic to enjoy Himalayan powder.
Max altitude 3914m
No of lifts 31
Ski area 2358 acres
This former gold mining town high in the Rockies retains its Wild West character along with some great skiing for all ability levels – the quality of the snow conditions is attested to by the fact that Britain’s world beating freestyler James ‘Woodsy’ Woods is based here – a far cry from Sheffield Ski Village where he learned to ski!
Max altitude 3899m
No of lifts 57
Length of pistes 360km
This is not just one of the highest ski areas in the world, it’s also one of the most iconic with the majestic Matterhorn lording it over everything.
The skiing here is also second to none, with everything from great beginner runs to exciting heliskiing, fantastic mountain restaurants and the opportunity to ski two countries (Switzerland and Italy) on the same day and the same lift pass.
Max altitude 3871m
No of lifts 9
Ski area 1365 acres
Although relatively modest in size Loveland’s location high up on the east side of the Continental Divide means it gets stacks of dry Colorado powder.
It’s also easily reached from a number of other Colorado resorts, Keystone in particular, so whilst you probably wouldn’t use it as the base for a US ski trip you can add it to your itinerary if you’ re staying at one of the region’s bigger resorts.
Max altitude 3850m
No of lifts 6
Length of pistes 6 km
Situated close to Tehran, Mount Tochal rises to 3964m and has a 12-km long ridge line with lots of scope for backcountry exploration.
The skiing is accessed by one of the world’s longest gondolas, which runs all the way from Tehran to Tochal Resort over a distance of 7.5km and from a height of 1900m to 3740m at the resort.
Ski facilities in Tochal are limited (two chair lifts and one T-bar) but the unique combination of altitude and exotic culture make this one for keen ski adventurers to tick off.
No of lifts 44
Length of pistes 155 km
Chamonix makes the list on account of the spectacular Aiguille du Midi cable car, which take you all the way from the town centre to the top of eponymous spike of rock that towers over 2800-metres above.
From here the alpine panoramas are truly awesome, and if you’re a decent intermediate skier or better, and have a guide, you can ski the 24-km long Vallee Blanche back down to ‘Cham’ and through the heart of all that incredible scenery.
Max altitude 3830m
No of lifts 18
Ski area 2000 acres
Another of the Rocky Mountains’ old mining towns-cum-ski resorts, it’s easy to imagine Butch Cassidy riding down Main Street (as he once did after raiding one of the town’s banks).
There’s some seriously steep and challenging skiing here along with some fun intermediate terrain all in the heart of dramatic high mountains, and the combination of great skiing, great scenery and great western atmosphere makes the long journey to Telluride well worthwhile.
Max altitude 3813m
No of lifts 21
Ski area 3132 acres
Snowmass has the biggest vertical in the US, which although relatively modest by the standards of the Alps is not to be sniffed at when you combine it with quiet slopes and reliable snow.
Add to that great terrain for everyone from beginner to expert and a link to nearby Aspen and it make a great introduction to Rocky Mountain skiing.
Max altitude 3800m
Mount Elbrus, Russia
No of lifts 3
Length of pistes 35km
Once a high altitude training area for Russian athletes and astronauts, Mt. Elbrus is now popular with adventurous skiers looking for quiet and challenging off-piste adventures.
Indeed, you can ski here in the summer thanks to a cat ski operation which accesses terrain as high as 5100 metres.
The village of Cheget on the mountain’s lower slopes offers hotel and chalet accommodation along with bars and restaurants, and whilst it may not be as swish as Europe or North America it does provide a unique ski experience.