Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

Boarding in the clouds at Whistler Blackcomb     Photo: Paul Morrison/courtesy, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort

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Snowfall: 402 inches
Area: 8,171 acres
Vertical Drop: 5,280 feet
Web: whistler-blackcomb.com

OK, the base village was designed by committee and the lower mountain can get milk-bottle foggy. But since you probably can't afford Europe this year, Whistler Blackcomb is the next best thing. Why? Big vertical. Like Yao Ming big. It's the largest resort in North America, and the terrain sustains some of the world's best skiers for a lifetime. Although a few U.S. resorts, such as Jackson Hole and Big Sky, claim more than 4,000 vertical feet, the truth is much of that drop gets broken up by topography. Whistler Blackcomb's 5,280-foot vertical descent, like those in the Alps, drops directly from top to bottom. Your legs will know the difference. (It also feels like a Eu­­ropean resort at night: Men, women, cougars, and manthers all dance goonishly in ski boots until 2 a.m.) For years, the only gripe was the difficulty of moving between the two peaks. No longer: This season, the resort links Blackcomb and Whistler via the much anticipated, $48.6 million Peak-2-Peak Gondola, a 1,430-foot-high thrill ride that covers 2.7 miles—a distance nearly twice as long as the Golden Gate Bridge—in just 11 minutes.

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