Discover the Wyoming Ski Lift That Sends People Over 2 Miles in the Sky in Just a Few Minutes

Written by Kyler Matthews
Updated: May 30, 2023
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One of the best views in all of Wyoming can be found from the ski lift that has been nicknamed “Big Red.” That’s because this particular ski lift is one of the highest ski lifts in the United States. At 41,541 feet, it has the largest vertical of any U.S. ski resort and takes you all the way up to an elevation of over 10,000 feet! 

Highest Ski Lift in the United States

Big Red” is located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is often given the title of being the “highest ski lift in the United States”, although this is a bit misleading. There are many gargantuan ski lifts in the U.S. that could rival Big Red when it comes to being the “highest” ski lift. However, what makes this Wyoming ski lift so incredible is that Big Red has the largest vertical of any ski resort in the U.S.

What does this mean? Well, “vertical” refers to the distance between the base of the mountain and the highest point accessible by a ski lift. Skiers often use this measurement to understand the overall size and quality of skiing at a given resort. That’s because a larger vertical generally provides longer and more varied ski runs. With a vertical of 41,541 feet, you can bet that Big Red is pretty incredible!

If you climb aboard Big Red, you can be on the ground one moment, and the next (approximately 9 minutes later), you’re more than 4,000 vertical feet up and feeling like you’re floating on air. “Big Red” takes its riders to the top of Rendezvous Mountain at an elevation of 10,450 feet! The view at the top makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.

Riding Big Red offers a 360° view of the Jackson Hole Valley and the Teton Mountain ranges. During the winter, you can see skiers and snowboarders racing down the slopes. In the summer, the ski lift moves slower so visitors can watch for wildlife.

Backcountry skiers leave their mark in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

©iStock.com/christiannafzger

Activities at the Top of the Lift

The incredible views from Big Red are not all this tram ride has to offer. In fact, when you reach the top of the lift, there are many more things to do and explore. You can dine on The Deck at Piste in the evening or at the Top of the World Waffles in the morning.

There’s an alpine hiking trail that begins at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort called the Wildflower Trail. The trail is an 8-mile roundtrip hike and is generally considered to be more challenging than a trail to sojourn. The Wildflower Trail takes about two to three hours each way to complete (give or take). It is a happy place for hikers — you’ll likely come across the path of other individuals. They say it’s also best to come from May through October. It is a very scenic trail.

You can also try Tandem paragliding flights or practice Yoga at sunrise and sunset.

During the months of June through September runs the Sweetwater Gondola and the Bridger Gondola. The Sweetwater Gondola takes seven and a half minutes and rises 1,276 vertical feet. The Bridger Gondola is a 12-minute ride that rises more than 2,700 vertical feet.

At the Jackson Hole Ski Resort, the summit lift chairlift operates for hikers in the summer.

©iStock.com/Melissa Kopka

The Jackson Hole Resort

This mountain ski resort near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is known in some social circles within the skiing and snowboarding communities as “The Big One.” It is one of the best ski resorts in the country to stay at. So, if you love the outdoors or consider yourself an outdoor enthusiast, then this is the perfect place to stay while visiting the highest ski lift in the United States. It offers its guests opportunities for shopping, dining, concerts, mountain biking, hiking, and even paragliding (to name only a few).

The Jackson Hole Ski Resort is known as “The Big One,” and it is one of the best ski resorts in the country to stay at.

©iStock.com/christiannafzger

The History of “Big Red” the Largest Vertical in the United States

“The Red Heli” is another nickname for “Big Red” — the aerial tram that is the highest ski lift in the United States. Reaching the top of Rendezvous Mountain, Big Red was the dream of a man named Paul McAllister. His vision was to bring European styles of skiing experiences to the United States. Born in 1966 at the same time as the development of the Jackson Hole Resort, Big Red originally held around 60 passengers and was roughly a 10-minute ride.

Partly because it’s the highest ski lift in Wyoming and the United States, over time, Big Red has become an icon for visitors who stay at the ski resort. The original car or gondola has undergone several makeovers and upgrades over the years while increasing its ability to carry more passengers aboard. The new-and-improved Big Red was completed in 2008 and holds around 100 people.

Big Red has a cable that spans across the mountain terrain for approximately 2.5 miles, making the ride altogether (or there and back again) a 5-mile continuum of a loop. As one tram leaves the bottom, a second tram leaves the top in tandem. They simultaneously cross by one another at the halfway point. The hardiness of the tram is fantastic — it can handle winds up to 65 miles per hour!

For the locals living near and around Jackson Hole, Big Red becomes somewhat of a timekeeper of the seasons. It closes for maintenance in the off-seasons and opens for the powdered snow seekers in the winter.

Where Is “Big Red” Located on a Map?

This ski lift is located at the Jackson Hole Resort near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It reaches the top of Rendezvous Mountain at an elevation of 10,450 feet! “Big Red” offers amazing views of the Jackson Hole Valley and the Teton Mountain ranges. It is about 2.5 miles to the top, making the ride there and back a 5-mile loop.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/christiannafzger


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About the Author

My education is in psychology and social anthropology, and I love watching nature documentaries. I have an overall passion for learning about wildlife wherever I can — both human and animal cultures alike.

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