Ski lifts, like skiers, come in all shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of technical merit, but only a few have the X factor. Whether it’s a revolutionary design, nerve-jangling ride or historic aura, some lifts offer more than just a fast track to the top of the mountain. It might even have more to do with the setting and the terrain they access than the cabled contraptions themselves.
1. Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix, France
Grafted onto a thin rock spire towering over the historic mountain town of Chamonix, France, is the cathedral-like top station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car standing sentinel below Mont Blanc. The two-stage lift soars from 1,035 meters to 3,778 meters (3,396 feet to 12,395 feet). It goes over forests, glaciers, ice cliffs and predatory crevasses, offering one of the highest vertical ascents of any lift in the world. The 20-minute journey rewards light-headed tourists with high-altitude panoramas and offers alpinists access to the wilds of the Mont Blanc massif. To reach the famous Vallee Blanche glacier, skiers walk through an ice tunnel and rope up to scramble down a knife-edge before descending 20 kilometers to Chamonix.