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Vail 4th in SKIING poll

Cliff Thompson

SKIING Magazine ranked Whistler-Blackcomb, Alta/Snowbird and Jackson Hole, Wyo, ahead the home of the “Legendary Back Bowls” and Blue Sky Basin.

SKIING Magazine’s November issue rated the top 25 resorts in America. It’s a different survey than that of SKI, which rated resorts more broadly, judging skiing as well as on-mountain amenities like grooming, terrain, lifts, lodging, dining, off-hill activities and ease of access to mountains.

Vail Mountain puts more stock in SKI magazine rankings because those are determined partly by visitors, says spokeswoman Jen Brown.



“For us the poll that really matters is the one the customers participate in. That really holds the most weight for us,” Jen Brown.

Harder-core

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The harder-core SKIING rating reflects a survey of readers of the magazine and professional skiers, who rated ski areas according to the steepness of runs, powder and parties.

“Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C. takes the top honor as the No. 1 ski resort in North America,” said Perkins Miller, SKIING’s editor. “With more than 11 square miles of skiable terrain, Whistler/Blackcomb has something for every level of skier. No resort can match it for its great combination of hard skiing and hard partying.”

The November issue of the magazine contains its annual survey which also ranks the best bump runs, terrain parks, steeps, powder stashes, parties and hikes.



The reader’s and professional skiers poll surveys 1,000 people and also rates according to vertical drop, snowfall, skiable acres, bars and eateries.

Vail Resorts’ Breckenridge ranked 22nd and Heavenly, 23rd, while Arapahoe Basin was 25th.’

System suspect?

Aspen slipped from No. 7 to No. 8 on the list

“It had to have been something to do with the reader survey or the athlete poll,” said Marc Peruzzi, SKIING’s acting executive editor.

But another problem might be the magazine’s ranking system. SKIING counts resorts within 15 miles of each other as one ski area – Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands are coupled as one resort, and so are Vail and Beaver Creek. Inexplicably, Buttermilk and Snowmass are not included in the Aspen grouping, though the two mountains are within the 15-mile limit set by the magazine.

Snowmass, which claimed the No. 4 spot on another magazine’s list of top resorts, would have helped Aspen’s ranking considerably, said Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman.

But Aspen’s place in the Top 25 is a boon for the resort, considering the omission of Buttermilk and Snowmass and their amenities, Hanle said.

“We’re pretty happy to be in the top 10 in North America, considering that they’re only using two of our four mountains in the rankings,” he said.

Though Aspen’s overall ranking suffered slightly, its performance on the survey’s sub-categories was positive. Aspen Highlands claimed the No. 3 spot on SKIING’s list of best steeps, Peruzzi said, thanks to the opening of more Highland Bowl terrain.

“We had quite a few people up there skiing Highlands this year” who called SKIING to report positive experiences, Peruzzi said.

Hanle seemed slightly disappointed in the Highlands’ steeps standings and predicted an even higher ranking next year.

“I think some of those people surveyed, a lot of them haven’t had the chance to come and experience it. There may be kind of a lag time” as word on the Bowl gets out, Hanle said. “I think you could probably see that have more of an impact in a year or two.”

Apres apathy

Old Snowmass resident Chris Davenport, a member of the Aspen/Snowmass freeride team, was one of the many athletes polled for the SKIING survey. His experience with Aspen-area steeps may have helped the resort’s ranking, he said.

“Of course, I chose Aspen and Aspen Highlands for many of the categories, not just because I work for the ski company, but I actually believe we kick ass,” Davenport said.

Aspen’s performance in one category, apres skiing and nightlife activity, did seem appropriate to Davenport. Aspen slipped from the No. 1 spot to No. 2 in this area, according to SKIING’s survey.

“I was a little down on the fact that Aspen’s apres-ski scene is pretty weak right now,” Davenport said of his own survey results. “The fact that no locals want to go to Ajax Tavern, there’s nothing really right at the base of Aspen Mountain, and there’s one bar at Highlands – in general, it’s pretty weak.

“I think I would encourage the town and the ski company to try and bring that back.”

Aspen Times Reporter Jennifer Davoren contributed to this report.

AT A GLANCE

The top 25 ski resorts in North America, according to SKIING:

1. Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.

2. Alta/Snowbird, Utah

3. Jackson Hole, Wyo.

4. Vail, Colo.

5. Squaw Valley, Calif.

6. Mammoth, Calif.

7. Big Sky, Mont.

8. Aspen, Colo.

9. Fernie, B.C.

10. Telluride, Colo.

11. Steamboat, Co

12. Crystal Mountain, Wash.

13. Sun Valley, Idaho

14. Park City, Utah

15. Snowbasin, Utah

16. Kicking Horse, B.C.

17. Crested Butte, Colo

18. Taos, N.M.

19. Aleyeska, Alaska

20. Kirkwood, Calif.

21. Lake Louise, Alberta

22. Breckenridge, Colo.

23. Heavenly, Calif.

24. Alpine Meadows, Calif

25. Arapahoe Basin, Colo.


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