Vail No. 2 again in magazine poll |

Vail No. 2 again in magazine poll

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL – Vail Mountain isn’t going to ban snowboarders, and it’s likely never going to drastically reduce the number of skiers and riders allowed on the mountain each day.

That’s why some people think the Ski Magazine readers poll of the top ski resorts in North America isn’t a fair assessment of the resorts. Deer Valley, the No. 1 resort for the fifth straight year, bans snowboarding and limits the number of skiers on the mountain in an effort to prevent crowding and provide better customer service.

The No. 1 position is a position Vail Mountain held 14 times – more than any other resort – but hasn’t been able to regain over the last five years. Vail is ranked as No. 2 in the 2012 poll, a position it has held for four out of the last five years. Vail was ranked third in 2009.

Ski Magazine Editor Greg Ditrinco said the separation between the top three resorts – Whistler is ranked third this year – is “very tight.”

“There is no shame in No. 2,” Ditrinco said. “Vail does a heck of a job.”

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Ski Magazine sends out its annual survey to about 50,000 readers and subscribers, about half through the postal mail and the other half through an email blast, and for the first time this year opened up the survey to the public through the magazine’s Facebook page.

Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum Executive Director Susie Tjossem, who is also a Vail Town Council member, thinks the rankings aren’t necessarily a fair representation of the resorts because Ski Magazine’s readers are skiers, not skiers and snowboarders, so they’re going to favor a resort like Deer Valley that doesn’t allow snowboarding.

“It’s not a fair market analysis,” Tjossem said. “It’s never going to be apples to apples.”

Ditrinco said that’s a “legitimate observation,” but the survey is what it says it is – a survey of how Ski Magazine readers evaluate resorts.

Ditrinco said Deer Valley serves its niche, a much narrower niche than Vail’s, extremely well. Deer Valley is a boutique resort, he said, with a very steady client base.

Because of that, it’s somewhat easier to deliver what its skiers want, whereas at Vail, it’s tougher “to please everyone because there are a whole lot more everyones there.”

Vail has a much more diverse client base, from day-trippers to overnight skiers to the high-end clients to children, Ditrinco said.

“It’s a different experience, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less of an experience,” he said. “A boutique, smaller resort has an easier job (delivering exactly what its clients want) than a mega resort.”

Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl said the resort’s focus is on its guests and their feedback. Last season the resort achieved record guest satisfaction scores through its surveys, which speaks volumes, she said.

Vail local Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Boards and the father of U.S. Ski Team racer Sarah Schleper, can’t understand how Deer Valley could top Vail. He said it all comes down to who’s voting.

“They’re sure not voting on the caliber of skiing,” Schleper said. “It should be about skiing mostly. … How can Deer Valley, with the limited amount of skiing they have, even come close to competing?”

Professional skier Chris Anthony thinks it’s because Deer Valley is extremely personable with its guests, making the resort’s customer service “amazing.”

“We’re huge and it’s definitely so apparent,” Anthony said. “It’s like comparing a big box store against a small, specialty shop. I think we can make up for it with customer service. … If we can make the larger appear smaller, then that might level the playing field.”

Anthony thinks Deer Valley’s top ranking is more about its customer service than about its ban of snowboarding.

“They definitely have an advantage over us in that they’re very specific and limit who they serve, so it’s a hard thing to measure against,” Anthony said.

There are just two resorts in the United States that ban snowboarding, Deer Valley and Alta, also in Utah. Alta, a mom-and-pop ski area that lacks any high-end frills, didn’t make the top 20 this year.

Tjossem agrees with Anthony in that Vail could, and should, adopt some of the little extras in customer service that Deer Valley offers. There will always be things that a place like Vail just can’t compete with, though, she said.

Free overnight ski storage for everyone, for example, is one of them.

“There are things (Deer Valley) gets points on that Vail could never get points for,” Tjossem said. “You have to look at the readers of that magazine. … People hold this as such an important ranking, but yet it’s really not a fair ranking.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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