Why Aspen fell in SKI’s rankings
ASPEN – Aspen and its namesake mountain earned praise for everything from its steep terrain to toning down the celebrity glitz in the SKI Magazine resort rankings.
But the price of an Aspen ski vacation, the travel hassles and even the bear problem got ripped as weaknesses.
SKI has conducted reader surveys for 23 years to rank the resorts of North America. Aspen Mountain slipped to 14 in the rankings this year, after coming in seventh last year.
Snowmass fell in the SKI survey from four to six. Highlands moved up to 17 from 18.
The top three resorts were Deer Valley, Utah; Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C.; and Vail.
Arguably more revealing – and amusing – than Aspen’s ranking, however, are the comments from survey respondents.
“A fabulous mountain that skis bigger than it is once you learn it,” wrote one perceptive skier in the general comments of SKI’s survey.
“The place everyone wishes they could ski,” observed another. It wasn’t clear if that comment referred to skill level or wallet size.
“Better without Hollywood,” wrote one respondent on the changing Aspen scene.
The Aspen Skiing Co. and Aspen Chamber Resort Association couldn’t have dreamed up better endorsements than what some respondents provided.
“My favorite in Colorado,” one respondent gushed. “Excellent ski conditions at all four resorts. Very good service with friendly and helpful staff. … Never that crowded either. Good for all skier types. Not as corporate as Vail-owned resorts.”
Aspen Mountain “packs a big punch,” one respondent said, adding, “One of the greatest ski towns on the planet.”
Another survey respondent boiled his or her experience to this: “Classic mountain and town, recommended. Not just for the rich and famous.”
One respondent left it short and simple: “It’s Ajax – lots of fun.”
The comments were made available by SKI executive editor Greg Ditrinco, a former Aspen Daily News reporter.
When asked about strengths and weaknesses, it was clear that many visitors haven’t connected Aspen’s dots. They harped about the high prices and inaccessibility without realizing both contribute to the lack of crowds. The lack of lift lines and people on the slopes was frequently cited as a strength.
“Expensive” showed up in more than a dozen assessments as a weakness.
“Bring your banker or what’s left of your 401(k)!” joked one critic.
Another wasn’t laughing about the cost. “Aspen isn’t cheap, lodging tends to be limited (i.e. hotels) so you can end up paying a lot to stay in a dump.”
Aspen’s relative isolation also bothered some respondents. A person who identified accessibility as a weakness wrote: “Aspen’s airport is great, once you’re on the ground.”
At least three respondents complained about the experience of skiing through Kleenex Corner and Upper Little Nell to get off the mountain, something the Skico might hear more about as skiers age.
“Lacks a decent way to the bottom,” wrote one. “Bottom is usually terrible funneling into Kleenex Corner and down,” wrote another.
One skier with a gripe about the trip down apparently has experienced crowds while downloading the Silver Queen Gondola. “There is limited top to bottom skiing unless you’re willing to take the gondola, which is often insanely crowded,” the skier wrote.
Another survey respondent credited the top to bottom skiing as a strength. Some aspect of the skiing experience was cited numerous times as a strength of Aspen Mountain.
“Bell Mountain moguls,” one satisfied customer wrote.
“Terrain, steeps, uncrowded,” wrote another.
Other respondents hailed “Terrain, tree-skiing,” and “Extreme double diamond runs.”
Perhaps the best accolade was this: “Legendary mountain.”
The charm of Aspen and the friendliness of the residents also received high marks from several respondents.
One respondent listed, “The scene” as a strength as well as a weakness.
And in a sign of the times, it was inevitable that some wag identified a weakness as, “Too many bears.”
The compete rankings are in the current edition of SKI.