ASPEN - Maybe all that work to shed Aspen's image as a resort for old fogies is paying off.
The four ski areas of Aspen-Snowmass didn't fare so well in a survey of Ski magazine readers, but they cleaned up with the younger crews of Transworld Snowboarding and Freeskier.
All three magazines released their annual ski-resort rankings recently. Ski, which appeals to an older, wealthier reader than the other magazines, put out its 25th resort guide Tuesday. Freeskier and Transworld Snowboarding appeal to younger, more hard-core skiers and riders.
"With X Games and other events, we've been targeting the future," said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle.
The editors of Freeskier selected Aspen-Snowmass as the second-best resort in North America, trailing only Whistler Blackcomb. The only other Colorado resort to crack the magazine's top-10 list was Breckenridge. The four ski areas operated by Skico were lumped together as Aspen-Snowmass.
Aspen was selected as the top ski-town airport by Freeskier and the second-best party town, trailing Whistler. Aspen-Snowmass has the fourth-best terrain park, according to Freeskier's editors.
Snowmass and Buttermilk gobbled up high rankings again this year from readers participating in a survey by Transworld Snowboarding. Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk collectively nailed the top spot in the magazine's survey for 2012-13.
The magazine raved about the terrain parks and superpipe at Buttermilk, the powder at Aspen Highlands, the lack of crowds at Snowmass and the nightlife in Aspen.
"Park perfection, blower pow, and an all-time apres scene - you'll find it here," the magazine says.
Snowmass snagged the top spot in the survey for terrain parks. Buttermilk placed seventh.
The rankings for Aspen-Snowmass weren't so hot in the Ski magazine reader survey, which was unveiled when the November edition hit newsstands Tuesday. Snowmass fell from fourth in the 2011-12 survey to eighth in the 2012-13 survey. Aspen Mountain slid from 11th last year to 12th this year. Aspen Highlands moved up from 19th to 16th.
There's really no way to tell why Snowmass and Aspen Mountain fell in the eyes of SKI readers, said Hanle.
"Certainly we'd like to be ranked higher, but we're not going to be accountable to the survey," he said. The company doesn't feel the survey results are an accurate barometer of how its customers feel, he said.
Skico's own surveys indicate its customers are satisfied, will return and will recommend the resorts to friends, according to Hanle.
"The true reflection of how our customers think of us is how we did against the rest of the industry last year," he added.
Skier visits plummeted 15 percent across the country and 7.4 percent among members of a Colorado ski area association last winter. Skico's business fell only 1.8 percent.
Size and diversity helped earn Snowmass the eighth spot in SKI's rankings. It is second largest in Colorado, behind Vail Mountain.
"Can one resort be all things to all skiers? Snowmass tries," the write-up in SKI says.
Later is noted the changes Snowmass is experiencing. "The resort's slow-to-develop base village has been its Achilles' heel, but the four-year-old Village at Snowmass is beginning to forge an identity," the magazine said.
The SKI survey top 20 resorts were Whistler Blackcomb, Deer Valley, Vail, Park City and Telluride in spots one through five. Next in line were Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Snowmass, Beaver Creek and, at No. 10, the Canyons in Utah.
Whitefish, Mont., snuck in one spot above Aspen Mountain. Steamboat came in 13th with Breckenridge at No. 14, followed by Crested Butte, Aspen Highlands, Snowbird, Mammoth Mountain, Taos and, at 20th, Copper Mountain.
All three magazines with ski resort rankings are on newsstands now.