When Buttermilk opened for the season this weekend, it could rightfully have acted like one of those little dogs that show no fear and bark at the bigger dogs.
Little old Buttermilk went big this fall and grabbed the three major awards in Transworld Snowboarding magazine’s 2014 resort poll. The ski area — which has gained fame as host of the Winter X Games — was honored for having the best terrain park and the best superpipe and, with its sister ski areas at Aspen/Snowmass, was honored as the best overall resort.
Aspen/Snowmass was also the second-highest-ranked resort in Freeskier magazine’s resort rankings.
Both publications treat Aspen Skiing Co.’s four ski areas as one in their rankings, which is how Skico markets them in its Power of Four campaign. Ski magazine treats the ski areas separately in its readers’ poll, so Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands get “dinged right off the bat” for their lack of terrain parks, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said.
Transworld Snowboarding collected more than 8,400 responses on 140 resorts for its annual poll. Each respondent filled out a survey with 28 categories on everything from snow quality to crowds. Questions about parks and pipes accounted for about half of the score. Respondents could fill out a survey for as many as three resorts that they rode last season.
Buttermilk and Snowmass went one-two in the Top 10 Pipes category. Breckenridge and Copper Mountain were the only other Colorado resorts to crack the top 10, at five and six respectively.
Buttermilk also was top dog in the Top 10 Parks category. Mammoth, Calif., followed in second, Bear Mountain, Calif., placed third, and Snowmass came in fourth.
The top five resorts overall were Skico’s four resorts, considered as one; then Mammoth; Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia; Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif.; and Copper Mountain.
In other top categories, Aspen/Snowmass ranked third in snow quality. Sprawling Snowmass grabbed fifth place for variety of terrain. Jackson Hole, Wyo., was ranked the best for terrain variety.
In a minor upset, Whistler/Blackcomb topped Aspen for best nightlife — a category Aspen usually dominates.
None of the Aspen/Snowmass resorts placed in the Best Value category.
Freeskier magazine also heaped praise on Aspen/Snowmass in its 2013-14 resort rankings. The four ski areas of Aspen/Snowmass ranked second overall behind Whistler/Blackcomb. Buttermilk played a role in the high ranking. The magazine noted that Buttermilk has “one of the biggest, baddest parks in the biz.”
Freeskier used some unique categories rather than the usual suspects for its rankings. Snowmass placed second for “Best After the Storm.”
Snowmass rarely feels crowded, thanks to its 3,332 acres, the magazine said.
“Most Aspen locals opt to stay close to town, skiing either Ajax or Highlands, leaving freshies at Snowmass for days,” the magazine said.
Aspen/Snowmass ranked third in the Parks category, and Buttermilk once again earned special mention for possessing more than 100 features. Snowmass was honored for its three separate parks.
Aspen raked in awards as a ski town. It was third in apres skiing, behind Whistler. (“Wherever your friends are” ranked first.) It was second for nightlife, again behind Whistler, and second for “lifestyle” behind Park City, Utah.
Hanle said Skico has taken steps to court younger skiers and snowboarders with a passion for the slopes. It hosts the Winter X Games and a variety of other events that target teenagers and young adults, so placing well in Freeskier and Transworld Snowboarding helps reach important customers and potential customers.
“It kind of falls in line with what we’re doing,” Hanle said.