Ajax, Highlands fall in magazine’s annual rankings
Skiing magazine’s third annual resort rankings have been released, and Aspen Mountain and Highlands jointly ranked at No. 9, a spot lower than last year. The rankings, featured in the magazine’s November issue, come nearly two months after Ski magazine released its annual rankings, which had Snowmass at No. 3, Aspen Mountain at No. 7 and Highlands 13th. But the two rankings, and the magazines, which are owned by the same company, couldn’t be more different. “They have a different readership than us, in so far as their readers represent more of the travel and leisure [crowd], and are slightly more upscale in their skiing experience,” said Skiing’s executive director, Mike Kessler. “Our readership aspires to the slightly more athletic, big mountain, freeskiing-type of thing.” The emphasis on actual skiing – not just nightlife, restaurants, family activities, etc., – can be seen in Skiing magazine’s rankings. Whistler in British Columbia was ranked No. 1, and Alta and Snowbird in Utah were jointly ranked No. 2. The latter two have scant nightlife and neither made Ski magazine’s top 20. The ranking formulas are also different. Ski magazine draws on more than 20,000 reader surveys, and considers such factors as grooming, terrain, challenge, lifts, service, weather, access, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, après ski, off-hill activities, family programs, scenery and terrain parks. Skiing draws its rankings from a combination of 1,500 readers, 75 pro skiers and the editorial staff, and considers factors such as snowfall, vertical drop, skiable acres and the après scene. David Perry, Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president, said he was happy about the ranking but he doesn’t understand why Aspen and Highlands were lumped together and Snowmass didn’t even make the list. “It’s a little odd. We believe we’re one destination with four mountains, but they rank half our resort,” he said, adding that if the whole resort was considered it probably would have been ranked higher. “I don’t want to dwell, but Snowmass has the highest vertical in the U.S., over 3,000 acres and [good] snowfall, but it remains a bit of an undiscovered mountain for some segments of the skiing population,” he said.Still, Perry was impressed that Aspen/Snowmass made both magazines’ rankings – even if it was only half of the resort in Skiing. Furthermore, Aspen was ranked second overall for après skiing, behind Whistler.”That’s great, it says a lot,” Perry said. “We belong there.”And the nightlife in Aspen was featured in one of the five double-page spreads contained in the rankings. Former Aspen ski instructor Matt Curtis wrote about more than a dozen clubs and eateries in Aspen, stating, “There’s no better nightlife in a U.S. ski town. Period. So go nuts.”As for Aspen and Highlands slipping one spot, Kessler pointed to Washington’s Mount Baker and Red Mountain, British Columbia, which joined the list for the first time and were ranked No. 17 and No. 13, respectively.”Part of the reason is the new resorts making it onto that list,” he said. “They really kind of shook things up a bit.”The top five were: Whistler, Alta/Snowbird, Vail, Squaw Valley, Calif., and Jackson Hole, Wyo.Other Colorado resorts that made the rankings include Crested Butte (No. 11), Steamboat (No. 14), Arapahoe Basin (No. 19), Breckenridge (No. 24) and Telluride (No. 25). Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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