Aspen gains in SKI rankings |

Aspen gains in SKI rankings

Steve Benson

The annual resort rankings from SKI Magazine have been released and this year’s overall No. 1 is … Vail, again. Snowmass Ski Area has climbed to No. 3, it’s highest ranking since 1997, when it was also third. Aspen Mountain broke the top 10 at No. 7, while Highlands was 13th. Collectively, it is the highest the three mountains have ever finished. “That’s huge,” said Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president David Perry. “That’s a great honor, since we’re really one destination.” In the individual categories, Snowmass was the No. 1 “Family Resort” and Aspen took top honors as the best “Romantic Getaway.” Buttermilk was ranked No. 1 in “Parks and Pipes,” and Snowmass was sixth in the same category.”We’ve been trying to make an impact in that area, we’ve put a lot of money and time into parks and pipes,” Perry said. “High-quality parks and pipes is a must have to be a top-tier resort, it’s no longer an option.”This year’s rankings were compiled by more than 20,000 readers and considered factors like grooming, snow, terrain, challenge, value, lifts, service, weather, access, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, aprés ski, off-hill activities, family programs, scenery and terrain parks. Aspen redeemed its No. 11 ranking from last season, while Highlands and Snowmass both climbed one spot. It’s no secret that the quality of skiing at a given resort has taken a back seat to the overall resort experience in the last decade or so, but just how much may be shocking. Neither Alta nor Snowbird – regarded as a couple of the best resorts in North America for terrain, snow quality and pure skiing experience – made the overall top 20. Meanwhile, Deer Valley was No. 2.Derek Taylor, the senior editor of Powder Magazine, said that’s why Powder avoids such rankings. While Taylor admits the readership of Powder and SKI are quite different, he said there are too many factors and personal preferences involved to give a resort a fair and accurate overall ranking. “You could have the best day of your life at Grand Targhee, which is one of the smallest resorts in the country,” he said. He added that comparing resorts is like comparing skis. “[My friend’s] got a pair of skis he loves and I can’t stand them,” he said. But that’s exactly what excites Perry. “These rankings are a tribute to the great towns we have, the quality of the restaurants, weather, snowpack, ski schools and kids programs,” he said. “You have to really perform well in all categories to do well.” Steve Benson’s e-mail address is