Aspen is No. 2 in annual Ski Magazine poll |

Aspen is No. 2 in annual Ski Magazine poll

Lauren Glendenning | The Aspen Times
Amie Engerbretson skis powder while on a cat-skiing excursion in Aspen. This year's Ski Magazine resort rankings put Aspen in the No. 2 spot behind Whistler Blackcomb for overall guest satisfaction.
Scott Markewitz Photography; Inc. |

Ski Magazine’s Top 50 Resort rankings for 2016-17

The magazine’s annual resort rankings, developed via reader surveys, are out and Aspen Mountain is No. 2.

Overall rankings:

1. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

2. Aspen Mountain

3. Deer Valley, Utah

4. Vail

5. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

6. Beaver Creek

7. Steamboat

8. Telluride

9. Snowmass

10. Sun Valley, Idaho

Here’s a look at No. 1’s strengths and weaknesses, according to Ski Magazine readers, as well as the Aspen resorts that made the list:

1. Whistler Blackcomb

Top three strengths: Terrain variety, Off-hill activities, lodging

Top three weaknesses: Snow, grooming, accessibility

2. Aspen Mountain

Top three strengths: Aprés, Dining, Off-hill activities

Top three weaknesses: Terrain parks, Kid friendliness, Terrain variety

9. Snowmass

Top three strengths: Lodging, Kid Friendliness, Terrain parks

Top three weaknesses: Accessibility, value, scenery

14. Aspen Highlands

Top three strengths: Scenery, Overall satisfaction, Challenge

Top three weaknesses: Terrain parks, Kid friendliness, Accessibility

Resort Guide Top 10s related to skiing


1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

2. Snowbird, Utah

3. Big Sky, Montana

4. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

5. Telluride

6. Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

7. Alta, Utah

8. Aspen Highlands

9. Squaw Valley, California

10. Crested Butte


1. Deer Valley, Utah

2. Sun Valley, Idaho

3. Beaver Creek

4. Snowmass

5. Vail

6. Snowbasin, Utah

7. Aspen

8. Whitefish, Montana

9. Solitude, Utah

10. Northstar, California


1. Alta, Utah

2. Grand Targhee, Wyoming

3. Snowbird, Utah

4. Brighton, Utah

5. Powder Mountain, Utah

6. Solitude, Utah

7. Steamboat

8. Snowmass

9. Winter Park

10. Aspen Highlands

Terrain variety

1. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

2. Big Sky, Montana

3. Telluride

4. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

5. Alta, Utah

6. Vail

7. Snowbird, Utah

8. Mammoth Mountain, California

9. Snowmass

10. Squaw Valley, California

Other categories include Accessibility, Aprés Scene, Character, Dining, Kid Friendliness, Lifts, Lodging, Off-Hill Activities, On-Mountain Food, Scenery, Service and Value.

Aspen Mountain is second-best behind Whistler Blackcomb for the 2016-17 ski season, according to Ski Magazine’s top-50 resorts list.

The annual rankings, which are developed via Ski Magazine reader surveys, take into account everything from a resort’s annual snowfall to on-mountain dining to the aprs-ski scene. This year’s list puts Snowmass at No. 9 and Aspen Highlands at No. 14. Buttermilk did not make the top-50 cut.

Out of 16 total categories, there are only four that have anything to do with skiing and snowboarding — challenge, grooming, snow and terrain variety.

Other categories take into account the total experience someone has while on a ski trip, such as lodging, service, value, on-mountain food and kid friendliness, among others.

Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said it’s because the list is ranking the whole package — the things that make the ski vacation a better experience.

And who knows what readers want from year to year, as evidenced by the rankings. Aspen was No. 12 in 2014 and No. 13 in 2015, but jumped up to No. 2 this year.

Hanle told The Aspen Times last year that the ski company doesn’t understand the methodology.

The No. 2 result this year puts Aspen Mountain’s top-three strengths as its apres, dining and off-hill activities, while weaknesses include terrain parks, kid friendliness and terrain variety.

Hanle notes that a resort isn’t going to grab a top-10 spot unless it’s offering up the whole package. If skiing marks are low, for example, you’re not going to score a high overall ranking, he said.

Hanle said Aspen’s skiing stacks up against just about any other resort in the West. He said it’s strange that Aspen’s four mountains are ranked independently, though.

“When you really break these surveys down, they’re great, but they’re not scientific,” Hanle said. “Of course we’re proud of it, however, it’s not how we judge ourselves.”

Skico gives more weight to its internal surveys, which give consistently high marks to all four Aspen ski areas in all categories, he said.

“We’ll take Ski Magazine’s rankings. We know their readers are loyal skiers — I don’t know if I want to call them hardcore (skiers),” Hanle said, adding that Ski Magazine’s rankings along with other popular ones from Freeskier and Transworld Snowboarding put Aspen’s mountains in a strong position in terms of grabbing consistently high marks.

The rankings do a lot for a resort’s reputation as folks plan ski trips for the upcoming season, but diehard locals don’t give them much credit.

Johnny Love, who has lived in Aspen for 25 years, said the odds of getting a good ski day are high in Aspen. He said “the lower the better” when it comes to national resort rankings — that way the mountains won’t get too crowded.

“I don’t care where we rank,” Love said.

This year’s No. 2 ranking description says Aspen Mountain is a “compact 675 acres whose size belies its variety.” One voter wrote that Aspen “skis way bigger than the stats say.”

The ranking goes on to say that “you won’t waste a precious moment as you seamlessly schuss from impeccably buffed groomers (No. 7) to powder stashes in the trees to perfect, fall-line steeps, ‘an awesome mix of everything’ that engenders fierce loyalty among those who take the time to get to know its endless combinations of lines.”

Over in Snowmass, Ski Magazine readers credit its varied terrain, extensive lift system, groomers and terrain parks as some of the main attractions, while Highlands keeps them coming back with its bumps, glades and other varied terrain — including Highland Bowl — and its “jaw-dropping views.”

Hanle said each of Aspen’s four mountains can’t help but influence one another in these annual resort rankings.

“The fact that we have four mountains that are easy to get to and used by all of our guests, the skiing here — when you put the four mountains together — has something for everyone,” he said.

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