Aspen, Snowmass clean up in ski resort rankings | AspenTimes.com

Aspen, Snowmass clean up in ski resort rankings

Rustin Gudim The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The Aspen-Snowmass ski areas placed respectably in SKI Magazine’s latest resort rankings, but they fare much better in two other publications geared toward younger audiences.

The Aspen Skiing Co. had three entries in the top 10 of SKI’s 24th annual resort rankings. Snowmass placed sixth, same as last year.

Aspen Mountain jumped to seventh from 14th the prior season.

Aspen Highlands cracked the top 10 after finishing 17th going into the 2010-11 season.

SKI – which caters to an older, affluent audience – conducts an informal survey among its subscribers for annual bragging rights as the top resorts in North America. Deer Valley, Utah, came in first for the second year in a row. Vail moved up to second from the third position the prior season. Whistler/Blackcomb slipped to third from second.

Rounding out SKI readers’ top 10 were Beaver Creek at four; Park City, Utah, at five, then Snowmass and Aspen Mountain.

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Breckenridge placed eighth. Sun Valley, Idaho, was ninth, followed by Aspen Highlands.

In the 2011 resort rankings of TransWorld Snowboarding and Freeskier Magazine, Aspen-Snowmass really shined.

Freeskier looked at Aspen-Snowmass a whole and ranked the four resorts collectively second only to Whistler/Blackcomb. Freeskier writers raved about the diversity of Aspen-Snowmass in the November edition of the magazine: “Individually, these mountains offer some of the best in terrain and park and pipe, but combined as Aspen/Snowmass, they are in the league of ‘Best Resort Ever,'” the magazine gushed.

Neither Vail nor Deer Valley made Freeskier’s top 10 list.

For the second straight year, TransWorld Snowboarding heaped praise on Aspen-Snowmass – especially the usually overlooked Buttermilk.

Snowmass took top honor for best overall resort while Buttermilk came in fourth.

Buttermilk earned praise for the best park while Snowmass grabbed fifth in the category.

Buttermilk and Snowmass took second and third, respectively, for best pipe. They were topped only by Mammoth, Calif.

Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said the Skico is gaining recognition from the younger audience it is targeting through efforts like hosting the Winter X Games, and putting on numerous concerts and competitions throughout the season.

“The average age of the skiing public is getting up there, as the Baby Boomers age,” Hanle said. “You’ve got to stay vibrant for the next generation.”

The Skico has tried to battle its image as an “old-school, ritzy place” to show that there is a “youthful, energetic crowd,” Hanle said. Attracting young, influential athletes, filmmakers and other industry leaders to the town is crucial to the effort, he said.

As part of the strategy, Skico officials figure kids watching the X Games will influence their parents’ decision of where to take a ski trip.

While the rankings in SKI weren’t as high, Skico officials will gladly take them. “To have three resorts in the top 10 in any poll is fantastic,” Hanle said, although he added company officials feel their ski areas deserved to be ranked higher.

In the end, the rankings don’t figure massively into any marketing effort, according to Hanle.

“I don’t think it’s going to make or break our season,” he said. “I don’t think it has in the past.”

The rankings are currently online and on newsstands.

scondon@aspentimes.com