Aspen, Snowmass find place in national ski area rankings

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – It can be a trivial pursuit to track ski resort rankings in major snowsport publications from year to year, but at least it’s entertaining.

For example, in SKI Magazine’s rankings, Aspen Mountain soared from the 14th best resort in North America prior to the 2009-10 season to seventh best last season and now dropped to 11th for this season.

Meanwhile, Aspen Highlands came out of nowhere – in the minds of Ski readers – to crack the top 10 list last season at number 10. That came after it placed 17th the prior season. Now it’s back to number 19 for the 2011-12 season.

They are the same great ski areas and few changes have been made over the last three seasons, yet their rankings are more volatile than the audiences at Aspen City Council meetings.

Snowmass has been a bit more consistent. After ranking sixth the last two seasons, it moved up to number four this season, even with a half-baked Base Village.

Snowmass was credited by SKI as the “ideal family vacation spot” while it was dinged, as always on nightlife. “Have to hit Aspen for good apres ski,” the magazine said.

Speaking of apres ski, Aspen Mountain was nudged out of the top spot by Whister/Blackcomb, in the minds of SKI readers.

Buttermilk didn’t crack the top 20 list of resorts, despite its notoriety as host of the Winter X Games.

SKI’s ranking awarded Deer Valley as the top resort again. It was followed by Vail and Whistler/Blackconmb at two and three, respectively, and Snowmass at four.

The top 10 were rounded out with Sun Valley at number five, Park City, Beaver Creek at seven, Steamboat, Breckenridge and Telluride.

Buttermilk got its due in TransWorld Snowboarding magazine, as did Snowmass. Snowmass was ranked the best overall resort for snowboarding, with Buttermilk at number three.

Buttermilk’s terrain parks were voted the best while Snowmass came in second.

Snowmass gained accolades for the best pipes while Buttermilk placed third.

Christian Knapp, Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of marketing, said the company made sure TransWorld readers knew the results. They were repeated in the Aspen-Snowmass advertisement running in the magazine this winter.

“These are such great rankings,” Knapp said of the snowboarding magazine’s results. He noted the magazine has a much younger demographic than Ski magazine. Those young riders could influence where their families go on ski vacations – and they could be good customers in their own right in future seasons.

“It’s the next generation of snowsport enthusiast,” Knapp said.

That said, Skico doesn’t really use the rankings much in its marketing efforts. Snowmass’ high marks as a family resort was touted in some ads. Knapp said he was pleased that Snowmass was fourth and that Aspen-Snowmass had three ski areas in the top 20.

Nevertheless, he was a bit perplexed by Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands dropping.