Aspen still rules as party town |

Aspen still rules as party town

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen’s reputation as a party town still helps it secure a ranking as one of the best resorts in North America among skiers and riders surveyed by SKI Magazine.SKI announced Friday that Aspen Mountain was ranked fourth and Snowmass fifth in its annual Top 50 Resort Guide for 2007-08. Aspen Highlands ranked 16.Deer Valley was the top-ranked resort, while Vail was No. 2.About 7,000 readers responded and ranked the resorts in 18 categories.Aspen was top-ranked among all ski resorts for its apres-ski activities and its dining, according to details unveiled Wednesday by SKI. It also ranked second for off-hill activities. Its service garnered an impressive seventh-place showing.

Aspen got poor marks for its prices and air service. Aspen was ranked 67th for value and 45th for access.Comments from survey respondents showed some fiercely loyal fans remain.”My sentimental favorite,” one person wrote. “There is just nothing like skiing Aspen Mountain and looking down at the town.”And, as much as locals feel the town is changing, one respondent credited the consistency of Ajax. “Premier area for adult, experienced skiers. Have skied here since 1960 and it never changes,” that person wrote.”My favorite ski town; people are beyond friendly,” gushed another.When writing about Aspen’s strengths, one respondent summarized it as, “Skiing! Dining! Drinking!”But not everyone was impressed. One survey respondent criticized the resort’s “visionless money grubbing.””Having skied Aspen for 20 years, I have seen it change from a small ski town to a real estate investment, development site and second home location,” the same person wrote. “The ski company does a great job with the mountain, but the town has sold its soul to condo developers.”Snowmass Village didn’t score high on apres-ski life (21st) or dining (17) but it fared well with on-mountain attributes. Its chairlift system was ranked sixth best among North American resorts and grooming came in seventh. It scored other top 10 rankings in on-mountain food (7), service (8), lodging (8), family programs (9) and variety of terrain (10).The terrain parks only managed a 22nd.Survey respondents weren’t impressed the challenge of Snowmass’ terrain (maybe they didn’t locate the Hanging Valley Wall) or value (50).Like Aspen, Snowmass had diehard loyalists. “When I die and go to heaven, I hope it’s as nice as Snowmass,” one respondent wrote.Another hit the mark by noting: “It’s a little harder to get to, but that makes the crowds smaller and lift lines non-existent.”On the flip side was this comment. “Undergoing a major change and it is annoying and ugly.”Others simply asked how construction of the 1 million square foot Base Village will change the resort.The details in Highlands’ 16th place ranking were a bit perplexing. One of the premiere double black diamond ski areas in the country was ranked eighth for challenge of terrain. Perhaps there was too much expert terrain for survey respondents. The lift system only managed a 29.One survey respondent pined for the old days. “Liked it better before upscale,” the person wrote.Many more raved about the steeps of Highland Bowl. “Great snow three days after storm,” one noted. “This is the soul of Colorado skiing for me,” wrote another.One fan didn’t quite get the facts straight, but dished a compliment nevertheless. “Deep Tenacity was a great addition,” the person wrote, referring to the Deep Temerity chairlift.Another respondent advised newcomers to bring their “A” game to Highlands. “Depending on where you venture, you can be coddled or spanked. It’s all up to you,” the astute skier wrote.We will leave the last word to this observer. “Finally, a ski area that actually takes skiing as seriously as real estate development,” the person wrote.