Friendly, expensive and hard to park " ‘It’s Aspen’
September 27, 2008
ASPEN ” Snowmass ascended to the fourth position in SKI Magazine’s 21st annual ski area rankings but Aspen Mountain fell to seventh this year.
Snowmass climbed one notch from last season, according to SKI. Aspen Mountain dropped from fourth to seventh.
Deer Valley, a luxury resort in Utah, maintained its grip on the top spot. It knocked Vail off as king of the hills last year. Vail remained in the second position and Whistler/Blackcomb stayed in third this year.
SKI invites readers to fill out a survey for its rankings, and around 7,000 typically respond. Resorts get assessed in everything from grooming to nightlife and service to weather. The full results and commentary by the SKI staff will be in the magazine’s October edition, which should hit stands any day. Following Snowmass in the fourth spot were Park City at five and Beaver Creek at six. The top 10 was rounded out by Steamboat at eighth, then Breckenridge and Telluride. The only change among the resorts in the top 10 was Telluride nudging out Sun Valley. Aspen Highlands, the favorite of many locals, was 18th on SKI’s list. Buttermilk didn’t crack SKI’s top 30.
In a separate survey, Tremblant, Quebec, was ranked the best resort in the East. Stowe, Vt., and Sugarbush, Vt., were two and three. Aspen Mountain scored big in dining and apres-ski, ranking first in both categories, and second in off-slope activities. It got killed in the access and value categories, though.
“The classic ski town feel,” one survey respondent wrote in comments that SKI provided to The Aspen Times.
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“I think Aspen is the best overall ski area in North America,” gushed another.
Yet another complimented the skiers encountered on Ajax. “I love to ski Aspen Mountain. Most people who ski there are competent ” less likely they will run you over,” the person commented.
Another summed it up by saying, “It’s Aspen.”
Not everyone was totally impressed. “Hang onto your wallet,” one respondent wrote
“Wow ” bring lots of money. You’ll need it,” wrote another.
“Reputation precedes it, many places [have] better ski mountains,” one critic wrote.
Then there was this ultimate insult: “Even worse parking situation than Vail.”
Snowmass impressed the masses with its quality of snow, grooming and family programs. Like Aspen, it took its lumps in the access and value categories as well as terrain/challenge.
It didn’t fare all that well in apres-ski or off-slope activities.
Snowmass had its fans among respondents. “Great resort! Makes you feel like you are a better skier. Big Burn is awesome,” wrote one fan.
“We skied several Colorado and Utah areas and settled on this 10 years ago,” another fan wrote. “They minimize the hassle.”
Another impressed respondent hoped the new base development wouldn’t change the mountain too much. Several respondents like Snowmass for its lack of crowds.
Criticism generally concentrated on prices and inaccessibility by car or airplane. “Cost a small fortune but probably worth it,” one person wrote. “Construction everywhere,” another complained.
Snowmass has been ranked as high as third in recent SKI surveys. Skico officials are funneling millions into on-mountain improvements this summer as part of an ongoing effort to elevate Snowmass to elite status. This summer the Sheer Bliss chairlift is getting replaced with a high-speed detachable quad, and a new restaurant is being constructed at Sam’s Knob. Related/WestPac continues to add restaurants, retail shops and tourist accommodations at Base Village.