Perception equals reality in skier surveys |

Perception equals reality in skier surveys

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A skier rips through the powder on Aspen Mountain. Aspen-area skiers might scratch their heads over how the mountain ranked only 14th for challenge of terrain in Ski magazine's annual reader survey.
Aspen Skiing Co,/Courtesy photo |

what they’re saying

(Anonymous comments made in Ski magazine’s survey)

High marks for Snowmass

“Big area small crowds!”

“Long Shot!!! I have skied many places — this run is one of a kind: so f23king (sic) cool, scenic and L O N G :)”

“My favorite resort ever because I am a cruiser.”

Low marks for Snowmass

“Very commercial. Not warm and cozy.”

“Bumped out gullies below the steep terrain can be painful.”

“Lift system tends to be awkward and could use some upgrade. Tends to feel crowded.”

High marks for Aspen Mountain

“Aspen is just one of those cool places to be.”

“When I think of Ajax I think ‘steep.’ Everything there is just steep. A good challenge for advanced and expert skiers.”

“The Queen speaks for herself.”

Low marks for Aspen Mountain

“High end money. Sometime tourists stand out like a sore thumb. Lacks some of the old-time spirit.”

“It was hip in the sixties. Snotty Yankees from the east coast (sic) screw up the lift lines. They do not want to share lift chairs.”

“Lift system is a little haphazard, like it was pieced together and not planned all at once. The gullies one needs to ski at the end of the day are usually icy and hazardous, especially on a crowded day.”

High marks for Aspen Highlands

“The amount of advanced terrain and no terrain park brings out the hardcore skiers. The Highland Bowl is amazing.”

“This is a mountain for those that like to get to great skiing very quickly, and lap those runs until your legs fall off.”

“Very intimate experience due to the size and strong local clientele.”

Low marks for Aspen Highlands

“They need a lift to the top of the big bowl. The hike took a long time and was tough.”

“It’s not Whistler.”

“Nothing at the base — yawn.”

“Everyone working there was stoned and completely disrespectful.”

Most Aspen-area skiers and snowboarders agree the local slopes offer some of the toughest terrain to be found. But, for whatever reason, that’s not the image all visitors share.

Such is the frustration of ski-area surveys — visiting skiers and snowboarders might not see our ski areas the way we want them to be seen. But perception is reality. One of the oldest and most closely watched surveys is conducted annually by Ski magazine. In results released last week, Snowmass was ranked overall as the sixth-best ski resort in the West, while Aspen Mountain was No. 12 and Aspen Highlands 16.

The magazine reached its conclusions after 12,000 readers filled out surveys that asked them to rank ski areas on everything from snow quality to service. The magazine analyzed the surveys and assigned an overall rank.

Greg Ditrinco, editor of Ski and a former Aspen Daily News reporter and editor, shared the ratings each of the local ski areas received in the various categories with The Aspen Times. There are some eye-opening results. Ditrinco said the number of resorts ranked in any given subcategory varied. A popular category such as snow quality might result in respondents submitting ratings on 70 resorts. A less popular category, such as kids’ services, might attract only 35 rankings, he said.

Aspen Highlands — home of Highland Bowl, Deep Temerity and other double-black-diamond terrain — ranked only 12th among ski resorts in western North America for challenge of terrain. Aspen Mountain placed 14th for challenge of terrain, while Snowmass placed 19th.

Aspen Highlands offers stunning views of the Maroon Bells — one of the most widely used images in the country — yet ranked only 12th in scenery. Aspen Mountain placed 15th in scenery, while Snowmass weighed in at 19th.

Even though all three ski areas are owned by Aspen Skiing Co., Ski readers gave them widely varied marks in categories where similar marks would be expected. Snowmass, for example, placed fourth for grooming. Aspen Mountain managed only 13th, while Highlands came in at 19th.

Some of the subrankings were more consistent. All three ski areas were dinged for accessibility. Aspen Highlands came in 22nd for access, Snowmass was 24th, and Aspen Mountain was 28th.

All three ski areas also missed the mark for value in the minds of Ski readers. Aspen Mountain came in 38th in value, Snowmass was 33rd, and Aspen Highlands was 31st.

On a plus note, the ski areas came close to one another in “overall satisfaction.” Snowmass led the way at 13th, with Highlands at 14th and Aspen Mountain at 15th.

Aspen Mountain scored a respectable sixth in the “character” ranking, while Highlands trailed at 13th and Snowmass managed only 24th.

Snowmass got revenge in the service category with a seventh-place vote. Highlands was 12th, and Aspen Mountain was 16th.

The rankings of the best Western and Eastern results can be found at

The print and digital issue of the magazine with the resort rankings will be out Sept. 30.


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