Vail slips to No. 3 in SKI Magazine | AspenTimes.com

Vail slips to No. 3 in SKI Magazine

Lauren Glendenning
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL – Vail Mountain fell to third on SKI Magazine’s top North American ski resort rankings – the first time the resort has been below the No. 1 or No. 2 spots since 1999, when it ranked fourth.

SKI Magazine has put out the list for 23 years, and Editor Greg Ditrinco said the rankings have become a big franchise for the magazine, which has a circulation of about 400,000, mostly within the United States.

Readers fill out a survey asking about terrain, grooming, ski lifts and other mountain-specific topics. Readers also answer questions about things like terrain parks, off-hill activities, apres ski spots and family programs, Ditrinco said.

“It reflects that the skier is really looking for the whole winter experience,” Ditrinco said.

Vail has taken the No. 1 spot more than any other resort, placing first in 14 of 21 years before this year. Vail ranked second behind Deer Valley in both 2007 and 2008.

Skiers want more than just a ski area, Ditrinco said. They want the whole package, and the rankings present SKI Magazine readers’ opinions on which resorts offer just that.

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“Our readers are destination travelers,” Ditrinco said. “They want the full resort experience, not just a ski day.”

While Vail may have slipped from its cozy No. 1 and No. 2 spots, Ditrinco said the difference between the top three spots is “statistically insignificant.”

Other than resort marketing executives, there aren’t any huge factors that distinguish No. 1 as better than No. 2 and 3, he said.

The town of Vail does see importance in the rankings, though, Town Manager Stan Zemler said Thursday via e-mail.

“It is important that the town of Vail and Vail Resorts review where we can make improvements, set some goals [and] challenge ourselves to get back to No. 1,” Zemler said.

Kelli McDonald, the town of Vail’s economic development manager, said the town focuses on being the premier mountain resort community, meaning resort services and guest relations are a big component of the town’s marketing efforts and overall mission, she said.

Whistler Blackcomb may have gotten a reader boost into the No. 2 spot this year because of the Winter Olympics, which are early next year, Ditrinco said. That shift doesn’t necessarily indicate that Vail fell from its ranking, he said.

“It’s really hard to point to a particular factor [that distinguish the top three from one another],” Ditrinco said.

Beaver Creek went from No. 6 in 2008 to No. 5 this year. Vail Resorts issued a statement Wednesday saying it highly values the views of its guests, including those who read the various snow sports industry publications, but wouldn’t comment on how much the company values the ranking, if at all.

Jen Brown, Beaver Creek Resort spokeswoman, said in a statement Thursday that officials were “incredibly proud that Beaver Creek Resort experienced its best-ever season in terms of skiers visits last winter.

“In particular, guests recognized the resort’s service, dining, diverse and challenging terrain, and family and kid-friendly improvements such as The Ranch, a new children’s ski and snowboard school facility at the top of the Buckaroo Express Gondola for kids.”

Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks said the town of Avon recognizes how important exposure can be, especially for the Birds of Prey World Cup race in Beaver Creek, which the town of Avon values greatly.

“We are always gratified to see our neighbors at the resort do well in these rankings, but don’t hold our breath waiting to see if the rest of the world now knows what we have known all along,” Brooks said. “The resort and the mountain are top shelf – SKI Magazine should probably recognize that the two resorts are No. 1 and No. 2.”

SKI Magazine’s 2009 reader survey rankings for top resorts in North America

1. Deer Valley

2. Whistler, B.C.

3. Vail, Colo.

4. Park City, Utah

5. Beaver Creek, Colo.

6. Snowmass, Colo.

7. Sun Valley, Idaho

8. Squaw, Calif.

9. Mammoth, Calif.

10. Steamboat, Colo.

11. Telluride, Colo.

12. Jackson Hole, Wyo.

13. Heavenly, Calif.

14. Aspen, Colo.

15. Breckenridge, Colo.

16. Northstar, Calif.

17. Aspen Highlands, Colo.

18. Copper, Colo.

19. Whitefish Mtn. Resort, Mont.

20. The Canyons, Utah