Wednesday, September 4, 2002
Steamboat Springs Financial turmoil at American Skiing Co. apparently hasn't influenced the public's perception of the ski vacation experience at Steamboat.
The Steamboat Ski Area moved up this year from ninth to sixth in SKI magazine's annual reader poll of the top 60 ski resorts in North America.
"I think that's a tribute to the entire community," SKI's executive editor Greg Ditrinco said. "In these tight times, you didn't just hold your place, you moved up."
Vail ranks as the No. 1 ski resort in North America, according to the readers of SKI.
Steamboat Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth pointed out Steamboat ranked 12th in the 2000 poll. He was clearly pleased by the trend.
"That's exactly the direction we want to go," Wirth said.
"The entire resort community helped us achieve that position. We aspire to be among the top three."
Ditrinco said he didn't really expect Steamboat to move up in the survey based on the changes and financial difficulties at ASC, Steamboat's parent.
He pointed out ASC's tight budget hasn't allowed Steamboat funding for any major capital improvements in recent years.
"Frankly, it was a little surprising with your management situation," Ditrinco said. "With ASC and the sale being on and then the sale being off, the community has been whipsawed back and forth.
"Steamboat has been holding its breath for a couple of years. Under the circumstances, it's both surprising and affirming."
Wirth said he takes the poll results as clear evidence that the ski area's customers aren't caught up in the day-to-day details of the ASC story.
Instead, they're focused on ski conditions and service, he said.
Ditrinco credited Vail with steady improvements over the years that have given skiers what they want most: security in knowing they'll have a successful vacation.
A new category in the SKI magazine poll probably contributed to Steamboat's improvement in the rankings, Ditrinco said.
His magazine's readers ranked Steamboat fourth in North America for the quality of its terrain parks. Steamboat opened the new Mavericks Super Pipe last winter.
SKI sends out 20,000 surveys to readers who have subscribed to the magazine for at least two years. They are asked to rate ski areas in 17 different categories from grooming to nightlife.
They are instructed to rank only those ski areas they have skied within the past two years.
"Our readers ski about 20 times a year and they tend to travel a lot, so they know what's going on at the resorts," Ditrinco said.
Vail reclaimed the top spot in the poll from Deer Valley, Utah, which hung onto second. Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia, was third. The rest of the top 15 includes: 4. Snowmass; 5. Beaver Creek; 6. Steamboat; 7. Park City, Utah; 8. Aspen Mountain; 9. Jackson Hole, Wyo.; 10. Breckenridge; 11. Aspen Highlands; 12. Telluride; 13. Mammoth Mountain, Calif.; 14. Sun Valley, Idaho; 15. Winter Park.
Tremblant, Quebec, took the top spot in the east for the sixth consecutive year.
Ditrinco said Steamboat was ranked fourth in North America for its family programs and sixth for its snow. Lodging here ranked seventh and service came in eighth.
Steamboat's overall score is hurt by the public's perception that the ski area is difficult to get to, Ditrinco said.
It will come as no surprise to resort managers that SKI's readers ranked the resort 35th in terms of accessibility. Ironically, Wirth said, 35th is Steamboat's highest ranking in that category, and he said it only underscores the importance of the ski season airline program.