Monday, September 22, 2008
SKI magazine rankings
1. Deer Valley
5. Park City
6. Beaver Creek
7. Aspen Mountain
11. Sun Valley
13. The Canyons
14. Jackson Hole
15. Squaw Valley
18. Aspen Highlands
20. Crested Butte
21. Winter Park
24. Big Sky
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Ski Area is caught in a Catch-22 with SKI readers, whose opinions rated the resort No. 8 in the magazine's annual rankings.
Readers expressed frustration with the resort's "aging base area" and the pervasive construction under way to address that problem.
"If it were a day resort or a throwback mountain, Steamboat's aging base area - which one reader describes as being 'stuck in a 1970s time warp' - might be tolerated," SKI's October issue reads, citing feedback from its annual Reader Resort Survey. "But the resort's relative isolation in northern Colorado, while keeping it crowd-free, makes it dependent on destination travelers, who want more than great snow and small-town character.
"Still, some readers complain that 'construction everywhere makes for vacation chaos,' and that during renovations 'the base village doesn't have much to offer,'" the magazine continues later. "A stop-gap remedy is 'great bus service' that whisks guests away from the men in hardhats to Steamboat's 'quaint, positive and homey downtown,' where visitors are 'always made to feel a part of the community,' says one reader."
Steamboat's No. 8 ranking is a slight improvement compared with the previous two years, when it ranked ninth. This is the third year in a row Steamboat has garnered a top-10 ranking. It was ranked 11th by SKI readers in 2005. Steamboat was sandwiched between Aspen Mountain in seventh and Breckenridge in ninth. Longstanding programs such as "Kids Ski Free" and "Kids Fly Free" made Steamboat SKI's No. 1 family resort in the West.
With the demolition of Ski Time Square and Thunderhead Lodge, Steamboat doesn't look to gain any ground in the upcoming ski season with those annoyed either by the lack of nightlife or the high level of construction.
"It will definitely be different this season," ski area spokesman Mike Lane said, "but with the Tugboat staying open another year, along with Slopeside Grill, Saketumi and Cafe Diva, guests will still find a variety of nightlife options in the area. Down the road, planned redevelopment will provide new nightlife, dining and retail options that will complement those already in place."
Lane said he doesn't expect the loss of Ski Time Square to have an impact on future rankings.
"Nightlife's always been one area we haven't done well in," he said. "I don't think you'd expect a lot of movement in that area. For us, access is a bigger (concern)."
The resort will look to gain ground there. Lane said this year's nonstop flight program will be Steamboat's largest ever, with the recently announced addition of Frontier Airlines flights from Denver.
The resort will continue to rely on downtown to shore up base-area nightlife deficiencies. The opening of the Ghost Ranch Saloon at Seventh and Yampa streets could play a major role if it opens on schedule this winter. Co-owner Amy Garris told the Steamboat Pilot & Today last week that she plans to have live music seven nights a week during the winter and summer tourism seasons.
Those who purchase Intrawest's Rocky Mountain Ultimate Pass will have unlimited access to three of SKI's top 25 resorts, as SKI ranked Copper Mountain at No. 19 and Winter Park at No. 21. The pass became available last year with Intrawest's purchase of the Steamboat Ski Area.
SKI typically polls about 6,000 readers each year to get their perceptions of ski areas in 18 categories. They include overall satisfaction, access, aprÃs ski, dining, family programs, grooming, lifts, lodging, off-hill activities, on-mountain food, scenery, service, snow terrain/challenge, terrain variety, terrain parks, value and weather.
Lane could not point to one specific area of improvement that may have explained Steamboat's move from No. 9 to No. 8, but he did cite the multimillion-dollar capital improvements that have accompanied Intrawest's purchase of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. from American Skiing Co. in 2007.
"I think it's kind of the overall appeal of Steamboat that people keep discovering and enjoying, and the overall level of service they receive throughout the community," Lane said.