Ski Magazine's 2009 reader survey rankings for top resorts in North America:
1. Deer Valley
2. Whistler, B.C.
4. Park City, Utah
5. Beaver Creek
7. Sun Valley, Idaho
8. Squaw, Calif.
9. Mammoth, Calif.
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 such as terrain parks, off-hill activities, aprÃs 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 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.
"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 Nos. 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.