Steamboat Springs Steamboat Ski Area has slipped out of the top 10 in SKI Magazine’s annual reader poll of the top resorts in North America. Steamboat is ranked 14th for the 2010-11 winter.
Deer Valley, Utah, took the top spot for the fourth consecutive year. Vail was second, and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia was third.
There are seven Colorado resorts that ranked higher than Steamboat.
This year’s poll invited readers to rank resorts they’ve visited within the past two years in 18 categories.
The categories range from the variety of terrain to off-slope dining.
The results mark the second time Steamboat has fallen out of the top 10 in the past five years. Steamboat ranked fifth in 2003, slipped to 11th in 2006, popped back into the top 10 in 2007 and 2008, and settled at 10th last year.
If there was an obvious contributor to Steamboat’s fall in the poll it was snowfall. Steamboat counted 261.75 inches in winter 2009-10.
“It was the lowest in some 20 years and that impacted the overall ratings,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond said. “Let’s get some normal Steamboat snow and see what happens.”
If anything puzzled Diamond about this year’s poll results it was Steamboat’s fall from the top in terms of its family programs. Ranked No. 1 in that category a year ago, the resort slipped to eighth this year.
“Again, I think snow impacted this,” Diamond said. “Ironically, we made a significant expansion to the Kids’ Vacation Club and changed the snow interface, improved drop-off, etc. But we didn’t get credit for it.”
Steamboat, however, has been receiving credit for some things beyond its control. The last time Steamboat ranked among the top 10, the readers of SKI ranked it 39th for scenery. Somehow, the scenery in the Yampa Valley has improved since then, ranking 25th. Of course, that could be an indication that the poll respondents change from year to year.
“This may speak more to the credibility of the survey,” Diamond said.
As many as 6,000 readers of the magazine have responded to the poll in the past.
The typical reader is in his or her mid- to late 30s. SKI Magazine editors said the poll ranks resorts as much on the creature comforts as it does on challenging terrain (Steamboat ranked 30th) and lifts (Steamboat was 14th).
If the demolition of shops, restaurants and night spots in Ski Time Square had a dramatic impact on the skiing public’s perception of Steamboat, it doesn’t seem to be reflected in this year’s poll.
The resort ranked 14th for après ski, down from 11th in 2009 but still higher than in 2007 when its overall ranking was ninth and the après ski rank was 18th.
Diamond predicted the new outdoor dining deck and umbrella bar at Bear River would enhance the après ski experience this coming season.
The construction of new luxury condominiums and a few new restaurants may have kept Steamboat from slipping further in the poll.
The resort’s guest lodging ranked eighth, which was up from ninth in 2009 and 11th in 2008. The dining experience ranked ninth, up from 10th the year before and 14th in 2008.
Diamond said his staff would continue to strive to improve the resort’s service ratings because, unlike the snowfall, it’s a factor Ski Corp. can control. He said the resort fared well in the results of a third-party customer service measurement, Net Promoter, which depends on customer surveys as the basis for building loyalty for companies.
“We set an overall Net Promoter Score record for Steamboat. Service was the one thing we could control (last ski season) given the unusual weather, and the whole team — I’d include the larger Steamboat community, as well — did a great job,” Diamond said.