Steamboat Springs skier Matt Kane skis on the last day of November 2010. Steamboat Ski Area cracked the top 10 in the 2011 SKI Magazine reader survey rankings after falling to No. 14 last winter.

Larry Pierce/courtesy

Steamboat Springs skier Matt Kane skis on the last day of November 2010. Steamboat Ski Area cracked the top 10 in the 2011 SKI Magazine reader survey rankings after falling to No. 14 last winter.

SKI Magazine’s annual rankings place Steamboat at 8th

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SKI Magazine 2011 Reader Survey top 20 resorts

1 Deer Valley, Utah

2 Vail

3 Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.

4 Snowmass

5 Sun Valley, Idaho

6 Park City, Utah

7 Beaver Creek

8 Steamboat

9 Breckenridge

10 Telluride

11 Aspen Mountain

12 Jackson Hole, Wyo.

13 Heavenly, Calif.

14 Winter Park

15 Crested Butte

16 Canyons, Utah

17 Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

18 Copper Mountain

19 Aspen Highlands

20 Snowbird, Utah

Steamboat Ski Area category rankings (2010 rankings in parentheses)

Snow: 8 (15)

Grooming: 14 (16)

Terrain/Variety: 27 (27)

Terrain/Challenge: 30 (30)

Value: 30 (20)

Lifts: 8 (14)

Service: 10 (13)

Weather: 20 (22)

Access: 31 (26)

On-mountain food: 13 (15)

Lodging: 9 (8)

Dining: 11 (9)

Après ski: 10 (14)

Off-hill Activities: 9 (11)

Family programs: 6 (8)

Scenery: 21 (25)

Terrain parks: 15 (16)

Character: 12 (n/a)

Digital presence: 13 (n/a)

Overall satisfaction: 14 (19)

— Steamboat Ski Area cracked the top 10 in the 2011 SKI Magazine reader survey rankings after falling to No. 14 last winter.

SKI announced its resort rankings this week, which had Steamboat rising six places to a respectable No. 8 — the third largest jump in the entire survey of all North American ski resorts.

Deer Valley, Utah, was named the No. 1 ski resort for the fifth straight year by SKI readers who revere its groomed trails, its daily skier limit and the lack of snowboarders.

Vail was No. 2, and Snowmass and Beaver Creek were the only other Colorado resorts ranked above Steamboat.

Aspen and Breckenridge both fell in the rankings this year.

“Steamboat’s No. 1 goal is to always provide the best vacation experience to our guests,” Chris Diamond, president and chief operating officer of Steamboat Ski Resort & Corp., said in news release Friday. “This year’s ranking is a reflection of our dedicated staff and exceptional service levels from the resort and businesses throughout the Steamboat community.”

SKI sends out the survey online and through the mail to about 50,000 readers. It had a response rate of 10 to 15 percent this year, Editor Greg Ditrinco said.

The survey asks readers to choose six resorts they have skied in the previous two years and rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the various characteristics of each resort.

The Steamboat Ski Area placed in the top 10 in several categories, including family programs (sixth), snow (eighth), lifts (eighth), lodging (ninth) and off-hill activities (ninth).

“That’s a nice kind of wide breadth of delivering what the customer wants,” Ditrinco said. “Top 10, that’s strong.”

The survey also asks for comments from readers, and many in the Steamboat category simply read, “Powder!” or some variation thereof.

One reader wrote, “In my opinion, Steamboat has more character than any other Colorado resort.”

As for weaknesses, readers complained about Steamboat’s remote location (although some listed that as a strength), lift ticket prices, on-mountain dining and nightlife, and a deficiency of expert terrain.

Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said Friday that guests who expressed concerns about the construction at the base area will have a lot to look forward to from now on as recent improvements like the promenade project and a permanent slopeside stage wrap up.

“Especially this winter, people are going to see a big difference,” he said. “Now that it’s going to be all tied together, it’s going to make a huge impact.”

Ditrinco said it’s hard to tell from just looking at the rankings how close the resorts actually are in the survey results. He said not a lot of space separated the resorts in the fifth through 10th spots.

“If you look at the neighborhood Steamboat’s in — and it’s a neighborhood it should really be in — you have Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Telluride and they’re all really iconic resorts, which Steamboat is.”

Lane said the entire Yampa Valley community deserves credit for the jump in rankings.

“We’re known for our guest service, plus the four 400-inch snow years in the past six winters, all combined to help make Steamboat shine,” he said. “It’s a reflection of the entire community and the service that Steamboat is known for and everyone should take a lot of pride in that.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com.

Comments

Scott Ford 3 years, 2 months ago

Yea! it is great to be back in the top 10 again. Now if the snow and economic conditions cooperate the potential for an OK winter season exist. (Not to rush this season - I am enjoying this fall weather way too much. It makes up for the snowy/rainy Spring we had.)

I think it is interesting that the readers of Ski Magazine rank Steamboat 30th for value. What? We have some of the lowest airfares and lowest ski/lodging packages in the industry. Perhaps when services are obtained at significant discounts - the customers perception is that they are of little value. To my marketing friends - why do you think our guest have the perception Steamboat is not a good value compared to other ski resorts?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Scott F, I think that when people think of value for ski areas they think of lift ticket pricing and not the overall cost of the trip. And Steamboat is awful at lift ticket pricing deals.

In terms of thinking about values and deals, the highest priced or typical option is not what people remember. They remember the deal. So if a ski area offers discounted Tuesday and Thursday tickets then people remember those prices when thinking about value, not what they paid for their weekend tickets.

Just like when thinking about the bar with the best value, it is far easier to think about the bar with the best happy hour deals and not each bar's normal pricing.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Also, seems to me that there is enough different long haul flights into Edwards that we should consider selling flight packages to Edwards with shuttle ride to SB. Less than half of the distance to Denver and we can let Vail Resorts subsidize bringing tourists close to us.

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Scott Ford 3 years, 2 months ago

Hi Scott W -

Interesting insight. There is evidence to support your hypothesis.

Area Early/Open Holiday Regular Late/Closing Steamboat $80 $99 $99 $99 Aspen N/A $99 $96 $71 Beaver Creek $76 $99 $94 $99 Breckenridge $63 $94 $89 $89 Crested Butte $59 $92 $92 N/A Telluride $73 $98 $98 N/A Vail N/A $99 $94 $94

Published one day Adult Lift Ticket (Walk-up window price) for the 2011/12 Ski Season. Source: Colorado Ski Authority http://www.coloradoskiauthority.com/ (N/A = not published)

Not to make this sound too simplistic, "What is the overall value of being perceived by our guest as a great value?" A value ranking of 30th cannot be considered too great.My sense is that the perception of "value" is worth a great deal. Surely, it is worth $5.00. As we, all know perception is often reality.

However, I do not understand the dynamics of this industry very well as a whole and specifically how it is played out in our little town. I keep trying to learn.

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rhys jones 3 years, 2 months ago

W -- That's a great idea, the Edwards shuttle. I've always thought a light rail between the two valleys might open things up a bit, 131 being low on the state's priority list when the snow flies. If that works, maybe another spur, over the other hump into Aspen, would hook up the three valleys. Listen to the dreamer, and wouldn't that be cool!!

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Scott Ford 3 years, 2 months ago

Scott W - What a great idea of having some of our guest fly into Eagle! This is humorous and creative way to address the lack of seats in to Yampa Valley Regional Airport. There is enough history and wildlife along Colo Hwy 131 that a good tour guide could make the shuttle ride a lot of fun. And with this 90 minute+ captive audience we could cross market Bike Town USA.

We need to be sure we get some fresh bakery goodies from some of our local establishments to pass out along with some coffee from one of our local roasters - this could work. In addition, let us have some trivia questions about Steamboat and have the prize for correct answers be SmartWool socks.

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cindy constantine 3 years, 2 months ago

Congratulations Ski Corp and Community!! This is truly great news. With this substantial jump in the polls and the national readership of SKI magazine, some real interest in Steamboat may develop which should translate into better load factors and higher airline ticket prices!!

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Scott F, I don't know why it would need to be any more of a tour guided trip than the shuttle from Denver. But, it would certainly seem possible to have dvds or USB memory sticks that are both guided tours and welcome to SB guides. They could even have a presentation by Steve Lewis on how baked goods leads to obesity and should be taxed.

That section of 131 along the Colorado with the train tracks along the river and branching off up the ledge is a classic model railroaders set up. For train enthusiasts, that is a really cool section of road. (I also think that if we could arrange a monthly passenger special event train excursion between SB to Glenwood Springs then that would be a tourist draw. I know a few people that would travel here to take that train ride). Train could return the next day with an option to take a shuttle back the same day.

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Dan Hill 3 years, 2 months ago

Maybe the perception of value has something to do with the demographic we're targeting? We've been selling ourselves short with an image that appeals to the price sensitive end of the market (who are still going to think it's expensive and therefore not good value).

Or we can just leave it as the best kept secret in skiing only to be shared with the deserving few who appreciate what we've got here!

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rhys jones 3 years, 2 months ago

One reason I like rails is the widely variable conditions which can exist on 131 in the winter. Being low on the state's priority list, the snow can build up, shoulders are non-existent, and the drive can get almost scary. I've had slush almost hydroplane me off the cliff. Then all the animals, in that one stretch south of Bond, this side of State Bridge, acting like they live here.

I hadn't considered including Glenwood in the loop, but that poses many new possibilities too. Lots of potential here, I think.

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vanguy 3 years, 2 months ago

One minor detail on using Eagle Airport to bring visitors to Steamboat....

CME (Colorado Mountain Express) has the primary P.U.C. license (Public Utility Company) for exclusively providing airport transfers at the Eagle Airport.

Thus, there are governmental restrictions that prohibit or deter Go Alpine or Storm Mountain Express from offering shuttle service at the Eagle Airport.

The PUC regulates ground transportation companies in the best interest of the public (supposedly), which explains why there aren't dozens of shuttle companies in Steamboat. Possibly they can offer "private charter" service...I'm certainly not an expert on PUC regulations.

Logistically speaking, it would also be difficult for either of our local shuttle operators to profitably and cost effectively provide this kind of service, given the variety of flight times for arrivals & departures for EGE, and the unpredictable nature of when and how many people would actually need this service.

And I seriously doubt CME has any real interest in bringing a handful of people 90 miles north on Highway 131 every few days, since they already service millions of travelers each winter flying to / from both DIA and EGE, taking visitors to locations throughout Summit County, Eagle County, and Aspen / Snowmass.

There is also a very close business relationship between Vail Resorts and Harry Frampton's many Vail Valley Companies (East West, CME, Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate). Frampton used to be the CEO of Vail Associates back in the 80's and was one of the key people responsible for making Vail / Beaver Creek what it is today.

Given how much they have invested in their destination and their air service, I expect this Vail contingent would collectively go to great lengths to deter any Steamboat business from trying to use Eagle County as a gateway to our resort.

The answer to our local air service issues will not be found in Eagle County...unless Vail Resorts acquires the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.

Maybe that's the solution?

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cindy constantine 3 years, 2 months ago

Hi Scott F-- Just took a better look at your post and saw the daily prices. So we increased our ranking by 6 places to #8 (which I think is great) and now we have the highest ticket prices in North America. Remind me again why ski corp needs a taxpayer bailout? I can no longer afford to ski the mountain, I work in the tourist biz and am friendly everyday to everyone, and they want my vote on a tax increase. Oh, I remember now, they want my vote but could care less about my business.

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mtroach 3 years, 2 months ago

Why not just do something simple like; fly into steamboat ride one day of lifts free". Then we give out free lift tickets to Howelson Hill. Classic bait and switch to get skiiers on the city hill.

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rhys jones 3 years, 2 months ago

vanguy's PUC and CME points further support a light rail option.

Vail and Beaver Creek both finished ahead of us in these rankings, and those are virtually the same town -- ditto Deer Valley and Park City. Snowmass finished ahead of us, and there are three more great mountains nearby. Aspen night life puts us to shame.

Do we have a trademark or copyright on "Ski Town USA"? I can think of two or three towns which might also claim that title, and my vote would go to Aspen.

I still hang my hat here because it's so much more laid-back than our contemporaries, local constabulary notwithstanding. And I think a light train ride parallel to 131, to Eagle, Glenwood, and Aspen, would be a great thing, and I believe the infrastructure is largely in place for that. That spur I was talking about, from Eagle to Aspen over the West Elks, might be a daunting project, but would result in a fantastic ride, for sheer beauty.

This light rail could tie together three of the best ski valleys on the planet, solidifying our grasp on the market. Instead of squabbling about who's best, why can't we all just -- get along?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 2 months ago

Commuter rail only makes sense on highly congested routes where rail is significantly faster than driving. Otherwise, bus service which has a fraction of the cost of rail is the better choice.

If SB said that they plan on booking a few dozen people a day onto flights into Edwards and would like to drive several shuttles a day down there to get them then PUC is not going to stop it because PUC is supposed to encourage transportation services even as providing competition is not a priority. PUC could stop the shuttle from delivering people to Vail and so on, but would be expected to encourage a SB-Edwards shuttle link.

It is also not obvious that Vail Resorts would object. More passengers lets them bring in more flights from more places. Remember, the airline subsidies are actually revenue guarantees and if seats are full then they don't cost Vail Resorts anything. And Vail Resorts would also know that getting people used to flying into Edwards is likely to result in people taking future vacations in Vail. So Vail Resorts might even welcome and be willing to encourage SB tourists flying into Edwards.

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