SKI Magazine 2012 Reader Survey top 20 resorts
1. Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.
2. Deer Valley, Utah
4. Park City Mountain Resort, Utah
6. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
7. Sun Valley, Idaho
9. Beaver Creek
10. Canyons, Utah
11. Whitefish Mountain, Mont.
12. Aspen Mountain
15. Crested Butte
16. Aspen Highlands
17. Snowbird, Utah
18. Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
19. Taos Ski Valley, N.M.
20. Copper Mountain
Steamboat Ski Area category rankings
(2011 rankings in parentheses)
Snow: 11 (8)
Grooming: 16 (14)
Terrain/variety: 18 (27)
Terrain/challenge: 17 (30)
Value: 42 (30)
Lifts: 18 (8)
Service: 13 (10)
Weather: 21 (20)
Access: 42 (31)
On-mountain food: 22 (13)
Lodging: 12 (9)
Dining: 14 (11)
Après ski: 12 (10)
Off-hill Activities: 8 (9)
Family programs: 5 (6)
Scenery: 30 (21)
Terrain parks: 14 (15)
Character: 14 (12)
Digital presence: 18 (13)
Overall satisfaction: 18 (14)
Steamboat Springs There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that on Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, Steamboat Springs was No. 1.
Unfortunately, not every day last winter was a record-breaking powder day, and the mediocre snowfall might be the reason behind Steamboat Ski Area’s fall out of the top 10 in SKI Magazine’s annual reader resort poll.
Coming in at a respectable No. 13, Steamboat slid from a dazzling No. 8 ranking last year. The year before that, Steamboat was ranked No. 14 in the annual Top 30 North American ski resort list.
In its 25th year, the SKI Magazine reader poll is the longest running in the industry, according to a news release.
Taking the top honor this year for North American resorts was Whistler, British Columbia — which, with 547 inches of snow, fared better in the roulette wheel of snowfall than most of the lower 48.
Perhaps that has something to do with why the Canadian resort edged out Deer Valley, Utah, from its five-year reign at the top of the poll.
Ahead of Steamboat in the poll were five other Colorado resorts: Vail at No. 3, Telluride at No. 5, Snowmass at No. 8, Beaver Creek at No. 9, and Aspen Mountain at No. 12.
Steamboat Ski Area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said the mountain is proud to have been included in the top 15 ski resorts for the past 15 years.
“It’s always a good tool to look and see where there’s areas we can increase the satisfaction of our guests” Kasten said. “We’re always looking to improve.”
Kasten said she thinks the snow contributed to the fall in rankings, and of course, it’s the one factor over which the ski resort has no control. But even with a lack of snow, Kasten said most families and visitors have plenty of other options.
“I think Steamboat is such a great winter destination because it’s not just skiing; there’s so much else to do,” she said.
SKI Editor Greg Ditrinco agrees the skiing experience is about so much more than sliding on snow.
“Skiers are demanding more from resorts as the traditional ski trip has evolved into a full-service winter vacation," Ditrinco said in the news release. “The best resorts consistently update their programs, both on the mountain and off, to meet the changing needs of today’s winter traveler and skier.”
Readers ranked resorts in 20 categories, and this year, Steamboat had a strong showing in off-hill activities (No. 8, up from No. 9 last year) and family programs (No. 5, up from No. 6 last year).
However, it likely was Mother Nature to blame for Steamboat’s fall out of the top 10 in snow (from No. 8 to No. 11).
Steamboat also fell out of the top 10 in the lifts and lodging categories but saw gains in the terrain/variety category and an uptick in terrain park ranking.
Along with the poll, readers shared comments about resorts they had visited.
Many of the readers expressed delight at their visit to Steamboat last winter. If the snow was bad, they were grateful for the sunny weather. And for those who were lucky enough to visit in February, their comments consisted simply of the word “Powder,” or in one case, “Face shots for daysssss.”
As for the resort's weaknesses, a common theme was the lift ticket prices: Many readers saw the high daily price as a deterrent and said there were almost no deals on lift tickets to be found.
Some said Steamboat was difficult to get to in its remote location. But others saw that same attribute a strength, citing short lift lines (if any at all) and quiet slopes.
One reader summed up their experience like this:
“This resort is just a pleasure to be at,” the person wrote. “The most important characteristics were the great dining, on and off the hill, the varied lodging options, and the stellar quality of the people who we met there. Customer service was great. Always something to do at the end of the ski day. Oh. And obviously, the OUTSTANDING sidecountry skiing in the sunshine.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com