Vail falls to No. 2 in SKI poll |

Vail falls to No. 2 in SKI poll

Edward Stoner and Scott Condon
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

VAIL ” Buzz Schleper got a good laugh when he heard that Deer Valley had supplanted Vail as the No. 1 ski resort in North America in the vaunted SKI magazine poll.

“You can’t even put Deer Valley on the same page as Vail,” said Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Ski Shop in Vail. “Not even the same chapter.”

Vail fell to No. 2 in the yearly poll of the magazine’s readers. More often than not ” 14 times of 20 years, including last year ” Vail has claimed the top spot.

Beaver Creek stayed at No. 8 in this year’s poll.

For Vail, falling to No. 2 isn’t exactly falling off a cliff, said Greg Ditrinco, executive editor of SKI magazine.

“It’s a nudge down,” he said.

The widespread construction in Vail might have had something to do with its slip, Ditrinco said.

Deer Valley was able to capture the No. 1 spot because its service is so good, Ditrinco said. The Utah resort also limits the number of lift tickets they sell each day to limit crowds. It also bans snowboarders.

“Deer Valley serves their niche, which is narrower than Vail’s, extremely well,” Ditrinco said.

The differences between the top few resorts are really close, Ditrinco said.

“Statistically, (the difference between No. 1 and No. 2 is) probably relatively insignificant,” Ditrinco said. “But I’m sure folks in corner offices wouldn’t agree with that.”

Spokeswoman Jen Brown said Vail Resorts isn’t disappointed in the drop.

“Our No. 2 ranking this year is a reinforcement of the very competitive environment we’re in among the top resorts in North America,” she said.

But with recent upgrades on and off mountain, Vail is gunning for the top spot next year, she said.

The No. 1 rank figures prominently in Vail Resorts’ marketing schemes, from its Web site to its advertisements in skiing magazines, and locals said Vail is still No. 1 is their eyes.

“I don’t think anyone who’s skied Vail needs a reader’s poll to tell them that Vail’s No. 1,” Schleper said.

Vail Mountain is bigger, and the town has more amenities than Utah resorts, said Steve Kaufman, owner of the Tap Room on Bridge Street.

“I think Vail is recognized as No. 1 whether SKI magazine ranks it that way or not,” Kaufman said.

Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, said it’s unfortunate that Vail has fallen from No. 1.

“It’s an important marketing tool,” she said.

SKI released comments about Vail from people who took the poll. Most were positive.

“Vail just makes you keep coming back year after year,” said one.

“How can’t you love Vail?” said another.

“Not enough steeps. Too many traverses to negotiate mountains. Mountain very vanilla,” said another.

Resorts were ranked in 18 categories. Vail scored well in “terrain/variety” (second), “overall satisfaction” (fourth) and lifts (fifth).

Beaver Creek scored well in service (second) and on-mountain food (fifth).

Whistler/Blackcomb was third in the poll, followed by Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Park City and Breckenridge.

Rounding out the top 10 after Beaver Creek at No. 8 were Steamboat and Sun Valley.

No new resorts cracked the elite group this season. The top resorts from 2006-07 just shuffled spots. Snowmass fell the furthest of any resort.

Aspen ranked fourth, Snowmass fifth

SKI magazine readers ranked Aspen Mountain the fourth-best ski resort in North America for 2007-08 while Snowmass placed fifth, according to a sneak peek for the media Friday.

Aspen Mountain managed to improve three spots in the last year, matching its highest position ever in the rankings. It placed seventh in the magazine’s “Top 50 Resort Guide” last year.

Snowmass dropped two spots after ranking third last season.

Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry said company officials are pleased to have two of the top five resorts. If the Skico’s four ski areas were considered one destination, “there’s no doubt in my mind we’d be No. 1,” he said.

Perry was quick to add that he has no complaint about Ski procedures and how Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass are treated as separate resorts.

Fickle rankings

The rise and fall of the Skico’s four resorts might reflect the fickle nature of skiers and riders who fill out the magazine’s annual survey more than anything the resorts did. If anything, logic suggests Snowmass should have solidified its position over the last year. It added the Elk Camp Gondola last season. That relieved base-area congestion and improved access to the eastern half of the sprawling mountain.

The only change at Aspen Mountain last season was the upgrade at the Silver Queen Gondola cabins.

Perry said he sees great things coming for Snowmass in the next few years, and he expects that will be reflected in the rankings. The first phase is underway on the multimillion-dollar Base Village project. On-mountain improvement plans include a new restaurant and chairlift replacements.

“I don’t fully expect Snowmass to come into its own until the development is more complete,” Perry said.

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