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Ski resorts fare well in rankings

Published September 26, 2008 2:25 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's ski industry is basking in the results of the latest annual ski magazine reader surveys.

For the second year in a row - and fourth time in eight years - Deer Valley Resort was deemed the best in North America by the older, more well-heeled readers of Ski magazine. Its readers also listed Park City Mountain Resort at No. 5 and had seven Utah resorts in the Top 30.

While Alta/Snowbird slipped one spot to fifth place in voting by Skiing magazine's younger daredevils, the Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts finished first in the all-important "Best Powder" category - also 1-2 (with Alta first) in Ski.

But beyond these valuable accolades for individual resorts, Utah was well thought of by readers of both magazines for attributes promoted by state and local tourism boosters and their private-sector counterparts.

For instance, Ski's readers not only had Alta and Snowbird at the top in snow quality, but also rated Powder Mountain third, Brighton fifth, Solitude sixth and Deer Valley ninth.

Access is one of Utah's strongest selling points, one that hit home with Ski readers. Seven of the top eight spots went to Utah resorts, led by Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley. After Loveland, Colo., Utah's hold, which continued with The Canyons, Solitude, Alta, Brighton and Snowbird, in that order.

With everybody having to deal with weather, it doesn't hurt to have four Utah resorts in Ski's top five - Deer Valley, Solitude, Alta and Brighton.

And, considering the social stereotypes Utah resorts must overcome to be viewed in the same league as the Vails and Tahoes of the world, Skiing's recognition of Harry O's in Park City as being the "Best Meat Market" and having the "Best Music Scene" is good advertising as well.

"That's probably the most entertaining mention we had," said Jessica Kunzer, spokeswoman for Ski Utah, marketing arm of the state's 13 active resorts. "It's not something we'll put on our ads soon, but it does combat our conservative reputation and the stereotype you can't get a drink in Utah."

She reveled in the variety of categories in which Utah resorts received acclaim, from cat skiing and backcountry access at Powder Mountain to environmental consciousness at Sundance to terrain parks at Brighton and Park City Mountain Resort.

"The thing unique about Utah is that all of our resorts excel in some distinct area, and they're all different," said Kunzer. Take architecture. Skiing designated Alta's Watson Shelter as "Best Mid-Mountain Lodge" while Snowbird received honorable mentions for best patio and best hot tub.

These rankings "do a lot of good things for us," said Deer Valley marketing director Colleen Reardon.

Internally, "they validate to our employees that the product they're delivering is what we hope it to be. We were founded with the philosophy of service and making the entire ski vacation great, not just the skiing," she said.

Externally, Reardon is convinced the honors help keep existing visitors and attract new ones. "If people have decided to book here, it validates their decision to come to Deer Valley. If they're on the fence about their winter vacation destination, they might just say 'a lot of people think that's a great place, let's try it.' "

In these troubled economic times, Kunzer believes the access issue will help carry Utah's hopes. "People will still want to get away and take vacations, but they may be fewer and shorter. That's when your time becomes valuable and accessibility is really a key."

mikeg@sltrib.com