SKI magazine rankings can’t hurt |

SKI magazine rankings can’t hurt

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge and Keystone ski resorts Chief Operating Officer Roger McCarthy can’t wait to see how SKI magazine’s reader survey results snowball into a banner year for Breckenridge.

Resort officials earlier this week celebrated the jump – from No. 10 last year to No. 6 this year – in SKI magazine’s readers’ survey, bringing Breckenridge into an elite group of ski resorts in North America. Ahead of Breckenridge was Vail, Whistler, B.C., Deer Valley, Utah, Snowmass and Steamboat.

Summit County’s other resorts, Keystone and Copper Mountain, ranked 16th and 19th, respectively.

McCarthy said the jump in the poll validates the work Breckenridge has done to improve the resort in recent years.

That work began the minute the resort closed each season in April, McCarthy said. Resort officials held a two-day retreat and went through every category SKI magazine readers evaluate and developed plans to improve something in each area.

They improved signage to help people understand how to get to Peak 7. They talked up their grooming prowess. They worked on customer service. In 2002, they built a new lift to help people get around the four mountains. They installed a lift to serve 165 acres of new intermediate terrain. They worked with town officials to bang out a development agreement for the bases of Peaks 7 and 8.

McCarthy is optimistic that work – and other programs about which he declined to elaborate – will pay off. And they might even propel the ski resort up another notch or two in SKI magazine’s next survey.

He saw it happen at Mount Tremblant, in Quebec, Canada, which, in four years, jumped from 48th to No. 1 on the East Coast.

“There are huge populations in that whole Eastern seaboard where people don’t live in the mountains,” McCarthy said. “They’re starting to breathe heavy, thinking about going skiing. They open the magazine and there you are, in the top 10 position. It validates the quality you’re delivering. You don’t get there without delivery.”

It’s also occurred at Telluride, which has jumped from 25, to 19, to 12 and now 10 in the magazine’s rankings in the past four years, said Greg Ditrinco, executive editor of the publication. He attributes Telluride’s rise to a terrain expansion and a town that has managed to pull off being glamorous, yet laid-back, at the same time.

Breckenridge has that cachet, as well.

“It used to be skiers just wanted to be happy on the hill,” Ditrinco said. “Now they want to be busy and occupied when they’re not on snow, too. Breckenridge has this wonderful historic mining town. That’s what makes Breckenridge a successful one-two punch. That’s pretty impressive.”

That’s part of why Breckenridge officials are so elated. SKI magazine has more than 2 million paid subscribers and boasts that it is the most widely recognized skiing magazine in the world, helping readers decide how to ski, what to ski and – most importantly to ski area operators – where to ski.

No study has ever been conducted to evaluate how such an increase in rank can financially benefit a ski resort or town. But a jump of four spots in the top 10 certainly can’t hurt, Ditrinco said. He also attributes the jump to the capital improvements Breckenridge has put on the mountain.

“You put money in, make some wise decisions and you help your resort,” he said. “You tend to move up in the survey. The survey reflects general trends very well, and it tracks with major capital improvements at resorts.”

He agrees with McCarthy that the jump validates the resort’s hard work.

“It does reward the comprehensive resort,” he said. “For Breckenridge to jump from 10 to 6, emotionally it’s nice to break into the top 10. No. 6 in North America – that’s a pretty darn nice neighborhood. That’s pretty plush surroundings.”

And it does pull weight in the minds of readers, he said, particularly those who don’t have time to do a lot of research.

“Skiers are looking harder at these rankings than they used to,” Ditrinco said. “But does that translate to more fannies on the ski lifts? It can’t hurt; it’s good publicity. If they have a good experience, they’ll be back. If not, they won’t be back, and you’ll hear about it in the survey next year.”

That’s why McCarthy knows he has his work cut out for him.

“We have to keep doing more of what we’ve been doing,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to convert a customer for life.”

McCarthy has his sights set on No. 5, or No. 3, or even No. 1.

“I look at who’s out in front of us, and I would imagine they’re looking over their shoulder,” he said, adding that Snowmass is dated and Steamboat Springs has a disconnect between the town and the base area.

McCarthy doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels, however.

“We’d like to have another year on the stuff we’ve got and grow into it and see how everyone else does and how we do,” he said. “We are not just rolling into this winter thinking what we did last year will hold us in position.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

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