Breck, Keystone, Copper make SKI mag’s 2017 list of top Western ski resorts

Phil Lindeman
2017’s Top-ranked Western ski resorts SKI magazine just released its annual list of the top-30 Western ski resorts, which pretty much means North America from the Colorado-Kansas border to the Pacific. Here’s how Colorado resorts ranked based on a reader survey with options like challenge, snow, terrain, lodging, après, on-mountain dining, nightlife and the like. 19. Keystone Resort 18. Copper Mountain 17. Crested Butte 16. Breckenridge 14. Aspen Highlands 12. Winter Park 9. Snowmass 8. Telluride 7. Steamboat 6. Beaver Creek 4. Vail 2. Aspen Mountain Source:

Ladies and gentlemen, skiers and boarders, gather around: SKI magazine just released its latest roundup of the best resorts in North America.

As always, the magazine’s annual dissection of Western ski hills means winter is tantalizingly close but not quite here, like pre-season gear sales, or the latest snow-porn opus from Travis Rice. That is to say the SKI mag rankings exist to whet your appetite for the season to come, and when Colorado lands a whopping 12 resorts on the top-30 list — the most of any state and the exact same count as the 2016 list — there’s plenty to salivate over.

But how arbitrary is the list? I’ve always wondered about the inner workings, and after reading through the brief blurbs paired with each of the top-30 resorts, it seems like a mix of journalist science, reader survey and magic sauce. Each season, SKI mag asks roughly 12,000 readers to rank resorts based on a slate of criteria, from snow and terrain to lodging, dining, nightlife and more. From those surveys, the editors must then toss everything into a spreadsheet that may or may not use an algorithm to spit out final rankings.

(You ever seen the South Park episode, “Margaritaville,” when Stan tries to return a margarita blender and somehow discovers that Wall Street’s economic decisions are made by three white guys and a headless chicken? I imagine the process might be something like that, only with computers and ski editors.)

Decoding the list

Enough pontificating about the process — onto the 2017 rankings.

To nobody’s surprise, the crown jewel of British Columbia, Whistler Blackcomb, topped the list yet again. If you haven’t made the trip yet, either head north now for the pre-Vail Resorts treatment or wait until Whistler is on the Epic Pass next season.

(Small Whitefish, Montana missed the 2017 top-10 after coming in at No. 8 in 2016, but it’s still No. 11. I wonder if that hill is next on the VR world-domination map.)

Aspen Mountain jumped way up this time around, from No. 13 in 2016 to No. 2 in 2017, and becomes the top-ranked Colorado resort. It’s no surprise — one of Colorado’s oldest and most prestigious resorts is still an international draw for skiers and socialites alike — but there’s really no explaining why it dropped so far, only to jump so high. Maybe it has something to do with knocking Whistler from the No. 1 apres perch it held in 2016.

Summit’s neighbors, Vail and Beaver Creek, also jumped up to finish 2017 at No. 4 and No. 6 respectively. Last year, Vail was the only VR property to crack to top-10. Rounding out the 2017 rankings are Steamboat at No. 7, Telluride at No. 8 and Snowmass at No. 9. That makes six Colorado properties in the 2017 top-10. Good snow (like the 2015-16 season the 2017 rankings are based on) makes a world of difference.

True, no Summit resorts are in the top-10, but they’re also not snubbed wholly. The rankings for local hills barely changed since last year: Breckenridge is No. 16, down from No. 14, and Copper is now No. 18, down from No. 16. Keystone is the only local resort to move up in the rankings, from an odd spot at No. 22 (it got docked for the family-friendly focus) to No. 19 for 2017. Again, good snow can go a long way, and last season was a banner year for the Stone.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to reflect current rankings from SKI magazine. The article printed in the Oct. 3 edition of the Summit Daily was based on the 2016 rankings, not the 2017 rankings.

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