Survey: Utah ski resorts earn high marks

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Powder Mountain was named as having the third-best snow quality among all...
Story by Jeff DeMoss
Standard-Examiner staff
October 19, 2011
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The most widely recognized survey of North America’s top ski resorts is out, and once again, Utah resorts are featured prominently on the list.

For the fifth consecutive year, readers of SKI Magazine named Deer Valley the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America for the upcoming season. Deer Valley has finished in the top three in each of the past 11 surveys, getting high marks for everything from dining options to ski instruction to snow quality.

Several Utah resorts made SKI’s Top 20 survey, which is based on feedback from more than 20,000 of the magazine’s readers. In addition to Deer Valley at the top, Park City Mountain Resort placed sixth overall, while its neighbor The Canyons was ranked 16th and Snowbird 20th.

The survey weighs a range of aspects in considering its rankings, including ease of access, family friendliness, terrain parks, dining, lodging, grooming, nightlife, snow quality and terrain variety, among other factors.

Utah resorts perennially rank at or near the top in terms of snow quality due to the state’s legendary powder, and in the access category because so many resorts are located a short drive from Salt Lake City International Airport.

In the best snow category, Utah resorts took the top five spots this year and six of the top eight, including local resorts Powder Mountain at third and Snowbasin at eighth. Snowbasin also received recognition in the dining category, with Earl’s Lodge earning third best among ski resort cafeteria options.

“We think our resorts sell themselves, but it never hurts to get this kind of publicity,” said Nathan Rafferty, president of the promotional group Ski Utah. “It validates to the rest of the world what we here in Utah already know — that our resorts offer an experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world.”

As cooler temperatures and early-season snowfall in the mountains are turning Utahns’ thoughts toward ski season, the annual survey provides another reminder that lifts will be running at local resorts before long.

There aren’t a lot of major changes coming to the state’s 14 ski areas this year. Two of them — Park City and Beaver Mountain — have replaced lifts to increase speed and capacity. Others are making infrastructure and facility improvements to enhance skiers’ and snowboarders’ experiences, Rafferty said.

Powder Mountain’s main focus in recent years has been to open new terrain, and this year is no different. The resort has added 350 acres to the area accessed by its snowcat service, and its trail crew has gladed additional terrain to add new tree skiing to its backcountry zones.

The most noticeable changes at Snowbasin this season include outdoor gas fireplaces on Earl’s Patio and slope modifications on School Hill to make it easier to build the 22-foot superpipe, which will once again serve as the centerpiece for the finals of the Winter Dew Tour in February. Snowbasin also added two new snowcats to help with grooming.

Of course, the success of any ski season depends largely upon snowfall. Last winter brought record snow totals to many Utah resorts, and this year, a La Nina weather pattern has people salivating over the prospect of another season with plenty of deep powder to go around. While that doesn’t guarantee a good snow year, forecasters say it generally makes it more likely.

“We’re optimistic,” Rafferty said. “You can’t expect a year like last year every time, but we always seem to get plenty of snow.”

Jeff DeMoss


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