The most prominent ski resort rankings for 2014 are out and all three of Park City's resorts placed in the top 10. Deer Valley is No. 2, Park City Mountain Resort is No. 5 and Canyons is No. 10.
SKI Magazine released this week the results of its annual reader survey that ranks North America's ski resorts in a variety of categories, from snow and grooming to off-hill activities and digital presence. SKI editor Greg Ditrinco told The Park Record that SKI sent out 145,000 emails to its readers (print and digital), which resulted in 40,000 individual resort evaluations.
Last year was the first in which Deer Valley, PCMR and Canyons all finished in the top 10 overall in the West and that feat is turning into a trend.
This year has a new No. 1: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Jackson Hole has made a rapid ascent in the SKI rankings. Last year it was sixth. Before that, Jackson Hole had never placed in the top 10.
How did Jackson Hole shoot up the rankings so quickly? "They've done a good job of expanding their non-expert train and also putting up some lifts that better service their more moderate terrain," said Ditrinco. "And they've also done a good job of expanding the softer side, softer amenities, which is lodging and dining and après."
Deer Valley has finished first in these rankings multiple times, most recently two years ago. It placed first overall in several categories this year: grooming, service, on-mountain food, lodging and family programming.
"We really pay close attention to those individual rankings," said Coleen Reardon, Deer Valley's director of marketing, especially "the categories of grooming, on-mountain food and guest service, because since ratings have been tracked we've always held the No. 1 spot there. And so that's really important to us and our staff."
As to whether the rankings are important in getting more people out to the highly-ranked resorts, Reardon said "I think [the rankings] influence a lot of people in validating a resort they may be considering for their ski vacation, especially a new guest. I do think they help."
Reardon was also pleased to see PCMR and Canyons so highly-ranked. "A great thing. Rising tides. We're firm believers in 'when everyone does well, we all do better.' It just brings more people to town, raises the level of experience of the ski vacation, to have three world-class resorts in one town."
PCMR placed first overall in three categories: access, off-hill activities and terrain parks. It was also second overall in family programming.
The results of the SKI rankings are due to the work of lots of people at the mountains, said Andy Miller, communications manager at PCMR. Miller noted the hard work of employees like "lifties," table-bussers, line cooks, lift-maintenance staff and ski instructors. "It's always really gratifying to see that pay off with recognition."
Miller noted that PCMR gets most of its feedback straight from its guests: "Hearing what a great time they had or seeing someone link turns for the first time on the mountain or with a big smile on their face walking off the mountain or hanging out in one of our restaurants." But he also added: "Getting some love from some of the industry's big publications is always nice too."
Steve Pastorino, senior communications manager at Canyons, said that the rankings aren't a focus ("we don't wake up in the morning concerned about what we can do to make our ranking higher"), but he expressed pride at the fact that Canyons is highly-ranked. "It is particularly meaningful to us because we haven't had decades of accolades like some of our neighbors," he said.
Pastorino also noted that the rankings go far beyond the mountains themselves.
"We have people that undoubtedly participated in this survey who possibly never even skied or snowboarded one day here," he said, "but they enjoyed our spa and they ate at our restaurants and they stayed at our hotels or they came out in an off-season or shoulder season."
The three Park City resorts all do collectively well in certain categories and poorly in others. Access, lodging, family programming, digital presence, weather and après are categories where all three resorts performed well. Value and scenery are two categories where the resorts were weak.
"Some of the places in which we're low make sense to us," said Coleen Reardon of Deer Valley, "because we provide a different product than a lot of people in the industry do."
Jackson Hole is the fourth resort to take the No. 1 ranking in the last eight years, joining Deer Valley, Vail (who placed No. 3 this year) and Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.