Park City resorts take a dip in influential ski rankings
September 25, 2015
Park City remains one of the prime skiing destinations in the United States, but has the town lost a touch of its luster?
Each resort in town fell in SKI Magazine’s influential annual ranking of the top resorts in western North America. The ranking, which is based on an online survey of nearly 10,000 of the magazine’s readers, listed Deer Valley Resort as the third best in the west (down from No. 2), Park City Mountain Resort at No. 11 (a four-spot drop) and Canyons Resort at No. 23 (it was No. 14 last year). The ranking evaluated Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort as two separate entities
But Parkites can take a deep breath and rest easy when snapping on their skis. Greg Ditrinco, editor of SKI Magazine, said he wouldn’t use the rankings as evidence the resort experience in town has declined.
Ditrinco explained that the top resorts are tightly bunched and that Deer Valley falling from No. 2 to No. 3 is "statistically insignificant." And as far as PCMR and Canyons, readers could simply be taking a wait-and-see approach to find out what Vail Resorts has in store for this winter’s merging of the resorts.
"Maybe it was kind of, ‘Let’s see if they can pull this off,’" he said, adding that the magazine will likely evaluate PCMR and Canyons (now under the umbrella name Park City Mountain) as one resort next year. "And perhaps they were nervous or anxious about what’s going to happen."
To compile the rankings, SKI Magazine asks respondents to rank resorts from one to 10 in 18 different categories, such as snow, grooming, lifts, off-hill activities and character, as well as submit general comments about the resort experience. Deer Valley ranked No. 1 in service, access, on-mountain food, lodging and dining and finished second in grooming. The resort didn’t perform as well in terrain parks (42), value (41), challenge (40) and variety (35).
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One reader opined that "Deer Valley is a great model for an overall great skiing experience. Tremendous employees, great food and NOT overpriced." Another added, "Great skier experience from the time you drop off skiers at the base. The terrain and snow are excellent and I never have to worry about lift lines. Food is the best of any ski area I have skied. Overall our favorite ski area after skiing all over the west."
Criticisms included the cost of skiing at the resort and a layout that "makes it difficult for beginners and experts to ski in the same area."
Park City Mountain Resort also excelled in several areas, ranking No. 3 in access, off-hill activities and terrain parks and No. 4 in après. Its lowest categories were scenery (No. 44), service (No. 43) and character (No. 38).
Several readers gushed about the terrain parks. One wrote, "Best terrain parks around. They have great terrain park options for kids who don’t want to get big air and are just learning but also have Olympic-sized jumps and halfpipe for experts."
Others were disappointed with the on-mountain conditions, with several citing a need for more snow-making capabilities for years with below-average snowfall. "It’s all about the snowfall," wrote one reader.
Canyons Resort was ranked noticeably lower than the other two resorts in several categories but still shined in some, ranking No.4 in access, No. 12 in off-hill activities and No. 13 in on-mountain food, lodging, dining and après. Its worst categories were character (No. 46), scenery (No. 46), snow (No. 41) and value (40).
Several reader comments focused on the variety of the Canyons terrain, with one saying, "I had the sense I was skiing at two or three different areas during my day at Canyons this year, which was great." Another reader called the resort the "Best Park City has to offer!"
Others lamented the snow conditions. "Lack of snow-making ability. With the event of global warming, the western resorts are going to have to incorporate this in their operations or fail to provide the experience that make them great to begin with."
Coleen Reardon, director of marketing for Deer Valley, said the resort was happy with where it ranked, which allowed it to maintain a streak of top-three finishes that dates back to 1998.
"We were pleased with it," Reardon said, claiming that no other resort has had such a long stretch of being included in the top three. "Obviously, you want to be the top dog, but that can’t happen every year. We get that."
Margo Van Ness, senior manager of communications at Park City Mountain, said in an email response that the resort was pleased to see PCMR and Canyons included in the rankings and is looking forward to how skiers respond to the merger this winter.
"Our focus at Park City remains explicitly on our guests and the ongoing dialogue we are able to maintain with them through very specific guest feedback tools and surveys," she said. "This allows us to respond directly to their input and desires and together we strive to continually improve and re-imagine the guest experience at our resorts."
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