November 24, 2021

We at conSKIerge can be cynical about probably too many things, and surveys about ski resorts are a particularly difficult read for us. First, there is so much that goes into evaluating a resort, is it really fair to even try to rank them? And who are these people that fill out the surveys anyway? And doesn’t it all depend on what you are looking for – do you want deep and steep or wine and dine? But, they can provide useful information and open a window into the preferences of at least one slice of the skiing population. So, of course, we look.

Perhaps the most comprehensive of the surveys is done by Ski Magazine (now part of a conglomerate of outdoor publications including Outside Magazine), but there are numerous other ones that often provide a combination of laughs and the occasional insight. Case in point – Conde Nast recently ventured down this trail and released their “Top 40 Ski Resorts in the U.S.: Readers Choice Awards 2021.”

We can’t remember the last time we looked at Conde Nast Traveler, but we did get a chuckle out of this survey.  The list is probably more of a reflection on who actually reads Conde Nast and who then participates in the readers’ poll than anything else. But, nonetheless, it is interesting. It is a good reminder for us ski snobs that many (most?) folks really care about amenities, not just the steep and deep. Dear Valet in Utah is #1 and the top 10 includes Sundance, Beaver Creek and Vail, areas all known for their amenities. But then there some outliers – Snowbird (low on amenities) ranks 5th – and some laughs – Camelback Mountain Resort, that Pocono’s juggernaut, ranks 8th. (Maybe they have great heart shaped tubs?!) Take a look at the complete list here – Conde Nast Ski Survey

And then there is this head scratcher – an email from Smarter Travel (general travel website) landed in our inbox entitled “The 5 Best All-Inclusive Ski Resorts in the World.” The term “All-Inclusive” grabbed our attention. In North America think Aspen, Vail, Whistler. Wrong! They were thinking Le Massif in Quebec and Discovery Basin and Lost Trail Powder Mountain, both in Montana!! Now folks, don’t get us wrong – Le Massif has long been on our list to explore and Discovery Basin and Lost Trail seriously rank right up there as some of our favorite ski areas in North America. (See our piece on our Montana Road Trip). But as ski resorts they are the complete exact opposite of “All Inclusive.” In fairness, the piece focuses on high end resorts within striking distance of these areas, but Really?! Take a look Smarter Travel

And as for the Ski Magazine survey – it included the usual list with some interesting surprises. (For now, we focused on Western resorts.) The usual suspects are included in the top 10 – Dear Valet at #2; Snowmass #3; Whistler #4 and Steamboat at #10. We were surprised to see Taos (#7) and Snowbasin (#8) sneak into the top 10. We love Taos. It has a special feel and has some of the steepest inbounds terrain to be found. But it is hard to get to (a plus in our mind actually), relatively small, can suffer low snow years and there ain’t much to do there except ski. And we equally love Snowbasin with its long runs and consistent pitches covered in Utah powder, but there isn’t even overnight lodging there. These issues , particularly the lack of other activities – reasons why Alta and Snowbird are 27th and 28th on this list, usually knock a resort well out of the top ten. The real surprise – Whitefish in Montana at #9! We’ve never been there, but it is on our list to be included in a road trip this winter. See Ski’s Top West Resorts for the full list.

And finally, we didn’t laugh at Sun Valley being #1 on the SKI list. It is an iconic resort with top to bottom steep runs and a decent town. But we chuckled at what was listed as its top weakness – SNOW! Unfortunately it is a well deserved weakness, since it gets an average of only 180 inches a year. Go for the grooming and the dinners.

Be well; Ski well


conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!