Our View: Steamboat stands out

SKI Magazine's latest resort rankings offered up good news for the Steamboat Springs Ski Area and the community.

This year, Steamboat ranked fifth in North America, up from sixth last year and 12th just three years ago. The annual rankings are based on a survey of more than 20,000 SKI Magazine readers. The rankings are based on readers' evaluations of ski resorts in 17 separate categories, including lifts, lodging, weather and aprÃs ski.

Steamboat ranked in the top 10 for snow, service, lodging and family programs and in the top 20 for grooming, lifts, weather, on-mountain food, dining, aprÃs ski, off-hill activities and terrain parks.

Presumably, SKI Magazine readers are the people whose opinions matter most -- skiers who take ski resort vacations.

"Steamboat going from the 12th position as recently as three years ago to No. 5 in North America is great news and truly reflects upon the quality of our staff and everyone who delivers the legendary Steamboat experience," said Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing and sales for Ski Corp.

Wirth is right. That the ski area's rankings continued to climb even as the financial struggles of its owner -- American Skiing Co. -- continued to mount, says a lot about those who work for Ski Corp. The rankings indicate that visitors have had positive experiences on the mountain, and that means ski instructors, lift operators, waitstaff, reservation clerks and other employees are doing their jobs well.

But as Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond noted, the ranking extends beyond Ski Corp. to the rest of the town. "The entire Steamboat Springs community should take great pride in Steamboat's top-five ranking," Diamond said. "It's the total vacation experience that Steamboat provides, involving all aspects of our community, that really sets us apart.

"This is a real town with a reputation for genuine friendliness, not a manufactured resort, and our guests truly treasure these qualities when looking to spend their valuable vacation time."

Visitors expect more out of their ski vacations than great powder, though as the rankings show, Steamboat can offer that. They also want great lodging at a reasonable price. They want a variety of shopping and dining choices. They want opportunities for their children. They want recreational activities other than skiing.

Most of all, they want the people they interact with -- from the cab driver who picks them up at the airport to the clerk who rings up their food at the grocery -- to be helpful, courteous and friendly. Time and again, research shows such service can distinguish one resort from another.

There are challenges facing our resort. Our airport's woes are well documented. The base of the ski area needs upgrading to keep pace with the competition. Many of our lodging properties need updating.

But despite such challenges, Steamboat continues to stand out in the resort industry. Just ask the readers of SKI Magazine.

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