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America's top snow: Skiing readers laud Utah resorts - again

Published: 10/30/2009
Mike Gorrell, Salt Lake Tribune -- The typical young Skiing magazine subscriber gets twitchy on days like Wednesday and Thursday, when thick clouds blanketing the central Wasatch Mountains excite thoughts of falling snow.

Not just any snow, but the best snow in North America, at least in the opinion of those Skiing devotees who again said no resort anywhere on the continent has better powder than Alta and Snowbird.

The magazine's annual reader survey, out this month, also makes clear that Utah's high-quality snow is not confined to Little Cottonwood Canyon. The "best snow" Top 10 includes four other Utah resorts - Snowbasin (7), The Canyons (8), Powder Mountain (9) and Deer Valley (10).

"It's always great to see Alta and Snowbird so high on the list, and Deer Valley No. 1 in Ski magazine," said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty, referring to Skiing magazine's sister publication that appeals to older skiers and boarders. "It's amazing to have that diversity and to have that diversity so close together."

Those results reinforce the state's approach to marketing its $1 billion-a-year industry, as evidenced in Ski Utah's two-page ad - kicking off an eight-page Utah section - that spans the middle fold of Skiing's "2010 Resort Awards" issue.

"Quantity or Quality? Yes, Please," says one of the Utah Office of Tourism's snowflake characters, superimposed on a photograph of a comely young female skier carving a turn in untracked powder.

"How does 40 percent more snow just 40 minutes from the airport sound?" the ad also asks, inviting people who like that combination to contact any number of resorts and lodging companies to book a visit.

Alta and Snowbird hammered home the point even more in each of their full-page ads.

"Our history runs deep," says Alta's, a deep-powder picture next to an old ski marked off to show years in which seasonal snowfall totals ranged from 681 to 763 inches, including the past two years (696 inches in 2008-09, 702 inches in 2007-08).

On the facing page, Snowbird's ad similarly emphasized that "Last season there were over 600 deep reasons to ski the Bird again."

"It's our niche in the market, and it's one we're proud of," said Alta spokeswoman Connie Marshall, citing the best in snow, second in "steeps," third in backcountry access and fourth overall ranking accorded to Alta/Snowbird.

"The things we get ranked highly in are easy to talk about because they're not things we do - so it's not bragging as much," she said. "Why we are what we are really reflects a slow evolution, an organic sense of skiing and passion for the outdoor lifestyle."

Snowbird officials were delighted with the ranking, which listed the Little Cottonwood duo right behind industry giants Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Jackson Hole and Vail.

"We were among good company," said spokesman Jared Ishkanian.

The survey also extolled Snowbasin's John Paul lift as one of the best lifts to ski laps off of, and the Dean Cummings Big Mountain Experience Camp at Snowbird as one of the best resort-based backcountry guide services. Park City Mountain Resort's terrain park was judged the continent's third best.

And when it comes to "condescending locals," Skiing survey respondents felt Snowbird was second only to Jackson Hole in terms of snootiness.

That elicited a chuckle from Snowbird marketing director Dave Fields.

"When you have this terrain and this snow, it brings out some of the most avid - and sometimes rabid - skiers," he said.

Skiing rankings: Utah

Best Overall: Alta/Snowbird (4), Deer Valley (10)

Best Snow: Alta/Snowbird (1), Snowbasin (7), The Canyons (8), Powder Mountain (9), Deer Valley (10)

Best Steeps: Alta/Snowbird (2)

Backcountry Access: Alta/Snowbird (3), The Canyons (5), Powder Mountain (9)

Best Trees: The Canyons (5), Alta/Snowbird (8), Deer Valley (9)