The votes are in and counted. And, envelope please: The No. 1 ski area in North America is . . . Deer Valley.
In the annual poll taken by SKI Magazine, of some 20,000 subscribers who have been on its mailing list for two or more years, Deer Valley came out on top, leapfrogging Vail, Colo., which held the No. 1 spot the two previous years. Deer Valley was No. 2 in those two polls.
"I would like to think this reaffirms out continued focus on our guests," reported Bob Wheaton, president of Deer Valley, "everything from guest services to our attention to detail to our outstanding food."
Park City Mountain Resort was voted No. 5 and The Canyons No. 14. Last year Park City was No. 8 and The Canyons No. 22.
Other Utah resorts making the Top 30 were Snowbird at No. 20; Alta, No. 29; and Solitude, No. 30. Last year Snowbird was 23rd, Solitude 26th, and Alta was unranked.
Voters ranked resorts in 17 categories, including snow, grooming, terrain, challenge, value, lifts, service, weather, access, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, apres-ski, off-hill activities, family programs, scenery and terrain parks.
Those who voted had skied an average of 23 days a year.
After votes were counted in each of the 17 categories, and Deer Valley came out No. 1, each category was then ranked and weighted according to the order of importance listed by those surveyed, and votes were recounted. Again, Deer Valley came out as the No. 1 choice.
The resort's highest scores came in areas of customer service, food, grooming and lodging.
This was not the first time Deer Valley has the No. 1 spot. Voters ranked the resort No. 1 back in 2002.
This is the first time Park City Mountain Resort has broken into the top five. Krista Parry, public relations manager, said the jump from No. 8 can be credited to a number of new programs, including one intended to improve overall morale of the employees.
"We set up a lot of programs for our employees last season to help them and make them feel good about the work they were doing. Having happy employees paid off, we believe. The guests noticed," she said.
"We also changed our grooming program. We paid more attention to our signature runs and groomed several black-diamond (most difficult) runs, which opened up more of the mountain."
According to magazine officials, Park City improved its score in 15 of the 17 categories and earned the same scores in the remaining two.
Snowbird jumped up from No. 23 to No. 20.
"Snowbird is certainly happy about moving in the right direction in the survey. It's a great acknowledgement of the efforts Snowbird is making to improve customer service and amenities around the resort,' said Laura Schaffer, public relations director.
In a poll by SKIING Magazine, the Snowbird/Alta union has been ranked No. 1 for the past three years. Snowbird and Alta offer a single pass that is good for the two areas, which doubled skiing opportunities.
"Top honors by Utah resorts in both magazines would be a great way to kick off Utah's 2005-06 ski season," she said.
Ranked No. 3 by SKI was Whistler/Blackcomb in Canada. Last year it held the No. 5 slot.Five Colorado resorts were in the top 10 and 12 in the top 30. Sun Valley, Idaho, was No. 10 and Jackson Hole in Wyoming was No. 13.
SKI Magazine's top 10 resorts
1. Deer Valley
2. Vail, Colo.
3. Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C
4. Snowmass, Colo.
5. Park City Mountain Resort
6. Beaver Creek, Colo.
7. Breckenridge, Colo.
8. Aspen, Colo.
9. Mammoth Mountain, Calif.10. Sun Valley, Idaho