Inspecting SKI mag’s rankings |

Inspecting SKI mag’s rankings

Jeremy Evans

In its annual Top 50 Resort Guide, SKI Magazine ranked Heavenly Mountain Resort 12th best in North America. Heavenly was also the magazine’s highest-rated Lake Tahoe resort, in front of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, which were ranked 16th and 28th, respectively.

Kirkwood was left out of the rankings altogether. After the story in last Wednesday’s Tribune on the rankings, one reader was insulted. She had utter disdain for Heavenly and, while I couldn’t match her emotions because I’m a Heavenly passholder, I agreed with her about the Kirkwood omission.

However, while I’d rather be at Squaw, Alpine or Kirkwood on a powder day, the most important thing about these rankings is they aren’t geared toward skiers in ski towns. They are geared toward skiers in cities and tourists. Big difference.

About 20,000 subscribers were contacted by an independent research firm for the Top 50 Resort Guide. (It’s really a ranking of the top 30 resorts in North America and a separate list of the top 20 resorts east of the Mississippi River.)

The magazine’s circulation is roughly 500,000, with the median income of its readers earning an annual salary of $96,878, according to Mountain Sports Media.

Who makes $97,000 on the South Shore? And since about 100,000 people nationwide can say they live in a ski town, the majority of the magazine’s readers don’t live in the mountains.

So it’s fairly obvious that the majority of readers surveyed must drive several hours or fly several hours before they even get on a lift. Which means those readers’ interpretation of a resort is vastly different than ours.

Seventeen categories were used to determine a resort’s overall ranking. None of them included the over/under on powder days, days one can expect to shovel snow, the days to avoid crowds, or the best jobs for over $9/hour.

Four of the magazine’s categories are important to skiers and snowboarders in ski towns. The other 12 are important to weekend warriors who can buy $9 martinis. Let me dissect the 17 categories.

Access: Uh, I live here.

Aprés-Ski: Are you kidding me? Give me a $2 Sierra at Lakeside and I’m good.

Dining: The Safeway in Round Hill has $5 take-and-bake pizzas every Friday.

Family Programs: If you have kids in Tahoe, they should know how to ski.

Grooming: A carver’s paradise at 9 a.m., but, after that, who cares?

Lifts: Just get me up the hill. (Mammoth was ranked first and Squaw ninth.)

Lodging: Uh, I live here.

Off-Hill Activities: Give me a $2 Sierra at Lakeside and I’m good.

On-Mountain Food: That depends on how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I can squeeze into my pockets.

Scenery: Heavenly got rated No. 1 in this category. That’s why I live here.

Service: Service is always great because I don’t enter a lodge unless my friend/resort employee is working the cash register.

Snow: Now this one I care about. Kirkwood was rated sixth on the continent, the highest mark for any resort outside Utah or Wyoming.

Terrain/Challenge: This category, along with the next two, I also care about. Squaw was ranked fifth, Mammoth sixth and Kirkwood 10th. Jackson Hole was first.

Terrain/Variety: Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C. was first.

Terrain Parks: Mammoth was first.

Value: If I don’t have a season pass or a buddy who works as a liftee, I’m not going.

Weather: Who cares? I get to pick my days. Tourists are imprisoned by the calendar.

In small letters on SKI Magazine’s cover is the slogan “The Magazine of Ski Life.” Well, they can have the slogan. I’ll take the ski life.

Jeremy Evans is a Tahoe Daily Tribune sportswriter. He can be reached at 530-542-8008 or by email at

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