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September 28, 2006

Ski Magazines Rankings in October Edition - Alta and Big Sky

Ski Magazine ranks Big Sky #24 and Alta #28 in this years Rankings. And both have similar knocks on them. Not enough night life. Not enough restaurants. Just not enough besides the skiing to do.

I just wonder what folks are looking for. I look first at the skiing. Then at the price. Then at the price of accomodations (usually off mountain). I might eat whatever crappy greasy burgers they serve for lunch and grab a Dew, but I don't look for five star dining when I ski. Just give me a Reese's with my grease burger for lunch so I have the juice to finish out the afternoon after a day of quad burning magic.

But then it kind of hit me, that is what skiing when you are poor is about. You look for a good deal and you bring your own lunches. You bargain hunt.

First, Alta is rated as the best bargain. No kidding. Duh! $52 for a lift ticket. Crazy cheap accomodations in SLC less than 20 minutes away. And so on. But Alta has no nightlife. And honestly, that is a huge knock against Utah for destination skiing. The Alcohol does not flow freely enough. Big Sky is too cold and does not have enough night life. Forget the 5k acres and Lone Peak. Discount 4,100 feet of vertical. They have bad on-mountain food.

I wonder sometimes if I am the strange one. I look at Alta and see small crowds, massive snowfall totals, tons of powder, great vertical, tons of terrain, and the Snowbird connect. I see SLC right next door, cheap accomodations, great food, and plenty to do in the evenings in SLC. Let's not forget the proximity to the Airport. Plus if you get bored, there is Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, etc., right there. But there are no snowboarders, which may be the best part.

I look at Big Sky and see the doorstep of Yellowstone, INSANELY MASSIVE VERTICAL AND ACRES, a growing base area, an almost unspoiled old west town, cheap accomodations in Bozeman or in the local motel, and great conditions year round.

I don't take week long vacations at Aspen. I save the $10,000 that a week with a condo for my family would run, get season passes at Brian Head, and spend that money on gas and a condo that I own at a smaller resort off the beaten path. I eat on mountain for lunch most of the time, but it is a dog or a burger or some pizza then right back to the slopes. Dinner, we actually eat something more, but usually that is someplace cheap and something like pasta at home or maybe a couple of pizzas. It is not a "vacation" but rather a very frequent event, so we look for bargains so that it can be even more frequent. A vacation to me is taking a cruise or going to Disneyland. Skiing is not a vacation, but rather, part of my daily or at least weekly routine.

I think it is skewed to have rankings based almost solely on rich folks from the city that have money to burn and want to take their week in Aspen. But that is what the industry caters to. That is who Ski Magazine writes for. They don't write about e-Baying equipment. They don't write about season pass deals or Frequent Sky Cards. They write for destination skiers.

I don't knock folks that enjoy the sport this way or the fact that the ski media writes for these folks or the fact that our resorts market to these folks (and price for these folks). It is a fact of life. I just think that it is important to recognize that backwoods places like Wolf Creek, Brian Head, etc., exist and have a great value proposition for folks that are looking for a different experience than flashing more cash for a week in Aspen than most of the locals working at the restaurants and on the lifts make in an entire season working at the resort. Big Sky and Alta are places that may not appeal to folks that can drop $500 on a night of drinks and want the local nightlife, but since I am not one of those folks, I look for something different in a resort.

Posted by Justin at September 28, 2006 01:22 PM


I agree with you completely. I just hope they keep ranking these places low, so they continue to be off the beaten path, small crowd places.

Posted by: Chad at October 2, 2006 02:40 PM

it's a total pain to get to, but grand targhee is something you check out too. not the huge vertical (2000 ft) but its all on one lift and run(s) so its more useful. great snow of course.

good value there, unlike pricey JHMR

Posted by: arv at October 4, 2006 02:44 PM