Surprise, surprise: Whistler named #1 resort for seventh year WRA says top status still provides drawing power By Andy Stonehouse The Whistler resort has once again beat out the competition across all of Canada and the United States and has been named the continent's best place to ski, according to one of the outdoor recreation industry's most prominent magazines. Readers of Snow Country magazine have cast their votes and given Whistler/Blackcomb top ranking for the seventh year in a row. As of its September issue, Snow Country has now changed its name to Mountain Sports and Living, but will continue to promote skiing and boarding throughout the year. The resort rankings, which appear in the magazine's 10th anniversary resort guide, stem from an annual request for readers to submit information on their favourite ski areas, with marks given for 16 attributes, including skiing conditions, facilities, value and service. Whistler/Blackcomb has once again topped the 50-name list, edging out American resorts including Vail, Utah's Deer Valley, Aspen, Steamboat, Snowmass and Idaho's Sun Valley, following in sequence. Alberta's Lake Louise earned 12th place spot, while Intrawest's Mont Tremblant in Quebec was ranked 18th. As usual, Whistler/Blackcomb's enormous physical size, tremendous range of terrain and varied village food and lodging operations appear to have won over the magazine's readers. Whistler's less-than-reliable winter weather and its distance from the Vancouver International Airport were noted as negatives, but the resort's other attributes apparently help to make up for rain and Highway 99. David Dunbar, Mountain Sports and Living editor, said approximately 10,000 readers participated in the magazine's survey, responding to inserts in the January, February and March issues. A bulk of the respondents are skiers living in New York, Colorado and California, with very few Canadian entries. "The survey shows that by far the most important feature for readers is terrain," Dunbar said. "Whistler/Blackcomb has the most." Dunbar said Whistler/Blackcomb's selection also has less to do with a favourable exchange rate than Whistler's size and facilities, as the survey reflects a time earlier this year when the dollar was trading in the 30 per cent range. "Under the category of value, Whistler only came in as eighth, even with that kind of exchange discount," he said. Utah's Alta was picked as top value, principally for its $31 U.S. lift tickets, and Tremblant and Lake Louise were also noted for their cost vs. skiing satisfaction attributes. Connie Rabold, media relations director for the Whistler Resort Association, said that the magazine's announcement is in no way old news for the resort: it continues to be a huge selling features as Whistler is promoted to the world. "The number one status is still a major marketing tool for us, something we can use in our media relations and our brochures," Rabold said. "We're still number one, and we can continue to get that message out there." Rabold said she's also encouraged that the magazine's staff have also been willing to give a Canadian resort top billing for another year. "It's been seven consecutive years, and it's not easy for a magazine to have the same resort on the top for all that time." No news yet on whether or not Whistler will top the polls in Ski Magazine, Mountain Sports and Living's competing publication, which has also given the resort top ranking in the past, although Vail topped Ski’s ratings last year. Rabold said Canadian resorts (including Whistler) were also given a positive pat on the back in a recent article in USA Today, which suggested that American skiers can enjoy their sport much more cheaply if they take their dollars north of the border.