Whistler-Blackcomb has dropped one place in the annual ranking of North American ski resorts put out by U.S. based SKI Magazine.
At the root of the fall from third place in 2005 to fourth place this year may be visitors’ perceptions of the snow and grooming.
However, said SKI Magazine executive editor Greg Ditrinco, the fall is really nothing to be worried about as the statistical difference between the top five resorts is very small.
“Statistically a move up a couple or down is insignificant,” he said.
“Whistler is an elite resort and it remains an elite resort like any of the top three or four resorts.”
This year Vail was ranked #1, up from #2 last year and last year’s #1, Deer Valley, Utah, fell to second. Snowmass, Co. rose to #3 from fourth place last year and Whistler-Blackcomb dropped from third last year to fourth this year.
Park City, Utah maintained its fifth place ranking.
“We have been in the top five 17 out of the 18 years of the survey,” said Whistler-Blackcomb’s manager of public relations Christina Moore.
“In the last three years we have been number one for terrain variety, we have been tops for lodging and après nightlife is always consistently high.”
But, said Moore, the rating for snow went down this year and the grooming rating wasn’t great either.
Moore said the snow rating was a surprise after last year’s great snowfall but the grooming rating was not unexpected.
“The perception might be that there is more ungroomed terrain than at other resorts,” said Moore.
She said that’s because Whistler and Blackcomb cover such a vast area, 8,171 acres, that even though the amount of grooming is very high it is still only a percentage of the total runs available to visitors.
Moore also said that declining U.S. visitors to the resort over the last several years, due to a strong Canadian dollar and other international factors, may have translated into fewer readers being available to score Whistler.
The survey information is important to Whistler-Blackcomb, said Moore.
“We certainly take the rankings and look at the details and see where and what people are saying and how we can improve,” she said. “But even though we have seen small shifts in our ranking overall our category rankings have remained fairly consistent.”
Detrinco believes that Whistler may be in for good times ahead.
“It’s not too soon to see Olympic buzz starting to build and you will get a lot of publicity and there is excitement,” he said.
“It immensely helped the Salt Lake skiing and the Utah skiing in general. That was greatly helped by the Salt Lake Games in 2002.
“I would be shocked if B.C., and Whistler in particular, doesn’t get a nice bump as the ski world ramps up to the 2010 Games.”