Whistler Blackcomb is heading into what's likely to be a difficult season with an early shot in the arm from some of the industry's biggest magazines.
Skiing Magazine 's annual readers poll ranked Whistler Blackcomb as the number one resort in North America for the 13 th year in a row, as well as the resort readers want to ski more than anywhere else.
Freeskier Magazine also ranked Whistler Blackcomb in the top spot.
And in Ski Magazine , Whistler Blackcomb moved up one spot from third to second this year, behind Deer Valley, Utah.
While visitor numbers are expected to be down this season as a result of reduced access during the 2010 Winter Games, as well as something called the "Olympic aversion effect," Whistler Blackcomb is counting on regional visitors and regular customers to help make up for the loss in destination business. As well, Whistler Blackcomb expects residents and pass holders to take advantage of mountains that will likely be less busy than usual even though 90 per cent of terrain will be open to the public all season.
Do rankings matter? Dave Brownlie, president and COO of Whistler Blackcomb thinks they do, even if not every reader will book a trip right away or even for this season.
"I think (the rankings) certainly get people's attention, and we definitely want to be up near the top in how the skiing and snowboarding public out there is rating us," Brownlie said.
"At the end of the day these are from people out there in North America who are telling the magazines what they think, so it's important to be up there and recognized for what we do."
Thirteen years is a long time at the top of the Skiing Magazine poll given the amount of competition from other resorts in Canada and the U.S. Meanwhile, the top ranking in Freeskier was welcome given the younger, more park-oriented readership of that magazine. Brownlie says those rankings, coming from readers instead of editors, will keep Whistler Blackcomb front and centre in the minds of people "who aspire to ski here."
The awards are sure to keep coming as other polls are released. Notably, Whistler Blackcomb was voted the top resort by Transworld Snowboarding readers for three years in a row, as well as number one for terrain parks.
In recent years Whistler Blackcomb and the resort in general have also won awards from travel publication Conde Naste Traveler , Forbes , Sunset Magazine and other publications that are not as industry specific as ski and snowboard magazines.
Brownlie says those awards are always the least expected but most gratifying in terms of what all of Whistler is trying to accomplish as a destination that can offer something for everybody.
"The question has always been 'how do you appeal to the broadest network of folks out there?'" he said. "We're a big resort and we need people from all walks of life and geography to come and want to be here to sell this place. I think it's great, we have our high-end clientele at places like Fairmont and Four Seasons, we have the more budget-conscious people who might stay at other hotels, and the young folks who come and stay at the hostel. Some of those people are coming to enjoy the skiing and snowboarding, but some are also coming to enjoy our other offerings like the nightlife, our restaurants and other activities off the mountain.
"To be recognized for those things as well as skiing and snowboarding is really the icing on the cake for us."
Whistler Blackcomb was the only Canadian resort to crack the top 30 in Ski Magazine 's poll this year and the top 10 in Freeskier . Ski Magazine also voted Whistler as the top resort to party, with nods also going to Canada Olympic Park in Calgary and Mont Tremblant in Quebec.