The 2003 results are in and Whistler-Blackcomb is holding tight to the third spot for the second year in a row in SKI Magazines annual reader resort survey.
"Emotionally there is a real big difference between number one and number three but statistically there isnt that much of a gap," said executive editor of SKI Magazine Greg Ditrinco.
"Everyone wants to be number one. Its nice to be king... But statistically the scores are really close and theres not that much of a difference between the top five."
This year Vail snatched first place out of the hands of Deer Valley, Utah, which was bumped down a notch to second place.
For the first 13 years of the survey either Whistler or Vail had exclusive dibs on the top spot.
Now Deer Valley is giving them a run for their money.
"I think there was an Olympic bounce for them that put them to the top last year," said Ditrinco.
That bounce has sustained them at number two this year.
This is the 15 th year in a row that SKI Magazine has been taking the pulse of ski resorts in North America through readers polls. The average age of the reader is 44 and they generally ski about 20 times a year.
The two common complaints which have always plagued Whistler were again on the list of readers comments for 2003 weather and accessibility.
"Its hard to get to and it rains a lot," said one reader.
Ditrinco said the accessibility could work both ways as either a plus or a minus.
"Its a pain to get to for Americans, especially east coasters. On the other hand it makes it a little more exotic and it takes a little bit more of a commitment to get there."
But he said the weather was our "bear to wrestle with up there" adding that sometimes you can hit two or three microclimates from the peak to the valley.
"It does affect the rankings because people can go to Whistler and have the best vacation of their lives or they can go to Whistler for a week and they can never see the sun. You have a little bit of a crap-shoot there and that is reflected in the survey," he said.
The survey consists of 17 different categories.
Whistler ranked number two in terrain as well as apres.
"If you cant have a good time after skiing in Whistler, check your pulse, youve probably died," said Ditrinco.
"Its about as much fun as you can find anywhere at the base of any mountain."
The resort also scored very high for the challenge of the terrain, lifts, service, lodging, dining, off-hill activities, scenery and family programs.
Ditrinco was very surprised about Whistlers high ranking in value.
"For a resort of Whistlers size to be ranked in the top 10 in value is surprising and quite a compliment," he said, attributing it in part to the good exchange rate with the U.S. dollar.
Another surprise was Whistlers middle of the road rankings for snow and grooming.
Ditrinco put the lower snow and grooming rankings down to the sheer size of the mountain and the fact that there are different conditions throughout.
This was the first year that the survey polled terrain parks.
Whistler was ranked number six in terrain parks while Mammoth, California took the top spot.
While readers may call Vail a no-miss guaranteed ski holiday for 2003, Ditrinco would not be surprised to see Whistler on top again.
"I would imagine Whistler would regain its crown in the near future."
The magazines "Top 60 Resort Guide" will be in the October issue.