"We're thrilled," said Colleen Reardon, Deer Valley's marketing director. "We've known for a little while and it was hard not to tell our employees how fabulous they are. . . . It means so much to our staff because the rankings are about guest experience - the product they deliver consistently, the dedication and their hard work."
Deer Valley swapped top spots with last year's winner, Vail. The Colorado resort has finished first in Ski's reader survey more than any other ski area, but also lost out to Deer Valley in 2001 and 2005. Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia placed third.
Park City Mountain Resort was Utah's only other top 10 resort, finishing sixth overall, one place lower than last year. The Canyons Resort placed 15th.
Snowbird and Alta never fare as well in the Ski survey as in Skiing, which is geared to younger skiers and snow boarders into steep slopes and deep snow. While they finished 19th and 25th, respectively, in this year's survey, magazine editor Greg Ditrinco noted that Snowbird was deemed the "Best Skier's Mountain" and Alta the best "Weekend Escape."
Solitude and Snowbasin also cracked the top 30, finishing 28th and 29th. That was an accomplishment for Snowbasin, whose ranking suffers from a lack of lodging. It made up for that shortcoming with a No. 1 ranking for lifts and No. 2 for on-mountain food.
"Utah resorts heavily dominated the lifestyle rankings," Ditrinco said.
The results did not surprise Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty, who was nonetheless pleased that seven Utah resorts received so much notoriety. "It keeps shining that spotlight on Utah. . . . That makes our job a little easier," said Rafferty, whose organization is the marketing arm for the state's 13 resorts.
He praised Deer Valley for "doing things so well at so many levels."
"What I keep hearing from people who have skied Deer Valley is that the resort just makes everything so easy for you," he said.
Deer Valley's Reardon said she was proud her resort could make such a strong impression on customers, who are far fewer in number than visitors to Vail or Whistler/Blackcomb. She also expressed pride that so many Utah resorts received top 30 recognition.
"It's that rising tide thing," she said. "It's better when a lot of us do well. One thing Utah has - that I'm not sure other states have - is camaraderie. We work well together. We understand it's to our mutual benefit to do collective marketing."
Those marketing campaigns emphasize how easy it is to get to Utah resorts, a point exemplified in Park City Mountain Resort's first-place finish in the access category.
"With people being so time-deprived these days, they are looking for a place that's easy to reach. Where else can you ski the day you arrive and the day you leave? You can't get that anywhere else," said resort spokeswoman Krista Parry.
"But I think we also benefit from the resort's access to Park City. Very few resorts in North America have an authentic town, with all the different activities it offers, that you can ski right down into."
For the third time in the past five years, Utah's Deer Valley Resort was judged the top ski area in North America by readers of Ski magazine. In the top 30 (last year's ranking in parenthesis):
1. Deer Valley (2)
2. Vail, Colo. (1)
3. Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C. (4)
4. Aspen, Colo. (7)
5. Snowmass, Colo. (3)
6. Park City Mountain Resort (5)
7. Breckenridge, Colo. (6)
8. Beaver Creek, Colo. (8)
9. Steamboat, Colo. (9)
10. Sun Valley, Idaho (10)
18. The Canyons (15)
19. Snowbird (21)
25. Alta (28)
28. Solitude (25)
29. Snowbasin (Not ranked)
Source: Ski magazine