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A deep and prolonged economic downturn has done nothing to diminish the attention Deer Valley Resort lavished on its skiing customers.

And have they liked it.

For the fourth consecutive season, the readers of Ski magazine have ranked Deer Valley as the No. 1 resort in North America.

"What it means to me is that both our staff and guests share the vision of excellence and consistency in everything we do," said Bob Wheaton, the resort's general manager.

"All of the efforts to please our guests and provide an unforgettable experience are validated," he added. "We are here for our guests, so if they are happy, we're happy. We're doing our job properly."

Apparently so.

Ski magazine Editor Greg Ditrinco said Deer Valley's performance over the past four years — through good times and now bad — shows the importance of consistency and of being willing to please.

"What Deer Valley understands is that skiing, at its core, is a service sport," Ditrinco said. "When the economy went south, Deer Valley let it be known it would continue its excellent level of service. It held the line firmly on staff cuts.

"Service is really attitude, and attitude is really about staff. Deer Valley has a professional, well-trained and pretty darn happy staff and they often go the extra mile to make their guests happy."

That is important to Ski magazine's older, more affluent readers. The Boulder, Colo.-based magazine said it has 1.6 million readers, two-thirds of whom are male and over the age of 35. Almost half make more than $100,000 annually, with a median income of $91,800.

So for many of these readers, a resort's lodging and dining opportunities are as noteworthy as the quality of the snow, and grooming is as vital as the variety or challenge of the terrain.

Deer Valley did well in all of those categories, finishing first in grooming, service, access, dining and on-mountain food and lodging.

"You get what you pay for. First class all the way," said one survey respondent.

Added another, "Choosing your lunch spot is as important as choosing your next run."

These and other comments affirmed to Ditrinco that Deer Valley has weathered the downturn in fine fashion.

"The recession has driven resorts to look at their core competencies and core audience and they're really working hard to deliver for their core," he said.

Brighton Resort also had a first — for weather — while four of the top five spots for snow quality went to Utah resorts. Alta was first, followed by Snowbird (2nd), Brighton (4th) and Solitude (5th). Deer Valley had three other seconds (for weather, lifts and family programs), while Snowbasin had one (for on-mountain food) and Snowbird had one for the challenge of its terrain.

Utah also fared well in a couple of sidebar categories.

For a "Value Trip," readers gave Utah resorts the top three spots (Brighton, Alta, Snowbird) and put Snowbasin fifth. Snowbird was judged to be the best weekend escape, followed by Deer Valley.

Alta and Snowbird were the two best skiers' mountains, while Park City Mountain Resort was third best for family vacations.

Although no Utah resorts made the top five destinations for a "Guys Trip," Deer Valley came in second as ideal for a "Girls Getaway."

Ski magazine rankings

1. Deer Valley

2. Vail, Colo.

3. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

4. Beaver Creek, Colo.

5. Park City Mountain Resort

6. Snowmass, Colo.

7. Aspen Mountain, Colo.

8. Breckenridge, Colo.

9. Sun Valley, Idaho

10. Aspen Highlands, Colo.

18. The Canyons

19. Snowbird

27. Snowbasin

28. Alta

29. Brighton

30. Solitude