readers of Ski magazine.
In its October 2008 issue, the Colorado-based magazine published the results of its annual reader survey to rank ski areas across the continent. Readers are asked to rate resorts in such categories as snow, grooming, terrain, value, lifts, food, weather, access, lodging and apres-ski activities.
Ski contributor Edie Thys calls Sun Valley "skiing at its purest, with a world-class mix of natural bowls, cruiser boulevards and plummeting tree runs."
Readers praised the resort for food, service, grooming and lack of lift lines but, as they do every year, discounted the resort for its remote location. "Accessibility is Sun Valley's curse and its blessing," the magazine says. "It's either a long drive or an expensive flight, or, when the weather rolls in, both."
The cause of the drop in the ranking was no surprise to Sun Valley Co. Marketing Director Jack Sibbach.
"It's the age-old issue of access and how much weight is given to it," Sibbach said. "We lose groups, even in summer, because of the cost to get here."
Sibbach said that despite the ongoing economic downturn, advanced bookings for the upcoming ski season are better than he anticipated, which he attributes to a "loyal returning base."
As an example, Sibbach said that 46 of the 50 ski clubs that visit the resort annually have made reservations. Of course, that doesn't guarantee that they'll actually make it to Sun Valley, Sibbach said.
"The accessibility issue isn't going to get any easier with the current state of the airlines," Sibbach said, noting that added charges for extra bags or skis could be another significant hurdle for travelers to get over.
"A lot of meeting planners we invite out here think it's great, but can't justify the cost of travel," Sibbach said. "We could be in for a tough winter if we have a poor snow year."
However, taking accessibility out of the picture, the ski resort fared well in a number of other categories.
Sun Valley earned a No. 7 ranking in grooming, No. 7 in lifts, No. 4 in service, No. 3 in on-mountain food, No. 7 in lodging, and No. 5 in dining.
The top 10 resorts in North America, as rated by readers of Ski, are:
1) Deer Valley, Utah
2) Vail, Colo.
3) Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.
4) Snowmass, Colo.
5) Park City, Utah
6) Beaver Creek, Colo.
7) Aspen, Colo.
8) Steamboat, Colo.
9) Breckenridge, Colo.
10) Telluride, Colo.