Tom Ross: 431 inches of snow doesn’t buy enough love |

Tom Ross: 431 inches of snow doesn’t buy enough love

If snow isn’t the ultimate test of a ski area’s popularity, what is? The selection of chardonnay?

Apparently, the answer has as much to do with ski valets, medallions of buffalo tenderloin and groovy aprÃs ski hangouts as it does with near record amounts of powder.

The more than 430 inches of snow that fell on Mount Werner last winter could do no more than move Steamboat Ski Area up two places to ninth on the SKI Magazine’s list of the best ski resorts in North America this week.

Vail regained its top rating followed by Deer Valley, Utah; Snowmass, Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.; Park City, Utah; Breckenridge; Aspen; Beaver Creek; Steamboat; and Sun Valley, Idaho.

Snow is definitely on the list of 18 categories ranked by 6,000 readers of SKI. So are family programs (Steamboat ranked first in the West), lodging and service. Chardonnay is not on the list.

Steamboat probably would have moved up another notch if on-mountain fireworks displays were among the categories in the poll. Sometimes I wonder whether Steamboat is still trying to use up a giant cache of Roman candles left over from the Les Otten era.

Steamboat sets off fireworks Feb. 1 in honor of Robinson Crusoe Day (OK, I made that up, but Robinson Crusoe Day really is Feb. 1). I’d like to see Vail top Steamboat’s frequent fireworks!

In fairness, Vail and Whistler Blackcomb have spectacular terrain that Steamboat will never be able to match, no matter how many expansion projects it undertakes.

However, I’ll never understand how Breckenridge ranks three spots ahead of Steamboat in anything. Oh wait, Breckenridge has the best beer named after a ski town, but brewed in Denver.

Deer Valley is known for pampering its guests. There’s no truth to the rumor that Deer Valley ski valets dart out of the aspen trees when guests fall on the slopes to hoist them back on their feet. However, I’m told it’s true that for a modest gratuity, they’ll reapply guests’ sunscreen and lip balm for them.

Copper Mountain offers the best view of an interstate highway of almost any major ski resort, Keystone is recognized for the best miniature marshmallows in on-mountain cocoa, and any resort in New England beats Steamboat for best on-mountain rain umbrellas.

Not that Steamboat is perfect. Have you ever wondered why the queue for the gondola is on the frigid north side of the building instead of on the sunny southern side? And speaking of the gondola, where are the cup holders?

I have ski buddies who are of the firm conviction that Steamboat’s lifts are too good – the faster those high speed quads run, the faster the fresh snow gets track out.

Nightlife in Steamboat is an issue. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has tried to address it with a comedy club. However, I dare you to name the best dance floor in Steamboat – that’s what I thought.

I don’t know how any of the other ski areas manage to top Steamboat in the “off-hill activities” category of the magazine poll.

How many other ski resorts offer Wednesday night ski jumping followed by a soak in a natural hot spring all taking place inside the city limits?

None, zero, nada, zip.

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