FORBES -TOP 10 SKI RESORTS IN THE USA
Rankings have become so ubiquitous in our world – top colleges, top cities, top jobs, top sandwiches – that they’ve begun to lose value. Everybody has a ranking about everything. Making matters more confusing, most rankings get so granular that nearly every person, place and thing is ranked No. 1 for something.
Wear a helmet: The home to Corbet's Couloir retained its No. 1 ranking for 2013.
In the ski world, there’s been a bit of this specialization ranking creeping in as well. To be sure, some of it is fair. Winter Park, for instance, can’t compare its terrain to that of Snowbird, but the Colorado resort does offer some of the greatest access to disabled and adaptive skiers in the world – and it deserves credit for that. Other outlets rank snow, grooming, family friendliness, food, lodging, customer service and even the quality of the booze on mountain.
All of those things matter to somebody. But here we only rank one thing: Awesomeness. It’s the most important thing we can measure. If you can know a place’s awesomeness, do you need to know anything else?
We measure awesomeness with strict adherence to quantitative and scientific methods. The rankings you see here are the product of the most honed algorithms ever unleashed on the ski world. Being on this list means something. It means awesomeness. We don’t rank 50 resorts, we rank only ten — and we’ve included extended and 100% new material on the top six.
There’s nothing east of the Rockies on the list because no resort east of the Rockies has the snow or terrain to crack our awesomeness rankings–something that matters for both beginners and experts (soft western snow >> eastern ice). Not that there isn’t fun to be had in the East or even the Midwest. Ski wherever you can. We plan to do a separate, eastern list next year.
Again, we rank awesomeness and awesomeness only. If you want to find out what ski resort has the best hot chocolate and marshmallow bar, you’ll find that list elsewhere. If you want the hard facts on what ski mountain gives you the best possibility of a soul-moving experience on and off the snow, then you need rankings based on our patented Pure Awesomeness Factor. In the ski business, this is known as PAF. It’s not something that resorts make public, but every mountain knows where it stands. Most big resorts employ at least three data scientists who spend their days looking for methods to raise the resort’s PAF score. Boost that score, and you get closer to excellence.
Awesomeness is the only proxy for awesomeness. It’s the critical path to a vacation that becomes legendary. So for the second time ever, here are the top ten resorts in the United States according to PAF:
1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming (PAF = 98.5):
The lift lines at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort are like those at a highway rest area bathroom at 2:00 a.m.: Almost nonexistent, except when they exist. And just like that line at the bathroom, if a queue has grown large at Jackson Hole, then there is probably a great reason to get in it immediately.
One of the few spots where lines used to bubble up at Jackson was at the Thunder chairlift, which gets skiers to the hairier southern side of the resort. On a powder day, Thunder was to be avoided; you planned your morning around it. JHMR is a place run by skiers and they were more than aware of the choke point Thunder created.
So before last season, the people in charge installed a new chairlift, Marmot, whose base sits adjacent to that of Thunder’s. It functions as a pressure-release valve for Thunder and provides the dual purpose of getting skiers back to the top of the Bridger Gondola for a snack or lunch without forcing them to ski to the bottom of this very tall mountain. One medium-sized lift, one huge improvement.
All of the other things that made Jackson No. 1 in last year’s rankings remain true. It’s still the best skiing mountain in North America. It still has the best continuous fall line, the best terrain and the best backcountry of any mountain not in the Himalayas. And there’s that $30-million ascending jam fest of music, sweat and rollicking cheers, also known as The Tram, which offers the best return on 10 minutes of standing that you’ll ever be offered (all 4,139 feet of vertical, at once).
Jackson gets extra points for coming through with decent snow last winter (the winter that wasn’t) when most of the country’s ski resorts were still putting up with random patches of brown grass on January 15. And it never hurts to have the most famous ski run in the world – Corbet’s Couloir – inside the boundaries.
On top of skiing, Jackson has come into its own as a culinary destination, a nifty feat for a place so small and thinly populated. The area is awash in new and creative eateries: Roadhouse Brewing Co., the Handle Bar at the Four Season (a Michael Mina concept), a great contemporary spot in town in The Kitchen, and the reincarnation of a longtime local favorite, Billy’s Burgers. On the mountain, don’t miss waffles stuffed with Nutella and bananas at Corbet’s Cabin.
A minor gripe on the foot front (very minor): one of this column’s favorite restaurants in Jackson, Trio, made the mistake last winter of messing with one of the best burgers in America when it switched its meat patty from local bison to ho-hum angus beef. It remains a fine burger, but it no longer stands out from stalwarts in New York and Chicago.
No time to eat? You can still have it all: Stuff your pockets with Tram Bars, the most delicious energy bar in the world, sold all over at Jackson Hole and made just over the ridge in Victor, Idaho.
FORE THE FULL ARTICLE PLEASE VISIT: http://www.forbes.com/sites/christophersteiner/2012/12/03/the-top-10-ski-resorts-in-the-united-states-for-2013/