Snowmass, Colorado: Rank 3 West, 1997

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Calling Snowmass a cruiser's paradise is like calling Bill Gates a computer geek. It's true, but there's a whole lot more going on. In fact, with its new Cirque platter lift climbing to 12,510 feet, Snowmass earns the bragging rights to the highest lift-served terrain and the longest lift-served vertical rise (4,406 feet) in the Top 30. Up from No. 6 last year, Snowmass is one of the few American resorts that can approach Vail in both size and services. The resort's signature bomber, the Big Burn (more than a mile long and a mile wide) will make any skier or boarder look¿or at least feel¿like Jean-Claude Killy. "Great cruising, the best in the U.S.," a reader says. But Snowmass also offers the real deal: Feel the bottom drop out in the extreme romper rooms of Hanging Valley, the Cirque and K.T. Gully. Lunch at Gwyn's High Alpine is a treat, as is a 2,655-acre mountain that gives you enough space to outrun your cell phone. Snowmass unabashedly markets itself as a family resort. With 95 percent of its lodging ski-in, ski-out and every Snowmass restaurant providing a children's menu, bring the kids. Or ditch them in Snowmass' superb ski/daycare program. Too bad the eyesore mall can't be rebuilt, but the dining is surprisingly satisfying, if also limited; try La Boheme and Cowboy's. Then there's always one reader's strategy for nightlife: "Go to Aspen."

What's New A platter lift to the top of the Cirque; on-mountain concierge centers; backcountry ski tours; ski and snowboard terrain modifications near the base.
A Good Deal $63 per day, lifts and lodging, Nov. 20-Dec. 20, March 31-April 20, Snowmass Club and Lodge; (800) 525-0710.
Medals Gold Snow Quality, Grooming, Terrain, Lifts, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Family Programs;Silver Challenge, Off-Hill Activities.
High/Low Rank Grooming, On-Mountain Food (2); Value (45).
Don't Miss Dog sledding and wild game at Krabloonik restaurant.
Reader Remarks "It's my favorite resort in Colorado." "Snowmass is pricing itself into an exclusive vacation."