2002 Number 9 Resort In North America: Steamboat, Colo.

Resort Guide 2002 Steamboat Pic A

Steamboat's for sale-again. But that's no reflection on the resort, which advanced three spots this year. It's a bottom-line decision by the chronically cash-strapped American Skiing Co. Besides, a new owner may be just what Steamboat needs. ASC has been gung-ho for development, even though visitors clamor for "less change, less growth," saying they like Steamboat's natural, big-mountain assets and ranching-town vibe. And what's not to like? Steamboat's huge: With 141 trails, 3,668 vertical feet and 2,939 acres of terrain spread over six peaks, Steamboat is the second largest ski resort in Colorado. "Good for groups," says one reader, "there's enough variety to please everyone." Not to mention the "nice town, mellow locals, good snow," another reader points out. With slopes such as Twilight and Two O'Clock and some of the lightest snow in the Rockies, the treeskiing and champagne powder rightfully get the national media play. But mogul runs and chutes are worth the trip, too. And when you're too tired to make one more turn, head to the Strawberry Hot Springs or hop a sleigh to dinner at Ragnar's. There's no end to the list of après options. Like few other resorts in the country, Steamboat's community is as much of a draw as the mountain itself. "An authentic Western town of warm, genuine people," a reader says. "What a destination resort should be."

WHAT'S NEW Direct flights from Newark (Continental) and Chicago (American) into Hayden airport.

A GOOD DEAL Book the Vintage Value Package by Nov. 10 and get four nights' lodging and a three-day lift ticket starting at $240 per adult. 800-922-2722; www.steamboat.com.

MEDALS GOLD Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts, Service, Weather, Lodging, Dining, Off-Hill Activities, Family Programs; Silver Grooming, Value, On-Mountain Food, Après-Ski.

HIGH/LOW RANK Family Programs (2), Lodging (9), Service (10); Challenge (37), Scenery (43), Access (49).

DON'T MISS A chance to discover Steamboat in a whole new light with a Full-Moon Snowshoe Tour. Guides lead advanced snowshoers through moonlit trails and then treat them to wine, cheese and hot chocolate.

READER REMARKS (+) "Best treeskiing and champagne powder in the world." "Absolutely the most friendly family resort."
(-) "Expensive airfare and dining." "Becoming overdeveloped." "Not enough challenging terrain."