2003 Number 15 Resort in North America: Winter Park, Colo.


Winter Park has hovered in the middle of the rankings since the survey debuted in 1988. And with gold medals in what many skiers consider everything that counts-Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Weather and Value-you start to wonder why it's never broken into the elite Top 10. Especially with such raves as "best moguls in the West" and "best big local mountain anywhere!" The answer is evident before you even reach the resort. "Close to Denver (67 miles), but still a difficult drive," complains one reader, referring to snaking Berthoud Pass. And while the Zephyr Mountain Lodge added much-needed slopeside lodging, restaurants and shops, the bulk of the base area is still caught in a 1970s time warp. Not for long. The city of Denver, which owns the resort (Winter Park, get it?), is looking for a partner to make over the base. That's good news for readers who complain about the "lack of great nightlife." But for most devotees, the mountain is all that matters. Who needs chic cafés when you can fill up on the savory bumps of Mary Jane (for an appetizer, try Sleeper; entree of choice, Derailer) or the exquisite steeps of Vasquez Cirque. Top this with 365 average annual inches of snow and amazing views-"I felt like I was in heaven at the summit," gushes a reader-and you'll soon hope that Winter Park drops out of the rankings all together. If the crowds head elsewhere, that means there's more for you. -Kellee Katagi

WHAT'S NEW The Boxcar Deli; two terrain parks and a halfpipe have been consolidated and are now served by three lifts.

A GOOD DEAL Free 4 All: Get four days of lodging, skiing and rentals for the price of three. Book by Dec. 15 (800-729-5813).

MEDALS GOLD Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Value, Lifts, Weather, Family Programs, Terrain Parks; Silver Grooming, Service, Access, On-Mountain Food, Scenery.

HIGH/LOW RANK Snow (9), Family Programs (10), Value (12); Lodging (35), Après (35), Dining (36).

DON'T MISS Reward yourself for bumps well-skied with mud pie from The Club Car at the base of Mary Jane.

READER REMARKS (+) "Great variety; a lot of mountain to ski." "Very family oriented." (-) "Difficult to access the Cirque." "Lots of flats."

Great Lodging Deals here.