Steamboat remains in the elite ranks of North American resorts despite a cash-strapped ownership that hasn't spent much in recent years. Why? Good bones: 2,939 acres, 20 lifts and a saucy 3,668-foot vertical drop. Steamboat's advertising campaign has walked a lot of miles in cowboy boots, which may draw tourists from Nebraska, but that's sure not the reason hardcore Vail and Aspen skiers head here for weekend road trips. "All the runs anyone could ask for-and more," a reader cheers. Oh, then there's the snow. Utah may get more, but it arguably isn't any better. The term Champagne Powder (tm) has even been trademarked by Steamboat. That's legit. Blanket the resort's abundant glades with blow-away fluff, and you end up with tree-skiing as good as it comes. Start at Closet and work your way east to Two O'Clock. If that doesn't make it onto your Top 10 list of the year, then you're in the wrong sport. A common complaint is that the resort "is starting to show its age," which is a matter of not putting money back into the operation. On the plus side, kids don't notice graying facilities, with Steamboat earning praise as "a great family resort" (witness its No. 4 ranking in Terrain Parks). Save your black evening wear for Aspen. Steamboat is "a funky cowboy town where everyone is welcome," a reader applauds. -G.D.
WHAT'S NEW Terrain park music system; Magic Carpet lift; improvements to on-mountain restaurants; expanded Bear River Grill patio.
A GOOD DEAL 40th Anniversary Package: four nights' lodging and three days' skiing start at $231 when you book by Oct. 6 (800-922-2722).
MEDALS GOLD Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts, Service, Weather, Lodging, Dining, Après, Off-Hill Activities, Family Programs, Terrain Parks; SILVER Value, On-Mountain Food, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Family Programs (4), Terrain Parks (4), Snow (6); Scenery (32), Challenge (33), Access (35).
DON'T MISS Join Billy Kidd, Steamboat's Director of Skiing and the first U.S. men's alpine racer to win an Olympic medal, for pointers on Heavenly Daze. Check sign at summit to see if Billy is skiing that day.
READER REMARKS (+) "Great resort for families." "Everyone is so friendly on the mountain and in town." (-) "Frequently long liftlines." "Town is remote." "Moving around the mountain is difficult."
Great Lodging Deals here.