Steamboat, Colo.: Rank 8 West, 1998

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Steamboat keeps moving up in the rankings (it was No. 11 last year) because it excels where it counts¿on the mountain. When it comes to Terrain, Challenge and Lifts, Steamboat earns Gold medals. Snow and Grooming earn Silver. That adds up to on-hill success. "Great mountain," one reader says succinctly. With its Kids Ski Free program and exceptional children's instruction and daycare services, it's no surprise readers voted the resort No. 1 in North America for families. Make no mistake, with the new Pony Express high-speed quad and 12 additional trails, Steamboat also challenges even the most demanding skiers. It brags 2,939 acres of stellar terrain, 30 percent of which is expert-only. Then there are more than 800 acres of what may be the finest tree skiing on the continent. "Trees! Give me more," one reader begs. One run down Shadows or Closet and you'll be a true believer. Add to that some of the country's fluffiest powder and a rocking après-ski scene (The Tugboat never sleeps) and you have the makings of a brilliant ski vacation. Drawbacks? "Crowds and tough to get to," a reader critiques. But what keeps skiers coming back is that it's more than a vacation. One reader nicely sums up the resort's allure: "People make you feel at home instead of like a tourist."

What's New The Pony Express high-speed quad; 12 new runs; expanded snowmaking.
A Good Deal "Snowsaver Packages" are available throughout slow periods, such as Nov. 22-Dec. 18, six nights' lodging, five days' skiing, $426; four nights' lodging, three days' skiing, $243. Call (800) 922-2722.
Medals Gold Family, Lodging, Lifts, Weather, Terrain, Challenge; Silver Snow, Grooming, Value, Service, Food, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities.
High/Low Rank Family (1); Access (47).
Don't Miss Dinner at the summit. Whether you opt for the sleigh ride to Ragnars or the barbecue at the top of the Silver Bullet gondola, you'll feel as if you're on top of the world.
Reader Remarks "Trees, trees, trees. Snow, snow, snow." "Hard to get to unless on a direct flight."