Stratton made the biggest leap of any resort this year-moving up from No. 17 to No. 4-by catering to a well-heeled clientele who prefer gliding down corduroy to launching off bumps. Since becoming part of the Intrawest family in 1994, Stratton has invested millions into updating and renovating the faux-Bavarian resort to meet the demands of the metro-New York families who frequent it.
When one of his charges performs beyond his abilities, a football coach says the kid "plays big." Solitude, tucked in at the end of beautiful Big Cottonwood Canyon, plays big for its 1,200 acres. Seven lifts, including a high-speed quad, serve its surprisingly satisfying 2,047 vertical feet.
The oldest ski resort in the Canadian Rockies, stately Sunshine Village is like a classic wine that's appreciated by those with sophisticated tastes. "Sunshine is one of the most spectacular places we have ever skied-and that includes numerous mountains in the European Alps," reports one well-traveled reader.
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.
Just when you think one of America's great adventure mountains can't get any better, it does. Last season the dust finally settled on the new Highlands Village, with its needed dining and retail upgrades (check out Willow Creek Bistro and Durrance Sports).
More than 90 percent of readers cite Breckenridge's "wonderful ski town" as one of the resort's major strengths. They're right: In the age of purpose-built Bavarian-style resorts, Breckenridge's authentic Victorian Main Street creates an ambience that is "refreshingly real."