A new study has rated the top six ski areas in the world for ‘skier comfort’ as locations in North America, and five of them in Canada.

What’s unusual for a global survey that puts mostly North American ski areas in the top 10, is that this one has been published in Europe, not the US, and is very methodical, detailed and scientific.

In fact the table which ranks the top 50 ski areas for ‘Skier Comfort’ is just one in the latest edition of the annual ‘List of the Worldʼs 100 Largest Ski Areas’ which has just been published by the global ski area experts Ski Welweit and Montenius Consulting.

More of a report than a list, the 40 page document, now available as a free download, previous editions have listed the world’s 100 biggest ski areas by a number of different criteria including length of runs, number of visitors  and lift network capacity (unsurprisingly the 3 Valleys tops all three tables).

Val Thorens Snowfall
Val Thorens in the 3 Valleys

But new in this year’s edition are two new tables, a unique ‘Skimiles’ table replaces the straight -accurate measure of ski ruins length’ comparison table and there’s that new ‘Skier Comfort’ table too.

The report is authored by the world expert in ski area measurement, Christoph Schrahe, who some readers may remember made big news in ski media around the world a few years ago when he used his decades of industry knowledge and professional cartography skills to accurately measure the length of ski runs at ski areas around the world.

Unsurprisingly these rarely matched the figures published by the ski areas themselves.  Explanations given by the resorts that bothered to explain their numbers included that they’d measured wide runs multiple times, or measured the length of a zig-zagging ski descent down a slope rather than straight top to bottom.

Since then many resorts in Austria and Germany have published revised figures and made efforts to ensure their numbers are precise. In other countries it is more a  case that measurement concerns have quietly been forgotten as the issue has moved out of the headlines. In the meantime Mr Schrahe now offers a ski area size independent size certification service. 

It’s these same accurate measures that are used in the report, along with the more reliable industry data available such as hard stats on their installations from lift manufacturers.

The new ‘Skimiles’ table is perhaps the first true attempt to bring together key aspects of the ski resort’s complete facilities and experience including its size, its lift network and other factors to really determine which areas are likely to provide the best overall experience.

The report’s authors use ten key criteria and the results are interesting. The 3 Valleys remains in top spot with a Skimiles value of 609 (against the accurate measure of its cklaimed 600km of runs, which the report puts at actually 543km), but Italy’s Sella Ronda, an area still not officially promoted as a ‘region’ as it likes within the larger multi-unlinked-sector Dolomiti superski pass, jumping over France’s Paradiski (which is second in the world by straight piste size), to take the number two slot by the Skimiles measure. 

The biggest change in the top 10 though is the Matterhorn Ski Paradise shared by Zermatt and Cervinia which moves up from 10th spot by accurate ski area size measure to 4th by the Skimiles evaluation, jumping ahead of the Arlberg.

Some examples of how reality can be impacted by the different ways of measuring are also given by the reports authors. For example they say Italy’s Monterosaski region claims it has 180 km of piste placing it 21st in the world.  However the author’s measurements say it actually has 80km of piste putting it down to 100th, but with the new Skimiles measure taking more factors in top consideration it scores 204 Skimiles taking it back up to 46th.

But what of that table of the world top 50 for skier comfort dominated by Canada?  That table compares slope extent, grooming quality, and a number of other factors that impact of the likely quality of ski day any skier might enjoy on the slopes.

Well in fact five of the top 4 are from one part of Canada – British Columbia, including the top two, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, tops the table with Panorama second.  Big Sky in Montana, the sole US entry in the top 6 is third then two more BC entries, Silver Star and Sun Peaks with Lake Louise over the provincial border in Alberta sixth.

The full: ‘List of the Worldʼs 100 Largest Ski Areas’ Report can be downloaded free of charge via: http://www.montenius.de/the-100-largest-ski-areas.html